Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Options for the Predators at the deadline

Currently at the top of the Western Conference heap, the Nashville Predators find themselves in this position for the first time since the 2014-15 season, where they would ultimately fall off a little and succumb to the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round that season. In that season, the Preds made trades for both Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli to add secondary pieces for a playoff run. This year, the Preds are in the same spot and are pondering a move or two to build for a deep run. So, what are the options for the Preds?

  • They are already deep down the middle, and now they will soon get Mike Fisher out of retirement. That addition means either Calle Jarnkrok or Colton Sissons will be moved to the wing.
  • That move brings about the major question that the Predators are trying to solve. Option one is Rick Nash. His contract expires after the season, and he could come at a price. The Rangers may be asking for draft picks and/or a defensive prospect. Michael Grabner is also an option from the Rangers, and he may come cheaper, which may be appetizing for the Preds.
  • Evander Kane comes with as many questions as he does answers. Off-ice issues are his biggest problems, but he also comes with 30-goal potential that he has fulfilled a couple of seasons. A big plus is that the Predators have the leadership in place that could keep Kane on the straight and narrow for the season.
  • The Detroit Red Wings may look to move Gustav Nyquist or Tomas Tatar. The price may be higher, since the Wings may look to poach a prospect like Dante Fabbro as a means to give up either winger.
  • The Montreal Canadiens are considering trading Max Pacioretty. His contract could be an issue, as would the asking price. Given their depth on the blue line, an NHL-ready player could be in play in addition to picks and possibly a prospect.
  • Sign Eeli Tolvanen after his KHL season ends. He's already showing his scoring chops in both the KHL and the Olympic stage. He does have an option for a second year in the KHL, but the Preds may look to sign him once he has the ability to become available.
Nashville has many ways to go, and much of it depends on what they feel. Their faith in signing Tolvanen in time for the playoffs may be the biggest factor in everything they do as far as a trade. The cap doesn't figure to be a major issue, and with only Scott Hartnell and Alexei Emelin currently as the only UFAs after the season, their window should be open.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Pulling a 180

When the NHL season began in October, the Nashville Predators were entering life without Mike Fisher, who announced his retirement a couple of months earlier. Fast forward to today, and the unexpected news that he has decided to give it one more run with the Predators. In a special press conference held by General Manager David Poile, Fisher is officially a Predator again. What does this mean? Nothing in the way of leadership, as Roman Josi will remain captain and the rest of the leadership group will retain their roles. Fisher is an added bonus in this regard, and he is expected to get caught up to speed by the February 26 trade deadline. On the ice, his penalty killing acumen, as well as his face-off prowess, are going to be big, and he will provide a little more toughness.

Now, who is expected to be moved? The easiest answer would be Pontus Aberg, who hasn't taken the step that the team thought he was going to take this season. Given that he's been a healthy scratch at times, a change in scenery would be beneficial. There is also a possibility of any of recently re-signed defensemen Yannick Weber, Matt Irwin, and Anthony Bitteto. Whatever the move that eventually has to be made, the Predators will have a hard time, as any of whoever has to go can be contributors on any other NHL team. This is what happens when depth is in abundance.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Finland Olympic Roster

The Olympic men's hockey rosters continue to take shape, as South Korea, Switzerland, and Finland all announced their rosters, with Finland formally announcing their rosters while the first two countries are taken from the ever-accurate Wikipedia. There isn't much in the way of big names as far as either South Korea or Switzerland go, with Jim Paek being the head coach of the Korean team while Jonas Hiller is the name that sticks out for Switzerland. To that end, this piece will focus on the Finnish team, so let's go.

In goal, all three goalies are currently on KHL rosters, with Mikko Koskinen and Karri Ramo likely duking it out to be starting in goal when the Olympics start. On defense, Miro Heiskanen is a player to watch, especially if you're a Dallas Stars fan, as he is the team's future on the blue line once he signs his ELC with the team. Beyond him, the blue line is largely unimposing, with some of the players having had a cup of coffee in the NHL, but little impact on that level. Up front, like on the blue line, another 2017 first round pick is a player to watch, as Eeli Tolvanen has been setting records with Jokerit of the KHL as a rookie. He is a Nashville Predators pick, and once again, leads a group of forwards that mostly features players that couldn't make the transition to the smaller North American rinks (e.g. Petri Kontiola).

The good news is that Finland is not in the same group as either the United States or Canada, who despite fielding non-current NHL players, are still strong. However, they are in the same group as Sweden, who are favored to take the group. A showing in the knockout rounds is the best they can hope for, and if they medal, it will be considered a mild upset.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Taking Shape

In recent news, four more countries have announced their men's Olympic ice hockey rosters. The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, and Sweden all named their players that will represent them in the Olympic Games in Korea. Let's look at each roster:

The Czech Republic will be headed up by Martin Erat, a former NHL player whose best known for his years in the Nashville Predators organization and later, a key piece that would net them Filip Forsberg in a trade. The majority of the team's roster plays in the KHL, with other notable names including Roman Cervenka, Michal Repik, and Roman Horak.

Slovakia also named the team that they will be fielding for the Olympics. They largely went with players from the Czech and Slovakian leagues, with Tomas Surovy and Ladislav Nagy being the notable players with NHL experience.

Germany named their team, too, with many of their players coming from their own league. Christian Ehrhoff and Marcel Goc are the most notable names on the roster, though they also have a few former major junior stars on their roster in Mathias Niederberger, Konrad Abeltshauser, and Marcel Noebels.

Sweden named their roster, and like Canada and the United States, their roster was compiled from leagues around the world. Their goaltending looks fairly impressive on paper, with Jhonas Enroth Viktor Fasth having had moderate success on the NHL level. The rest of the team isn't too imposing, although they do have players with decent amounts of success, including Alexander Bergstrom in the KHL. One player to potentially watch for is Rasmus Dahlin, who is eligible for the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.

In looking at the lineups, I have to say Germany could surprise as a dark horse candidate to medal while Sweden looks fairly strong, but whether they can strike gold again is a question. If nothing else, they may be worth a look because scouts will most likely see what Dahlin can do on the grand stage.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Your Olympians...

With the United States and Canada announcing their Olympic rosters for 2018 in PyeongChang, North Korea, it's time to size up each team's chance at Olympic gold. Given that the rosters from all the teams will be players not currently under NHL contract, this will be slightly harder to project.

First, the United States, their roster will consist of four college players not yet signed by their NHL teams (Ryan Donato, Will Borgen, Jordan Greenway, and Troy Terry), players that could never crack an NHL roster, and players that once had significant careers in the NHL. Among the most notable names on the roster include Brian Gionta, who had previously been a part of the US team in 2006, James Wisniewski, and Jim Slater. The United States opted to go with a more diverse team in terms of experience, as the aforementioned college players had also logged time with the US' U-20 squad in recent years. While not the most star-studded in terms of NHL experience, there is decent depth, and many of the players are eager to show what they can do on the international stage. One  player to watch is goaltender Ryan Zapolski, who has been playing well in the KHL for Jokerit.

Canada announced their roster a few days ago, and unlike the US, they opted to go with more experienced players. The most notable players on the team include Derek Roy, Mason Raymond, Chris Kelly, Rene Bourque, and Ben Scrivens. Christian Thomas and Quinton Howden are the youngest players on the roster, with both being 1992 birthdays. The collective goaltending unit might be better for Canada than the United States, but none on the Canadian squad scare anyone individually while up front, it is curious to see Maxim Lapierre on the roster, since his time in the NHL had largely been known as a pest. Similarly, the blue line unit may be better as the sum of the whole than the sum of the parts, as none are too great. Up front, there are former first-round picks that didn't pan out that are obviously looking to prove themselves on the international stage, with Howden, Gilbert Brule, and Wojtek Wolski making up that group.

With the rest of the Olympic rosters yet to be named, there is uncertainty as to how each country will fare. What is known is that the odds of Canada making a three-peat on the medal stand are not great, with the United States having the slight edge in terms of overall talent, particularly on the blue line and in goal. However, Canada does have the experience edge, and that may be enough to medal once again. Whether that is gold, that is where the rest of the roster announcements will have a hand in deciding that fate.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Taking Your Puck and Going Home

This holiday weekend has been rather odd in the hockey world, as two players were unhappy with their current situations and decided to walk away. It's safe to say that neither will be seeing anymore time on the NHL or AHL level, as both are repeat offenders.

First up, Alexander Burmistrov. You may remember him as a former first round pick of the then-Atlanta Thrashers in 2010 that left for Russia after the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season due to butting heads with then Winnipeg Jets coach Claude Noel. He returned in 2015 to the Jets, only for him to eventually butt heads with current Jets coach Paul Maurice. Last season, it came to a head, and he was sent down to Manitoba of the AHL, only for the Arizona Coyotes to claim him off waivers. He did not sign with Arizona after the season, opting to sign with the Vancouver Canucks prior to this season. Now, this bit of news from Pass it to Bulis, as Burmistrov was once again, unhappy with his playing time, and after getting scratched from the team's last game for a seventh defenseman, he has decided to retire from the NHL. Yes, at the age of 26, Burmistrov has decided to pack his bags and head back home.

Next up, Steve Moses. Undrafted after spending four years at the University of New Hampshire, he would begin his professional career in 2012-13 with Jokerit, and would play with them for three seasons, including their first year as a member of the KHL. In the off-season of 2015, he would sign a one-year deal with Nashville with the expectation that he would be on the NHL roster. However, prior to the start of the 2015-16 season, he was sent down to Milwaukee of the AHL, and was unable to get noticed enough to even crack the Predators' roster. That December, his contract with the team was terminated so he could return to the KHL, this time as a member of SKA-St. Petersburg. He would spend the rest of the 2015-16 season, as well as all of 2016-17, with the team until signing with Rochester of the AHL prior to this season. His time with Rochester would be short lived however, as he was suspended by the team recently for breach of contract, and as of right now, he is now signed with Jokerit again.

As odd as the two instances of walking away have been, it was hardly the first, as Vadim Shipyachov had been signed with the Vegas Golden Knights prior to the season, but was sent down to Chicago of the AHL. His complaining about not being in the NHL was fairly well-documented, and his NHL contract would be terminated soon after so he too, could return to the KHL.

I don't know what to make of this, but it is clear that the level of play between North American hockey and European hockey can be too much for certain players to take, and while it is notable that the players gave it a shot, leaving in the middle of a season does them no favors when it comes to future North American opportunities.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

I Watched This Game: Here's to the Next 100 Years

In a rare occurrence, there was a mid-afternoon weekday game that wasn't on a holiday. Why? It marks the first game of the next 100 years of the NHL's existence, as on this day, the first two games of the NHL's existence happened on this date in 1917, as the Montreal Canadiens and original Ottawa Senators squared off, as well as the Montreal Wanderers and the then-Toronto Arenas. The Canadiens and Senators had their Centennial game outdoors at Landsdowne on Saturday, and now, it's the Maple Leafs' turn today. Unfortunately, there is no team that can actually imitate the Wanderers, so the Carolina Hurricanes will have to do. Yes, I watched this game.

  • In case you were wondering about the Arenas-Wanderers game, it ended up being a 10-9 affair that went the Wanderers' way. Remember that, as it will be important later.
  • The Leafs, who are wearing sweaters similar to what you see above, are once again without Auston Matthews, who has been sidelined for the past few games.
  • Despite Matt Martin in the box for holding, the Leafs get on the board first, as Leo Komarov nets a short-hander past Scott Darling to give the Leafs the lead.
  • Shortly after Martin gets out of the box, Roman Polak puts a hit on Marcus Kruger. Josh Jooris takes exception, and both he and Polak scrap. Both get five, but Jooris gets the extra two minutes, putting the Leafs on the power play.
  • Mitch Marner finally decided to break out of a scoring slump on the ensuing power play, wristing one past Darling after making a few Hurricanes look like pylons.
  • Komarov and Justin Williams decide to have a scrap of their own, and both sit for five minutes each.
  • Jeff Skinner dangles half the team, and beats Frederik Andersen to cut the lead in half. Andersen should have stopped that one.
  • Brett Pesce decides to be a perp and slash. His reward is two minutes in the box.
  • A mad scramble in front of the Hurricanes net saw Darling make a pretty good save. Unfortunately for him, James van Riemsdyk was on the other side of him and he found the puck, which he puts past him to make it 3-1.
  • Remember when I said Marner picked the perfect time to break out of his slump? Well, he decided to put together the best individual effort of the game, leading the Hurricanes on a merry chase around their own zone before finding Tyler Bozak in the slot. Bozak makes no mistake and makes it 4-1 Leafs.
  • That 10-9 score from 100 years ago? The Leafs may very well be matching that total at this rate.
  • van Riemsdyk misses a chance to put the Leafs up by four, and breaks his stick on Victor Rask's stick. That's no good, and he sits for two minutes. 
  • Shortly after that penalty was killed, Nazem Kadri gets careless with his stick, and has to sit for two minutes for getting his stick too high.
  • 4-1 after one period, and the Hurricanes get carry over power play time, but they better find offense fast.
  • The second period was uneventful, as nothing happened, and it remains 4-1 Leafs.
  • A van Riemsdyk cross check puts the Hurricanes on the power play, but they do jack all and it remains 4-1.
  • Leafs' passing gets rewarded with a goal, as Patrick Marleau manages to bank a shot from behind the net off of Justin Faulk and into the net to make it 5-1 Leafs.
  • Before I could begin typing that last sentence, the Hurricanes bungle the faceoff, and Kasperi Kapanen takes the puck and lets loose a laser past Darling to make it 6-1.
  • William Nylander decides to get in on the scoring, as he too, wrists one past Darling. 7-1 Leafs.
  • Sebastian Aho holds, so he is sitting for two minutes.
  • Connor Carrick scores with 90 seconds left in the game, making it 8-1 Leafs, and the possibility of them matching the Arenas' score from 100 years ago.
  • Game over, and the Maple Leafs have to settle for eight. They needed this game to break out of a recent drought offensively, and Marner's performance was especially needed, as he had his drought broken this game, as well.
The Maple Leafs fans were treated to a great game, and many of the school children took some time off to catch this game. Here's to the next 100 years of the NHL.