Thursday, December 18, 2014
In the last games before break, the Otters will at home Friday against Niagara before heading to Guelph on Saturday in the first meeting since the Western Conference Finals last year. After that, the Otters won't play until December 28, and they are likely to be missing Connor McDavid due to World Junior Championship duty, which should provide the Otters an idea of where he is in his recovery.
Monday, December 15, 2014
The big news coming out of Edmonton is that Dallas Eakins has taken the fall for the Edmonton Oilers' dreadful season and is out as head coach. The plan, according to Oilers' brass is that Craig MacTavish will fill in as head coach with Todd Nelson expected to eventually take over during the season. If any of that doesn't make sense to you, you're not alone, as while Eakins didn't do his job of getting the Oilers moving forward in terms of progress, now, there's going to be no less than three coaches within a season. In case you're wondering what will become of the upper management (read: MacTavish and Kevin Lowe), they're still sticking around for now, as nothing else was announced.
Just another day in Edmonton, as nothing really changes here except for the coach.
Thursday, December 11, 2014
Both men are out of a job after a 6-19-3-2 record this season that followed a 2013-14 season that saw the Hurricanes become the only team in the league to finish under the 30 point mark. Peter Anholt was named both General Manager and head coach, effective immediately, and while he has only been with the team since June (as assistant General Manager), he does bring head coaching experience from his time with Prince Albert, Red Deer, Kelowna, and Seattle. Prior to coming to Lethbridge, he was a scout for the Thunderbirds.
Yesterday, the Kelowna Rockets made a big trade that could impact what Portland does in their quest for five straight Conference titles, as the Rockets picked up Josh Morrissey and Gage Quinney from Prince Albert in exchange for Austin Glover and Jesse Lees, plus some draft picks.
As for the Winterhawks, they play at home Friday against Spokane before finishing the week on the road against Seattle on Saturday and Sunday against Tri-City before the holiday break.
Monday, December 8, 2014
The job of turning the Senators' season around now falls on Cameron, who will be looking to do better with a team that is four points out of the last wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. Cameron has been on the coaching staff since the day MacLean was hired, and had previously coached Binghamton of the AHL and the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors (now the Mississauga Steelheads) of the OHL.
The Otters finish the road trip Tuesday against Kitchener before coming home for games Friday against Saginaw and Saturday against Oshawa.
Friday, December 5, 2014
Silliness aside, Parros was actually a graduate of Princeton, and had toiled in the AHL with Manchester for three years after that. He made his NHL debut with Los Angeles in 2005, and would go on to play in Colorado, Anaheim, Florida, and Montreal in his career. However, it was in Anaheim that he became a recognizable figure, as he would become the team's top enforcer. Like most well known enforcers, his offensive contributions were a drop in the bucket, but it was his toughness, as well as his off-ice work that endeared him to fans, and his personality made him popular among teammates.
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
Buffalo is still undergoing a rebuild, and while it is still fairly early, Girgensons is one of the bright spots for a team that is much closer to winning the Connor McDavid/Jack Eichel sweepstakes than they are the Stanley Cup at this point.
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
What does Brodeur really bring? Given the injury to Elliott, who is listed as week-to-week (hence the Blues looking into Brodeur in the first place), he can step in and at least be a backup to Jake Allen. For Allen, it also means that he can learn from Brodeur what it takes to have sustained success, since this is only his second full season in the NHL. As for Brodeur, he says he can still be a contributor, and with a talented team in front of him, he has that chance to prove the Blues right when he does play. The signing also allows the Blues to not rush Jordan Binnington to the NHL, something that they would have done had the Elliott injury not been a possible long-term deal. This is a gamble, but not a costly one, as the Blues didn't overpay for a short-term solution that may very well provide long-term results.
Monday, December 1, 2014
The Otters are at home Wednesday against Owen Sound before hitting the road for games Saturday at Belleville and Sunday at Oshawa.
Sunday, November 30, 2014
Tuesday, the Winterhawks overcame a 2-1 deficit after one period to overtake the Victoria Royals at home in a 4-2 win. Friday, the Daylight Classic happened, and the Kootenay Ice were the opponents in a game where the curtains to the Veterans Memorial Coliseum were pulled back. The Winterhawks turned a three goal second period into a 5-2 win, with Adin Hill getting his second victory of the week. Saturday, the Winterhawks traveled to Kennewick, WA to take on the Tri-City Americans for the first time this season, and while the Winterhawks jumped out to a 3-0 lead at one point, they had to hold off an Ams comeback in the end to preserve a 3-2 win for Brendan Burke.
The Winterhawks will be a busy team this week, as they look to extend their winning streak at Victoria on Tuesday and at Vancouver on Friday before coming home to take on Everett Saturday and Medicine Hat Sunday.
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
This week, the Otters have three games in three days, with a home game on Thanksgiving against Mississauga, a road trip to London on Friday, and will wrap up by welcoming Belleville on Saturday.
Monday, November 24, 2014
The Winterhawks welcome the Victoria Royals on Tuesday and will play against Kootenay on Friday before heading out to Kennewick for their first meeting of the season against Tri-City.
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Monday, November 17, 2014
If Harding does clear waivers, he will be assigned to the Wild's AHL affiliate in Iowa. However, there are likely to be a few teams inquiring about his availability. Teams that could use a guy like Harding include Buffalo, Edmonton, New Jersey, and Winnipeg.
The Otters will try to find their way on Wednesday, as they host Plymouth before hitting the road for a game Friday at Sarnia and Saturday at Saginaw.
Friday, November 14, 2014
The task does not get any easier, as they will have a home and home with Everett, with Friday's game in Everett and Sunday's game will be at home.
Monday, November 10, 2014
The Otters are at home tomorrow against Mississauga in a Veterans' Day game that will have a start time of 5:30 PM. They will also hit the road on Friday against Niagara before coming home for a Saturday game against Kitchener.
Thursday, November 6, 2014
Monday, November 3, 2014
The Otters look to continue their winning ways, as they travel to St. Catharines, ON for a match against Niagara before coming home to take on Sarnia on Friday and Saginaw on Saturday.
Sunday, November 2, 2014
Clouston was brought in prior to last season amid high expectations, as they were pre-season favorites to win the East Division. Those expectations should have been met, as they were returning Leon Draisaitl from his solid rookie campaign in the the WHL, as well as Josh Morrisey and even brought in Cole Cheveldae to be the starting goalie after a solid tenure in Kamloops. Once the season started, things didn't go as planned. While Draisaitl did his part, everything else did not go as planned, as Cheveldae was splitting time with Nick McBride as the season wound down and the Raiders needed a tie-breaker game against Red Deer to make the playoffs, where they were promptly disposed of by eventual league and Memorial Cup champion Edmonton. A 6-9-0-0 record to start the season combined with some locker room disharmony (e.g. Dakota Conroy being sent home) contributed to Clouston's dismissal.
As for the new guy in Habscheid, he knows a thing or two about winning teams, as he has coached in Kamloops, Kelowna, and Chilliwack/Victoria, winning a league title in 2003 and the Memorial Cup in 2004. He was last seen in an executive position with the parent company that owns the Victoria Royals. Time away shouldn't be too much of a concern, as he had a five year hiatus between his last year in Kelowna (the Memorial Cup year) and his first year in Chilliwack.
Thursday, October 30, 2014
Currently, the Winnipeg Jets are in their fourth year after relocating from Atlanta, and much like many of those Thrashers teams, the Jets aren't getting anywhere. It so happens that I found a copy of The Hockey News yearbook for the 2010-11 season, the last to feature the Thrashers before the move to Winnipeg. Let's leaf through their analysis, shall we?
The Thrashers were picked to finish eleventh in the Eastern Conference despite picking up four players from the Chicago Blackhawks team that won the Stanley Cup the previous season. Their leading point getter in the 2009-10 season was Nik Antropov, almost by default, as Ilya Kovalchuk was traded mid-season. In addition to the four Blackhawks (Ben Eager, Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, and Brent Sopel), they also picked up Chris Mason in goal. They also got a new coach in Craig Ramsay, who replaced John Anderson after a few lackluster years.
Predictably, the Thrashers missed the playoffs, and in late May, the Thrashers would be no more, as the True North ownership group would buy the team and move them to Winnipeg.
What of the top prospects that year? Of the ten listed, only Paul Postma remains with the team while others such as Daultan Leveille and Angelo Esposito never made it to big club. The only other player to make the NHL with any significant playing time was Alexander Burmistrov, who was rushed to the NHL too early and never fulfilled his potential. He is currently playing with Ak Bars Kazan of the KHL.
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
With the 4-1 loss at Vancouver and the fact that they don't play again until Saturday, the Carolina Hurricanes will finish the month of October without a win. That's not a typo, kids.
Right now, the Hurricanes are 0-6-2, and are in the lead for the first overall pick in next year's draft. Truthfully, if I am either Jack Eichel or Connor McDavid, I would be dreading the prospect of ending up in Carolina right now. The Hurricanes are a rudderless ship that is shortchanging its coaching staff, with their big addition from the off-season being Jay McClement. McClement is fine... if you're trying to find that last piece to a playoff run, but the Hurricanes are nowhere near that. General Manager Ron Francis has had his hands tied, with the bloated contracts handed out to underachievers such as Eric Staal, Alexander Semin, and Cam Ward. However, the unwillingness to use a buyout clause in the off-season makes it that much harder, in effect, causing the Hurricanes to resign Tim Gleason, who himself was bought out by Toronto after a half season with them following a trade from Carolina (big surprise).
I mentioned leadership being an issue, and have called for the Hurricanes to take the C away from Eric Staal. A team should be a reflection of their captain, and Staal has not been very good in a leadership role. If you remember how he got the C, it was after the Hurricanes stripped the C from Rod Brind'Amour in 2010, in his last year in the league. Since then, the Hurricanes haven't shown anything resembling improvement, from either the team or Staal himself.
This will be a long year for the Hurricanes, and short of any earth-shattering moves, it's going to remain a painful time no matter who they draft next year.
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
This coming week will be a major test, as the Winterhawks return home to take on Kelowna on Thursday and Saturday before meeting up with their WHL Finals rival from the last three seasons Edmonton on Sunday.
Monday, October 27, 2014
The Otters come home for a Thursday tilt against Plymouth before welcoming Ottawa for a Saturday night game.
Saturday, October 25, 2014
|from the Victoria Royals' Twitter|
The picture above is what the Royals wore on the ice. Yes, it is a black jersey, and it marks the first time that the team has gone the third jersey route in their short existence. The look is solid, with a front view of the lion's face as the logo on the front and the Royals wordmark on the shoulders. While the striping on the sleeves and waist could be better, the consistency with all of them is a good thing here, as it's white on top, with black and blue going down and the blue being thicker than the other two stripes. The numbering and lettering is fairly standard, which works here in that the Royals make the jersey all about what's on front. Overall, the Victoria Royals kept their third jersey design simple, yet effective.
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
In goal, the Hurricanes have quite the predicament, as Anton Khudobin is currently sitting above Cam Ward on the depth chart. The problem? Ward is making starter's money, and right now, Ward has a GAA of 3.87 and a save percentage of .846. Throw in his history of being injured, and you can see why he's been difficult to move. His current contract is up after next season, and even without the injuries, he has been nowhere near the player that he was in the mid to late 2000's. How to fix the goal problem? Find a team that constantly fights to get to the salary cap floor and is willing to gamble on a goalie who used to be good, and those teams are scarce at the moment.
Defensively, they're not in the worst shape. In fact, this is probably the most stable unit on the team. Players slated to be free agents after the season are Tim Gleason, Brett Bellemore, and Andrej Sekera, and it is entirely possible that only one of them could be resigned, and it is likely Sekera, who put up good numbers last season and is currently paired with Justin Faulk. With Ryan Murphy waiting in the wings and Haydn Fleury developing, the Hurricanes don't look too bad here, as Jay Harrison is decent, and Ron Hainsey is fine as a third pairing player.
Forwards is where things get dicey. Both Staals are out due to injuries, though Eric is slated to return soon, and Jeff Skinner just returned from a concussion. Of the forwards, only Skinner has produced lately, and that's when he's actually been healthy. Jiri Tlusty and Chris Terry lead the team in scoring, and that's not a good sign. Tlusty can score goals, which explains his standing, but no one outside of Carolina has heard of Terry. Alex Semin has yet to score, and given that his best numbers were when he was on a one-year deal in the lockout-shortened season, it's fair to wonder if Alexei Yashin changed identities. Victor Rask and Elias Lindholm are some of the young players getting ice time, which is good. However, neither have found their stride.
To fix the issues here, the first thing I would do is strip Eric Staal of the captaincy. Since he became captain midway through the 2009-10 season, when he replaced Rod Brind'Amour, the Hurricanes have missed the playoffs every year, and though he has broken the 30-goal mark in 2010-11, he also has not broken the 80-point mark since the season he became captain. A captain should be a reflection of the team, and since Staal became captain, it does not look good. The Hurricanes should reassess who their real leaders are, which is why going with four alternate captains for a while is a good idea here, as you're making the players earn the right to wear the C. As for trading options, Eric Staal could still fetch a decent offer, particularly since his current deal is up after next season. Semin is another player I would want to move, but he has four more years (including this season), and his inconsistency would scare some teams. Skinner would give the Hurricanes the best options in a trade, but he is also their best player at the moment, and injury issues aside, he still managed 30-plus goals last season. However, the Hurricanes would be wise to listen to deals for him, as they need to replenish their farm system.
As you can see, the Hurricanes are a mess, and it's not going to be an easy fix. Where they can start, however, is figuring out who their real locker room leaders are and go with four alternate captains until they know who's willing to step up.
Tuesday, October 21, 2014
The Otters will head to Buffalo for a tilt against the Niagara Icedogs on Wednesday in what is likely the city's first look at a potential draft pick in Connor McDavid, as well as Dylan Strome, both of whom are eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft. The city of Buffalo is likely going to be playoff-free this season, as the Sabres are stumbling out of the gate (predictably). The Otters will also hit the road for games at Sault Ste. Marie on Friday and Sudbury on Saturday.
Monday, October 20, 2014
The Winterhawks continue the East Division road trip Tuesday in Regina, followed by a game Wednesday against Swift Current before concluding the trip Friday at Prince Albert and Saturday against Saskatoon.
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Portland begins their road trip through Saskatchewan and Manitoba this week, as they will take on Moose Jaw this Friday and Brandon on Saturday.
Monday, October 13, 2014
The Otters travel to London to take on the Knights on Wednesday before coming home for games Friday against Sudbury and Saturday against London.
Thursday, October 9, 2014
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
The Winterhawks are on the road Friday against Everett before coming home to take on Seattle.
The Otters are back in action on Friday and Saturday, as they play Kitchener in a home and home, with the Friday game being in Kitchener while Saturday's game is in Erie.
Monday, October 6, 2014
At the start of the free agency period, there were seven teams looking to name new captains. As of today, three teams have made their decisions. Montreal will go with four alternate captains this season, as Toma's Plekanec, Andrei Markov, Max Pacioretty, and PK Subban will serve in that role. The move is presumably to see whether Subban or Pacioretty can handle the added responsibilities while giving Plekanec and Markov the opportunity to help them grow into those roles.
Ottawa named Erik Karlsson the captain on the same day they signed Bobby Ryan to a seven year extension. The move is significant because it means the Senators are locked in with a captain for more than the one year they got from Jason Spezza. Chris Phillips and Chris Neil will help Karlsson out, since they remain alternate captains.
Florida named newcomer Willie Mitchell captain in a move that gives Florida veteran leadership on a team that is one of the youngest in the league.
Columbus, Buffalo, and San Jose remain without a captain as of this time.
Update: the New York Rangers named Ryan McDonagh captain with Dan Girardi, Martin St. Louis, Marc Staal, and Derek Stepan etching as alternate captains.
Sunday, October 5, 2014
Budaj gives the Jets a strong backup goalie who can fill in as a starter should Ondrej Pavelec either get hurt or remain ineffective while Holland is an AHL body. Tangradi moves on to his third team in three years. The Canadiens moved Budaj as a means to clear some salary cap space while giving Dustin Tokarski the backup role, something that was a foregone conclusion in last year's playoffs, when Tokarski was given the nod as starter when Carey Price went down. Meanwhile, the Jets found out the hard way what the Pittsburgh Penguins knew about Tangradi, in that he is a big player that doesn't use his size very well.
Saturday, October 4, 2014
Boychuk adds an experienced defenseman who brings size and is a solid player in his own end while Leddy is still young enough to unlock his potential as an offensive defenseman and will be given the opportunity now that he isn't in the shadow of Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. Both are in the final year of their respective deals (with Leddy being a restricted free agent), so the Islanders are going to probably want to secure either or both players before the season is done because they are moving to Brooklyn next season and having an actual defensive unit isn't good just for one year.
Thursday, October 2, 2014
The Winterhawks are home to Seattle on Friday and will travel to Everett on Saturday before heading to Victoria for a Monday tilt.
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
2013-14 record: 37-35-10 (84 points)
Missed the playoffs
Captain: Andrew Ladd
The Winnipeg Jets have been continuing the tradition that the Atlanta Thrashers started when they first joined the league in 1999. That's not a compliment, and entering year four, Jets fans are getting restless. A largely unchanged (of any significance) roster returns, as does the front office. However, a coaching change was made in the middle of last season, and now, it is up to Paul Maurice, who took over mid-season, to get the Jets pointed in the right direction. Given the division they're in, it will not be easy.
Up front, the only real change is that Dustin Byfuglien is moving back to right wing, a position he played while in Chicago. While he was a major goal contributor from the blue line last season (20 goals), it was cancelled out by the fact that he was a major liability in his own end (-20). Blake Wheeler, Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little, and Evander Kane all return, which isn't bad. However, this is largely the same group that has overseen a playoff-less run since the Thrashers days, and Kane remains an enigma off the ice. The less said about the blue line, the better, as they've been in the bottom third of the league since their only playoff run of 2007. There are some good players here, with Jacob Trouba being a rising star. However, if the Jets are to get anywhere, they will need good health (Zach Bogosian, Paul Postma, and Grant Clitsome all missed time) and a return to form by Tobias Enstrom. If you're looking for a fatal flaw on the Jets, look no further than in goal, as Ondrej Pavelec posted horrific numbers (3.01 GAA) as a starter. An eventual replacement is in the pipeline (Eric Comrie and/or Connor Hellebuyck), but nothing right away if Pavelec continues to struggle.
Prediction: 7th in the Central Division
The Jets' path to the playoffs was already going to be tough, with five of the seven teams making the playoffs last season. However, a less than sterling defense and mediocre goaltending make it nearly impossible to say the Jets will be in anything more than the Connor McDavid sweepstakes.
Monday, September 29, 2014
2013-14 record: 38-30-14 (90 points)
Missed the playoffs
Captain: Alexander Oveckin
It's one thing to be disappointing in the playoffs. It's another to actually miss the playoffs, and that is something the Washington Capitals did after many seasons of never finishing at or above expectations in the Alexander Ovechkin-era. That led to the ax job on the General Manager and head coaching jobs, meaning George McPhee and Adam Oates were let go, and in their places would be Brian MacLellan and Barry Trotz.
Offensive depth remains an issue, but a large part of the their offense still goes through Ovechkin, who scored 51 goals en route to a Rocket Richard Trophy. Still, it didn't cover up his -35 rating, and worse yet, it also exposed the lack of depth on the blue line, as well as some issues with the old coaching regime's tactics. To that end, Trotz was brought in, and he brings a solid defensive pedigree with him. For depth, Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik were brought in, which should at worst, provide the Capitals with six solid defensemen. Up front, Evgeny Kuznetsov finally gets the opportunity to show what he can do, and if he plays well, he will provide the Capitals with that elusive second line center they've been needing for years behind Niklas Backstrom. Braden Holtby would like a refund on last season, but he is now the unquestioned starter, which should improve his confidence.
Prediction: 5th in the Metropolitan Division
The Capitals got better defensively, but everything is still on Ovechkin's stick, for better or for worse. Everyone that was ahead of the Capitals in the division last season improved save for the Flyers, which means it will be tough sledding for the Capitals to make the playoffs once again.
Sunday, September 28, 2014
2013-14 record: 36-35-11 (83 points)
Missed the playoffs
Captain: Henrik Sedin
The 2013-14 season for the Vancouver Canucks is one that is neither likely to be forgotten anytime soon nor one that anyone associated with the team would like to remember. The John Tortorella Experiment ended after one year, but not before the Roberto Luongo Ferris Wheel finally stopped with a whimper, Tortorella trying his antics during an intermission against the Calgary Flames in a game, Mike Gillis getting canned after several trades gone awry (Derek Roy, anyone?), and Ryan Kesler asking for and getting a trade out of town.
This year, the Canucks will be dipping into their past, as Trevor Linden was brought in as President of Hockey Operations, and he brought in Jim Benning as General Manager and Willie Desjardins as head coach. Linden and Benning wasted no time giving the team a makeover, trading Kesler to Anaheim for Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa, and a first round pick in 2014 (which turned out to be Jared McCann). In free agency, Ryan Miller was brought in to give Eddie Lack more time to develop and Radim Vrbata will replace some of Kesler's production. Vrbata's addition means that the top three lines are more likely to be set in the places they were meant to be. Desjardins brings with him AHL championship experience, as well as WHL coaching experience, and he brings a more patient approach to the game, something that will go over well in the dressing room. Defensively, a change from the zone scheme will be welcome, and though depth is still an issue, it will help if Alexander Edler rebounds from a horrible 2013-14 campaign, but he will have to wait for redemption while he recovers from injury. Miller will provide a veteran presence in net, but he hasn't been the Ryan Miller of old, and given the win now market of Vancouver, any struggles he has could be magnified.
Prediction: 3rd in the Pacific Division
The Canucks are in a make the playoffs mode this season, and certainly, they have the pieces in place to do so. Goal could be a deciding factor, but a more harmonious front office this season will positively affect the players. After all, it can't be any more chaotic than last season.
Saturday, September 27, 2014
2013-14 record: 38-36-8 (84 points)
Missed the playoffs
Captain: Dion Phaneuf
The Toronto Maple Leafs fell back to their usual bumbling ways after making the playoffs in 2013. From the disastrous maiden year of David Clarkson to the Dave Bolland Experiment gone awry to a defense that was easy to get around, the Maple Leafs took several steps back. Though Jonathan Bernier made his case to be the starting goaltender, he also got hurt, and that exposed both James Reimer and the defensive unit in front of the goaltender. The only moves the Leafs made to fix this unit were buying out Tim Gleason, trading for Roman Polak, and signing Stephane Robidas. None of those moves are exactly extreme makeover quality. The hope here is that Dion Phaneuf will rebound from a horrid year and youngsters Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly will continue to develop into solid players. Up front is where the team's strength lies, particularly the top two lines. The James van Riemsdyk-Tyler Bozak-Phil Kessel line posted their usual great numbers. It's the bottom two lines that could be an issue, particularly if Clarkson doesn't improve upon his 14 points in 60 games from last season.
Prediction: 7th in the Atlantic Division
The Leafs have more questions than answers at this point, which means they will be missing out on playoff hockey barring a miracle.
Friday, September 26, 2014
2013-14 record: 46-27-9 (101 points)
Lost to Montreal in Conference quarterfinals
Captain: Steven Stamkos
The Tampa Bay Lightning were supposed to be a rebuilding team that was going to struggle last season. Losing Steven Stamkos for half the season due to a broken leg and later Martin St. Louis in a trade that saw Ryan Callahan come from the New York Rangers would have suggested this to be true. However, a funny thing happened, and the rookies stepped up, and Ben Bishop emerged as a top goalie for the Lightning as they claimed a playoff spot. However, Bishop was hurt, and down went the Lightning's chances of advancing. Stamkos is healthy once again, and the Lightning suddenly find themselves with higher expectations. Even though they're going to miss Calder Trophy candidate Jonathan Drouin for a month, Stamkos will have Callahan, Valtteri Filppula, Tyler Johnson, and Ondrej Palat helping up front, meaning the Lightning will have depth up front. Defense let them down in the playoffs, and other than Victor Hedman, the blue line was mostly in need of better talent. To that end, they traded for Jason Garrison and signed Anton Stralman in free agency. Brian Boyle was also signed to provide the team with badly needed size and a strong presence on the bottom two lines. Bishop seized the starting job last season, but his absence due to injuries was felt, which was why Evgeni Nabokov was signed.
Prediction: 2nd in the Atlantic Division
The Lightning snuck up on last year, and now with higher expectations, they're going to have to prove that it wasn't a fluke. A healthy Stamkos and an improved blue line should ensure that the Lightning won't be a one-year wonder.
Thursday, September 25, 2014
2013-14 record: 51-22-9 (111 points)
Lost to Los Angeles in Conference quarterfinals
The San Jose Sharks became just the fourth team in NHL history to blow a 3-0 series lead and lose the series when they turned the trick against the Los Angeles Kings last season. The Sharks' actions during the off-season can be best described as a chicken running around with its head cut off, as they've let Dan Boyle walk, move Brent Burns back to the blue line, taken away all letter designations from their players until after training camp, and are toying with the idea of letting the backup goalie become the starter. While Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are still solid point producers, only Marleau actually showed up for the playoffs, and Joe Pavelski emerged as a viable option while Logan Couture was never the same after getting injured prior to Olympic break. There's no shortage of offensive options, but fixing the power play is a must. The blue line sees Burns going back to the position he played on a regular basis as of three seasons ago. This move was necessitated by the Boyle departure, and there will be at least one more newcomer (likely Mirco Mueller) since Brad Stuart was traded. Antti Niemi had a good, but not great season. However, that season got much worse come playoff time, as he was yanked in favor of Alex Stalock, who had a great regular season as a backup, but he could not save the Sharks' sinking ship in the playoffs.
Prediction: 4th in the Pacific Division
The Sharks are doing just about everything to wash away the stench of the 3-0 to 4-3 series loss they endured. Whether or not any of it works will be figured out in the early parts of the season, and with jobs potentially on the line, the pressure to succeed is on more than ever.
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
2013-14 record: 52-23-7 (111 points)
Lost to Chicago in Conference quarterfinals
Captain: David Backes
The St. Louis Blues started last season on a tear, and were in fact, a favorite to win the President's Trophy. However, the last six games of the season, and eventually the playoffs, did not look upon them too kindly, as they not only lost the Central Division title on the last day of the regular season, but also lost the playoff series against Chicago after being up 2-0. While the regular season offense and defense were great (for the most part), both ends unraveled in the playoffs. That was why Ryan Miller and his 2.70 GAA in the playoffs wasn't resigned and Peter Stastny was brought in to provide clutch scoring. Stastny joins 33-goal scorer Alexander Steen and four other 20-goal scorers (David Backes, TJ Oshie, Jaden Schwartz, and Vladimir Tarasenko) in the hopes that his playoff luck will rub off on them, as only Tarasenko lived up to any billing as a goal scorer in the playoffs. They will have to compensate somewhat for the loss of Vladimir Sobotka, who brought a toughness to the front lines.
Defensively, this unit can jump start an offense, but won't intimidate anyone, as only Barrett Jackman provides any grit of the regulars. That means the likes of Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester, and Kevin Shattenkirk will all have to step up the transition game more so. Miller's departure opens the door for Jake Allen to become a full time NHLer after spending most of last season in the minors. He will be 1B to Brian Elliott's 1A, as the Blues will once again go with the hot hand throughout the season.
Prediction: 2nd in the Central Division
The Blues have offense for days and a system that keeps pucks out of the net. However, those systems seem to break down come playoff time, and now the Blues are playing catch-up with the Blackhawks and Kings of the world. The pressure is on to perform when it counts the most, so how the players respond this season may determine the fate of the coaching staff.
Tuesday, September 23, 2014
2013-14 record: 51-24-7 (109 points)
Lost to NY Rangers in Conference semi-finals
Captain: Sidney Crosby
Stop me if you've heard this story before: the Pittsburgh Penguins crack the 100 point barrier in the regular season and have another early playoff exit. That refrain, which happened for the fifth year in a row since the Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2009, was enough for upper management to relieve Ray Shero and Dan Bylsma of the General Manager and head coaching duties, respectively. Taking over as General Manager is Jim Rutherford, who was talked out of retirement from being General Manager of the Carolina Hurricanes. The new head coach is Mike Johnston, who was last seen taking the Portland Winterhawks to four straight WHL Finals and one Memorial Cup appearance.
Offensively, both Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin will have at least one new linemate, as Crosby will be without Pascal Dupuis will still be recovering from major knee surgery while Malkin lost James Neal in a trade with Nashville. In fact, the forward lines will have a makeover, mainly on the wings, something that remains familiar with the Penguins, as they've always sought help there since winning it all in 2009. The defense will have some new faces, as well, as Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik are out and Christian Ehrhoff and one from a group that includes Derrick Pouliot, Brian Dumolin, and Scott Harrington are in. While Pouliot has an inside track, thanks to playing under Johnston while in Portland, don't expect Dumolin or Harrington to give up without a fight. Marc-Andre Fleury had a solid regular season, and he also found his game in the playoffs after a rough start to that season.
Prediction: 1st in the Metropolitan Division
The Penguins will make the playoffs again, but as it's always been, it will be what they do once they get there where they will ultimately be judged upon. Johnston is expected to implement a system that will get the most out of Crosby and Malkin, which likely means business as usual.