I was asked this morning what my thoughts on Ryan Strome were so far, and my answer was fairly simple “I don’t know”.
I’ve said it before, and I will continue to preach it: the spot in which you were drafted means absolutely nothing the second you throw on the team’s jersey. It shouldn’t, but it still does, which is a problem.
Most Overrated Team
Liam Horrobin: The Calgary Flames had a busy offseason, however, they failed to improve on their biggest flaw: goaltending. The addition of both Mike Smith and Eddie Lack was wrong and will not benefit this team; they may as well have just stuck with Elliott and Johnson, by the way, are better statically. This decision will come back to haunt them and be the reason why they miss out on the playoffs.
Tyler Yaremchuk: Going to go with the Chicago Blackhawks here. They lost Hossa, Hjalmarsson, Panarin, and Darling over the offseason and the returns they got were all downgrades. Yes, they have the remainder of their core intact, but in a tight Central division there’s no room to take a step back, and they did. Some are calling them Stanley Cup contenders? Nope.
Liam Horrobin: This year we will see the fall of the Chicago Blackhawks. Teams in their division improved whilst they got worse. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Colorado Avalanche were the only team below them in the Central once the year is over.
Tyler Yaremchuk: I think the St. Louis Blues may finish lower than some expect. I’m not a huge fan of their depth down the middle, they’re already running into injury problems and Jake Allen can be inconsistent. Also with no Shattenkirk and Bouwmeester out to start the year, their d-core is getting thin. The Central division being as tough as it is doesn’t help either.
Liam Horrobin: In my eyes, Arizona had the best offseason in the NHL. They allowed old aging players to leave and brought in talent that can actually help them compete. My favourite addition was goaltender Anti Raanta. He is a big upgrade on Mike Smith and will be the key to their success. Watch out for the Coyotes challenging in the Pacific Division this year.
Tyler Yaremchuk: Gotta agree with Liam on this one. Arizona brought in Anti Raanta, who I believe is an upgrade on Mike Smith. They also added Stepan, Hjalmarsson, and Demers which gives them a solid group to compliment their young stars. Speaking of their young stars, I’m expecting big things from Keller, Dvorak, and Domi this year.
Liam Horrobin: Now, this one is a bit of dark horse pick but I think Shea Theodore will have a great year with the Golden Knights. Theodore will be racking up the minutes on the Vegas’ top pairing and will likely be quarterbacking the powerplay. He’s been a solid offensive defenceman everywhere he’s been, however, he was unable to blossom with the Ducks due to the amount of defenceman. That will all change now that he’s with the Knights.
Tyler Yaremchuk: Oscar Klefbom. I know he’s coming off a good season, and those around the Oilers recognize how good he is, but I think this is the year he blows up. I’ve been looking into his numbers and in my eyes, he’s already producing like an elite d-man. Expect his point totals, and star status, to rise astronomically.
First big name to be traded
Liam Horrobin: It’s an easy way out but I’ve got to go with Matt Duchene. It has been a story for a while now and you’ve got to think it’ll come to an end soon. The Avs will get a great haul for him, it’s just about finding the perfect match. Maybe the Blue Jackets?
Tyler Yaremchuk: It’ll be Duchene, but I gotta switch things up so I’ll go with Mike Green. The Wings need cap space and if one contending team suffers a blow to their defense *cough* Edmonton *cough* then Ken Holland’s phone line will be ringing.
Stanley Cup Winners:
Liam Horrobin: With all the new faces they’ve brought in, the Dallas Stars are my favorites to lift Lord Stanley. With the addition of Radulov, Hanzel, and Bishop the Stars quickly became the best team in their division. Offensively they’re gifted on every line, on the blue line they’re solid on all three pairing, and between the pipes, Ben Bishop should resolve their goaltending issues. The only team I could see stopping on Stars, in the west, are the Edmonton Oilers.
Tyler Yaremchuk: I hate doing this. But they’re due for a bounce-back year and I’m a big believer in Andrei Vasilevski, so I’m going to say Tampa Bay. Adding Sergachaev helps as well. They also have one of the deepest offensive groups in the league.
Liam Horrobin: If all goes well, Connor McDavid will take home his second straight Hart Trophy. Until teams can figure out how to defend against him, he will likely win this award year after year. The new slashing rule can only benefit his game too.
Tyler Yaremchuk: I think Steven Stamkos is going to return to his elite level form. My projections have him winning the Rocket Richard and being close to a point a game. The injury problems are gone and I think one of the games best goal scorers will thrive with the talent around him and the focus being of Nikita Kucherov. 50 for Stammer and a Hart Trophy to go with it!
Liam Horrobin: Sergei Bobrovsky won it last year, and he’ll do the same this year. The young defense in front of him has only got better which can only benefit his game. He posted the best numbers by a goaltender last season and if he can stay healthy the same thing should happen.
Tyler Yaremchuk: The safety net of Fleury is gone, but Matt Murray has never really cracked under the pressure before, so I say he takes another huge step forward and comes home with the Vezina. Also, a full year of health and Kris Letang should help.
Liam Horrobin: Erik Karlsson is simply the best defenseman in the NHL. Even if he does miss a few games to start the year it shouldn’t make much difference. He’s too much of an elite player not to have another top quality campaign.
Tyler Yaremchuk: Erik Karlsson got robbed last year in my eyes. I think he’s just too dominant, and even if he misses a few weeks, I think he’ll turn in another solid campaign. My second pick would be Victor Hedman, but Karlsson is the favorite for obvious reasons.
Liam Horrobin: Brock Boeser performed well during his nine-game audition at the backend of last season. This year, he’ll be given maximum opportunity to showcase his abilities to the Canucks fans. Out of all the rookies, Boeser stands above all.
Tyler Yaremchuk: Charlie McAvoy is my pick. I thought he played a very solid game in his brief stint with the Bruins during last years postseason and I expect him to pick up where he left off. I believe he’s the successor to Zdeno Chara on that blueline, and this year he’ll be the Calder winner.
Liam Horrobin: Arizona’s new head coach, Rick Tocchet will be this year’s Jack Adams winner. Expectations are mixed for the Coyotes. However, with the improvements they made over the offseason; Tocchet should be able to guide them back to the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-12 season.
Tyler Yaremchuk: This award usually just goes to whichever team overachieves the most, but in terms of which coach I think will have the biggest impact on their teams’ success? I’ll go with Ken Hitchcock out in Dallas. If he gets them firing, they could win the West.
The talk of the town? Well, that would be 18-year-old Kailer Yamamoto.
When Kailer came into camp, expectations weren’t high for the Spokane product. He had a below average showing at the team’s rookie tournament and most didn’t think he had any shot at making the team this year.
You could go read a magazine or go to major websites for season previews… but then it’s the same thing that tens of thousands of people read. So here is the start of my unique division by division season previews, which get you set for upcoming NHL season. If you want to check out my Central Preview, you can find it HERE.
FIRST PLACE – ANAHEIM DUCKS
Add: R.Miller – F.Beauchemin
Lost: S.Theodore (t) – J.Bernier (fa) – N.Thompson (fa) – C. Stoner (e) – R. Garbutt (fa)
They won the division last year despite a slumping offense, which came 18th in goals for. In a year where they struggled to score, their goaltending and defense stepped up in a big way. Their team GAA was 3rd and their core is still intact. Gibson will be back between the pipes while Lindholm, Fowler, Vatanen, and Manson will all be back on the blueline.
If there’s one concern with this team heading into the year it’s that the offense that finished 18th didn’t get better. While I do consider it a win that they didn’t lose any key pieces, especially considering the expansion draft, I would have liked to see them add an extra piece. They’ll need to rely on some bounce-back performances if they want to retain their Pacific Division crown.
I’m banking on that to happen. I think with the number of weapons they have, two years of below average offensive production isn’t going to happen. Expect another year of first in the Pac-8 for the Ducks.
SECOND PLACE – EDMONTON OILERS
Add: R.Strome – J.Jokinen – T.Rattie
Lost: J.Eberle (t) – B.Pouliot (bo) – D. Desharnais (fa) – G. Reinhart (e) – T. Pitlick (fa)
A quiet offseason in Oil Country, but most of the moves they made I consider a wash. Eberle simply couldn’t come back for another year with this team and while Strome lacks the same goal-scoring ability that Eberle had, he has some upside.
Offensively this team will be fine, they came 8th last year in GF/60 and there is really no reason to expect that number to drop. In fact, with McDavid and Draisaitl a year older and players like Lucic and Nugent-Hopkins looking for bounce-back years, they could score more than the 2.96 goals per game they had last year.
There are a few concerns for me when it comes to this team and it’s why I don’t have them passing the Ducks.
How will their defense hold up with Andrej Sekera out until at least the new year? It’s unclear how Matt Benning and Darnell Nurse will handle a heavier workload.
Also, this team stayed very healthy last year. Can they repeat that string of good health? Injuries are bound to hit every team at some point, does this team have the depth to overcome a significant injury? That still remains unclear.
Lastly, can Cam Talbot make it through another year starting close to 70 games? I’m not saying last year was a fluke by any means, but Talbot would have been a Vezina finalist last year, does he have that in him again?
Question marks aplenty, but I believe the young talent of this team can push them to another year with home-ice advantage in the postseason.
THIRD PLACE – CALGARY FLAMES
Add: T. Hamonic – S. Foo – M. Smith – E. Lack
Lost: B. Elliott (fa) – C. Johnson (fa) – D. Engelland (e) – L. Smid (fa) – L.Bouma (fa) – D. Wideman (fa)
Let’s start with what I like about the Flames heading into this season. The addition of Travis Hamonic is great and gives them an elite top four. The price they paid was steep, but the team is in win now mode, so I have no problems with it.
They also signed Spencer Foo, who could be a NHLer a few years from now, but I don’t believe he’ll have an impact this year.
Adding to their d-core, which was already a strength, as well as putting another winger in the prospect pool are both good moves. The problem with the Flames heading into this year is that they really didn’t address their major needs.
They still have a very poor right side. I don’t have confidence in Frolik & Brouwer to play on the team’s top line. Could they add someone mid-season? Absolutely. Wingers can be found around the trade deadline fairly easily so maybe this is a whole they could still look to fill.
They also didn’t improve their goaltending in my eyes. Mike Smith is 35 years old and not getting any better, while Eddie Lack is coming off a concussion riddled stint with Carolina that also saw minimal success. Just looking at last season, the combined GAA of Smith and Lack was 5.56 while compared to the combined GAA of Johnson and Elliot which was 5.14.
Those numbers may get better for Smith and Lack that they have a better team in front of them, but it wasn’t a big enough improvement in my eyes, especially given some of the marquee goaltenders available this offseason.
A few good moves and they can bank on some improvement from their young core, but not enough to catch either Edmonton or Anaheim.
FOURTH PLACE – ARIZONA COYOTES
Add: J. Demers – N. Hjalmarsson – D. Stepan – N. Cousins – A. Raanta
Lost: S. Doan (r) – Z. Michalek (fa) – J. McGinn (t) – C. Murphy (t) – L. Dauphin (t) – A. DeAngelo (t)
This may look absolutely crazy, but they had the best offseason of any team in their division. We already knew that they had one of the better young cores in the league, and now they actually have a solid group of veterans to play along with them.
Niklas Hjalmarsson was a sensational pickup. Some would argue he was the Hawks best d-man at times, and they got him at a great price. Factor in the great trade they made to grab Jason Demers along with the likes of Ekman-Larsson and Goligoski and you might be able to say they have one of the best d-cores in their division.
Up front, they added Derek Stepan who gives them an experienced centerman who can produce. Other than that their depth chart is littered with young talent and they’ll need some of those rookies to step up. There are high hopes for Clayton Keller, Dylan Strom, and Christian Dvorak. If they perform like some expect, the ‘Yotes could have a very succesful year.
In net, I like the addition of Antti Raanta and think him and Louis Domingue could be more than competent this year.
I don’t think they have enough to push into a playoff spot this year, but the Yotes are coming and might be a playoff team sooner rather than later.
FIFTH PLACE – LA KINGS
Add: M.Cammalleri – D.Kuemper
Lost: B.Bishop (t) – B.McNabb (e) – M.Greene (bo) – D. Setoguchi (fa)
The Kings are coming into this season with more or less the same roster that has only won 1 playoff game in the past 3 years.
Their offense finished 25th last year and all they did was add veteran Mike Cammalleri, who is coming off a 10 goal campaign. Jeff Carter had to almost single-handedly carry this team’s offense last year, scoring a whopping 16% of his teams’ goals. The only other player to score 20 was Tanner Pearson (24).
Anze Kopitar also had a horrible year. His shooting percentage as 2.2% lower than it’s ever been, but even if he would have shot at his average percent, he wouldn’t have hit 20 goals. He’ll need to be better if the Kings want any hope of snagging a wild-card spot.
If there’s one beacon of hope, it’s that a full year of both Jonathan Quick and Tyler Toffoli may be able to boost them up the standings.
All in all, I didn’t see enough improvement to give me any reason to believe that this team can pass anyone for a Pacific Division playoff spot, and given how strong the Central is, I don’t like their odds at a Wild Card spot either.
SIXTH PLACE – SAN JOSE SHARKS
Add: No Notable Players
Lost: P. Marleau (fa) – M. Mueller (t) – D. Schlemko (e) – M. Haley (fa)
With no additions to this point and having lost Marleau along with a solid depth d-man in Schlemko, it was not a great offseason in San Jose.
Joe Thornton is another year older, and he’s coming off a season in which he struggled to produce much offensively. Brent Burns got hot early, but shot well over his career sh%. During the last 20 games of the regular season, we saw Burns struggle, only scoring 10 points. When Burns struggled, so did the team, going 9-11-0 during Burns’ slump.
I have no questions about Martin Jones, even though both his GAA and SV% took dips last year, he should be solid again. But the cast in front of Jones? Not as strong as they once were.
To make the playoffs they’ll likely have to grab a Wild Card spot, and I just don’t see enough on this roster to beat out the crazy strong Central Division teams.
SEVENTH PLACE – VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
Add: EVERYONE GOT ADDED
Lost: THEY HAD NO PLAYERS LAST YEAR
You can expect a lot of 2-1 and 1-0 games this year from the Golden Knights. I really like the d-core that they managed to grab through the expansion process. Shea Theodore, Colin Miller, Brayden McNabb and Nate Schmidt are all relatively young and can all play competently in a team’s top 4. Mix them in with vets like Jason Garrison and Deryk Engelland and you have a d-core that’s better than a handful of other teams in the league.
Between the pipes, Marc-Andre Fleury can still hold a crease down. His numbers weren’t great in the regular season, but he played like his old self in the playoffs which is an encouraging sign. Even if he falters, they also have Calvin Pickard, who I was shocked to see available. The 25-year-old put up a 2.98 GAA and .904 SV% on an absolutely horrible Avalanche team. He could be a real surprise for VGK fans next year.
Up front, well, they aren’t good. They basically have a team full of 3rd liners with a few exceptions like Jonathan Marchessault and James Neal. There is some upside in guys like Vadim Shipachyov and Alex Tuch, but goal scoring will be a struggle.
I don’t think they’ll finish last, I think they’ll be too strong defensively, but the lack of goal scoring will keep them close to the basement.
EIGHTH PLACE – VANCOUVER CANUCKS
Add: S.Gagner – A.Burmistrov – T. Vanek – M.Del Zotto – P.Wiercioch – A.Lindback
Lost: R.Miller (fa) – L.Sbisa (e) – D.Shore (fa) – P.Larsen (fa)
Are they tanking? Are they trying to compete for some reason? Who knows!
The Canucks are officially a laughing stock. The butt of every joke just like the Oilers and Sabres once were. The only difference: those teams knew they were going to be bad. What the Canucks are doing is just straight confusing.
They bring in Sam Gagner, Michael Del Zotto and Thomas Vanek which makes no sense. Those types of players don’t help you compete, they help you go from 29th to 27th and diminish your lottery chances.
Those additions also take playing time from guys like Jake Virtanen and Brock Boeser or even guys like Nikolay Goldobin and Brendan Gaunce, who need to figure out the NHL game in a hurry if they want to have prolonged careers.
The offseason made no sense, the season will go horribly and that cycle will likely continue until the organization can find a definitive direction.
Last year, the NHL had an epidemic. Players were getting slashed, breaking hands, and losing fingers. Something needed to be done differently, but I don’t think anyone expected the change to be done to this extreme.
As the preseason went into full swing last night we saw a complete shift by NHL officials from one side of the spectrum to the other, specifically in regards to slashing minors. Here’s the game by game breakdown of penalties from last night.
Calgary vs Edmonton – 17 minors (7 slashing)
Edmonton vs Calgary – 15 minors (6 slashing)
Carolina vs Buffalo – 10 minors (4 slashing)
Montreal vs Boston – 12 minors (7 slashing)
Islanders vs Rangers – 15 minors (8 slashing)
Washington vs New Jersey – 14 minors (6 slashing)
Toronto vs Ottawa – 11 minors (5 slashing)
Minnesota vs Winnipeg – 17 powerplays (5 slashing)
Those are utterly insane numbers. This wasn’t a one-day coincidence either, the previous 3 exhibition games that have taken place over the past 2 days featured a combined 15 slashing minors.
The NHL didn’t create a new rule either. This was more or less a decision by the league to just actually call a rule that already exists. I dug up the rulebook definition just for reference:
Last night we saw average 13.875 penalties with an average of 6 of those being slashing minors. Compare that to last year where there was only an average of 0.6 slashing calls per game. So has the league officially shifted too far one way? Or is this the new standard that players will have to adjust to?
If the NHL does keep up this officiating how long would it take the players to adjust? Or could we be looking at 20-30 PIM’s a night for the first half of the season?
Of course, there are plenty of positives that will come from this. The talk for a while has been that the league needs more scoring, so maybe this is how you can accomplish that. Not only would more power plays create offense, but removing a defenders ability to hack their opponents hands will allow skilled players to create more chances (ya know, since they don’t
need to be worried about losing a finger).
Also, the risk of injury especially to star players will drop significantly once players learn they can’t hack their opponents like they’re taking down a tree.
My only concern with this is that the league and its officials won’t be able to stay this consistent, especially once the games matter more. We just went through a postseason that saw the officials light the rulebook on fire, so when April rolls around this year, are slashing infractions going to go mainly uncalled like they did last year?
My point of view, and I’m sure most who watch the game share this perspective, is that officials should use the same set of eyes for the entire game and no matter what time of the year that game is played. If it’s a penalty in the first period of game 36, then it should be a penalty in the 3rd period of the Conference Finals. That simple.
Let’s hope the league finally gets this one right.
You could go read a magazine or go to major websites for season previews… but then it’s the same thing that tens of thousands of people read. So here is the start of my unique division by division season previews, which get you set for upcoming NHL season.
FIRST PLACE – DALLAS STARS
Added: A. Radulov – B. Bishop – M. Hanzal – M. Methot – B. Flynn – T. Pitlick
Lost: P. Sharp (fa) – C. Eakin (e) – J. Hudler (fa) – A. Niemi (bo) – A. Hemsky (fa)
I get the sense that Jim Nill isn’t a very patient man. After the team saw their point total slip by 40 last season, their GM went out and solved their goaltending problem, solidified their d-core and just for fun, added a few more solid offensive pieces. They added a laundry list of impressive names to a team that already featured Benn, Seguin, Klingberg, and Spezza.
This team has a plethora of high-end skill, especially down the middle, where I don’t think there’s a team in the league that can match them. Seguin-Hanzal-Spezza-Shore is a terrific group and should be able to carry this team to a fantastic regular season.
Are there worries? Yeah. I don’t love their depth on the wings or on the back end, even though they are improved. Maybe that’s something they can look to add at the deadline, although they don’t have cap space as of now.
Regardless, I’m feeling bounce-back performance from the team in Texas and their off-season moves back up that feeling.
SECOND PLACE – NASHVILLE PREDATORS
Add: S. Hartnell – N. Bonino – A. Emelin
Lost: J. Neal (e) – C. Wilson (t)
I did not like their offseason. The Scott Hartnell reunion is a nice story, but he is not the player he used to be. They also paid a lot for Nick Bonino, a player who I question can be a competent second line center. He’s never cracked 50 points and his GF% drops 11% when he goes from mid-level competition to elite competition (via puckiq.com). I don’t think he’s a good second line center.
So then why do I have them so high? Well, they still have Pekka Rinne and one of the best group of defensemen in the league. We also just witnessed some breakthrough performances during the playoffs and I believe guys like Freddy Gauthier, Colton Scissions, and Pontus Aberg are ready for full-time NHL duty.
The injury to Ryan Ellis stings, but again, their depth is incredible and I have full confidence they can survive the few months without Ellis.
If there’s an x-factor, I’d say it’s Ryan Johansen. Fresh off a big extension that pays him like an elite #1 center, he’ll need to produce more than the 14 goals & 47 points he got in 82 games last year.
Despite seeing declines in their point totals the last 3 years, I expect the Preds to have a strong season in a tough central division.
THIRD PLACE – WINNIPEG JETS
Add: D. Kulikov – S. Mason – M. Sgarbossa
Lost: P. Postma (fa) – C. Thorburn (fa) – O. Pavelec (fa)
They couldn’t keep pucks out of their net. That was the only reason this team didn’t find any success during the regular season. They finished 7th in goals for and the difference between their goals for per game and goals against per game was just (0.11).
To put that into perspective, only one other non-playoff team in the west had a better differential, that was the LA Kings at (0.02). Simply put: the Jets had a really solid regular season last year, their goaltending was just horrendous.
They went out and improved their goaltending situation by grabbing Steve Mason, who should be a little more stable than Pavelec/Hutchison were as backups. The addition of Mason, combined with a more experienced Connor Hellebuyck should help drop that goals against per game number.
They also went and added Dmitry Kulikov, who does have holes in his game but is an upgrade on Paul Postma.
Combine that with a group of forwards that’s deep, highly skilled and only getting better, I think the Jets have a winning team and have no problem slotting them into a playoff spot.
FOURTH PLACE – MINNESOTA WILD
Add: M. Foligno – R. Murphy – T. Ennis
Lost: M Hanzal (fa) – J. Pominville (t) – M. Scandella (t) – E. Haula (e) – D. Kuemper (fa)
The Wild went all in last year, paying a king’s ransom for Martin Hanzal at the deadline. It didn’t work out, but they still have a pretty solid core intact. Their solid wing depth is still there, and while I worry about their depth down the middle, maybe someone like Joel Eriksson Ek can thrive playing on a line with someone like Zach Parise or one of their other skill guys.
Their solid wing depth is still there, and while I worry about their depth down the middle, maybe someone like Joel Eriksson Ek can thrive playing on a line with someone like Zach Parise or one of their other skill guys.
Their solid d-core and Devan Dubnyk should leave them looking good in their own end. If there is one concern I have it’s a lack of that superstar presence, someone who can be a game-changing presence on offense. Is Mikael Granlund that guy? His point total increased by 25 last year, so will we see another big step forward?
If they get some big performances, which I expect they will, I have no doubt about the Wild being a playoff team.
FIFTH PLACE – CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
Add: B. Saad – P. Sharp – C. Murphy – A. Forsberg – J. Berube – J. Rutta
Lost: A. Panarin (t) – N. Hjalmarson (t) – M. Hossa (i) – M. Kruger (t) – T. Van Riemsdyk (e) – J.Oduya (fa) – S. Darling (t) – B. Campbell ®
That’s a long list of departures from the Windy City, and the new names are honestly quite underwhelming.
Just looking at their offense, they essentially swapped out Hossa and Panarin for Saad and Sharp. I understand the cap relief element of things, and they got a great deal with Sharp, but the bottom line is they got two players who produce less than the players they now have. The combined GF/60 of Hossa and Panarin is 4.9, while that number for Sharp and Saad is 4.3.
On defense, they lost their second best dman in Nik Hjalmarsson and two good supporting players in Van Riemsdyk and O’Duya. To replace them is 27-year-old rookie Jan Rutta and Connor Murphy. Another sizeable step back.
They also lost Scott Darling, who was an outstanding backup. Berube should be fine in that role, but it’s another step back, even if it is small.
Now despite getting worse in all three areas of their roster, they still have a good chunk of their core so they should stick to the playoff picture. Their depth isn’t god either so one big injury could really put them in a hole. The flip side of that, they have some good young players. If Debrincat, Schmaltz, and Murphy can prove their solid NHL players early on, there is some potential for the Hawks to challenge for the division.
Their depth isn’t good either so one big injury could really put them in a hole. The flip side is that they have some good young players. If Debrincat, Schmaltz, and Murphy can prove their solid NHL players early on, there is some potential for the Hawks to challenge for the division
Just going off their roster right now, gotta slide them lower than others may have them.
SIXTH PLACE – ST. LOUIS BLUES
Add: B. Schenn – B. Bennett – C. Thorburn
Lost: D. Perron (e) – J. Lehtera (t) – R. Reaves (t) – N. Yakupov (fa)
In a division as close and deep as the Central, you need to always be improving. The Blues didn’t do that.
It may be a storyline for a few years, but they still don’t have an elite centerman to play with Tarasenko. Schenn is good, but he isn’t a top line center.
They’ve seen a decline in points over each of the last 4 seasons (111-109-107-99) and with a slew of their direct competition making serious strides forward, the Blues may be the odd team out. They didn’t get any help from the schedule makers either, playing 6 of their first 9 on the road. A bad start can really set a team back, and again, in a division as loaded as the Central, a bad start could ruin your season.
If there’s a bright side, they should still have strong special teams (PP = 8th & PK = 3rd). A solid 60-65 starts from Jake Allen would also help. They have some cap space heading into next offseason with Paul Stastny coming off the books, so maybe a high pick and a little reset heading into 19/19 wouldn’t be the worst thing for the franchise.
SEVENTH PLACE – COLORADO AVALANCHE
Adds: N. Yakupov – C. Wilson – J. Bernier
Lost: F. Beauchemin (fa) – M. Grigorenko (fa) – C. Pickard (e) – P. Wiercioch (fa) – R. Bourque (fa)
It’s hardly a hot take to predict the Avs to finish in the basement, but it’s difficult to expect an organization that’s as lost as them to bounce back from a historically bad 16/17 season.
I liked the 3 additions they made over the offseason, all are essentially no risk and could pay off, but they didn’t get any better. Losing Beauchemin and Pickard won’t exactly help them gain points in the standings.
Joe Sakic also, to this point, failed to deal Matt Duchene despite everyone in the hockey world knows it’s coming. I don’t think this is exactly a very inspired group of guys heading into the new season so expect the same old, same old from the Avs.
1 – Dallas – Loaded up this offseason, filled almost all their holes.
2 – Nashville – Not a good offseason, but are still built like a Cup contender.
3 – Winnipeg – So much potential, goaltending looks better.
4 – Minnesota – Lost some decent players, no one too crucial. Another playoff appearance.
5 – Chicago – Every aspect of their team got worse. In the playoffs, but barely.
6 – St. Louis – Don’t think they’re good enough to take out Chicago for final WC spot.
7 – Colorado – Dumpster fire. Going to pick high in next years draft. Dahlin?
Oh, you want to increase scoring? Here’s an idea; 60 minutes of icing. No matter what the scenario the icing rule stays in effect. If you take a penalty, no longer does going to the sin bin come with the benefit of icing the puck freely.
It’s an idea that sounds weird at first, but it’s been thrown around a few times over the past few years. Most recently it sparked my interest when I read it quickly in the latest issue of The Hockey News, so I thought I would expand on why I think switching the rule up could be a good thing for the game.
First off, it’s just logical, if a team is being punished for an infraction why are they also given the advantage of being able to ice the puck? If a team commits and infraction, they should have to actually play shorthanded.
Also, is the NHL not the league that’s been trying to increase scoring? Well, one really simple way to do that is to increase power play scoring. Last year, the average power play percentage was 19.1%. Just for argument’s sake, let’s just say that would increase a flat 10% across all teams even though that number may be low for some teams and may be high for others. It’s impossible to tell when you’re dealing with a hypothetical.
If every team’s PP% were to increase by 10%, these would be their new power-play goal totals:
Again, it’s an extremely rough guess on how this would affect things, but you can see that there would likely a rather significant increase in scoring whether that would be 5%, 10% or more. You don’t want to upset traditionalists, but you want to make the game more exciting. I feel like making this one minor change, could have a real positive effect on the sport.
Simply put, there’s no simpler way to increase scoring than to just make easier for teams to score on the powerplay.
Not only would this rule change make it more difficult for teams to get the puck out of their zone, but it would create more odd-man rushes for both the team with the man advantage and the team killing the penalty.
If teams are forced to try and actually play the game while killing a penalty, they might start to get greedy and before you know it, the play could be flipping back into their own end. The flip side of that is, one would think that the team on the powerplay would be more aggressive in trying to keep the puck in their own end. One bad move could create a shorthanded breakaway or 2 on 1 for the killing team.
The other reason I’m for this change: powerplays are exciting! Fans get to watch the most skilled players on their team get 2 minutes of offensive zone time. Whether your team in on the powerplay or killing one in a crucial time, you’re always on the edge of your seat! So why not raise the pressure a little more? Who wouldn’t want to make it easier for Connor McDavid to make magic in the offensive zone? Or for the Winnipeg Jets to set up Patrik Laine at the top of the circle? It just improves the game from a fan perspective.
The flip side of the coin is it gives teams with actual skilled penalty killers an advantage. No more watching fourth line plug just lay down and get in the way of everything. We’d get to see more of the league’s best players in different scenarios.
This also plays to my previous point of generating more odd-man rushes. If players like McDavid, Crosby, Eichel, and Matthews were freed from the shackles of having to ice the puck on penalty kills, you’d have to think they could generate some shorthanded offense.
Think of the different strategies as well. Would coaches instruct their PK units to try softy lift the puck out of the zone in an attempt to avoid icings while still getting the puck out? Or, could we see the creation of the “reverse icing”, where maybe once you gain the opposing team’s zone you simply fire the puck all the way back to your own goalie to kill time. Risky, but could work
The possibilities are endless, it would make the game more exciting and it just makes sense… which is why I’m 100% confident we will never see it in the NHL.
Over at BTI HQ, we were trying to think of a way to pass the dog days of the hockey off season. As you can imagine, trying to find content to write about in August can be tough.
We decided to start a bracket. But a simple bracket of who is the best player in the NHL would end one of two ways: Connor McDavid defeating Sidney Crosby OR Sidney Crosby defeating Connor McDavid in the final. So we switched it up a little.
Most recently, Brent Burns was joined by Patrick Kane in the second round after he took down Stars forward Jamie Benn.
Who will be next, Seguin or Tarasenko?
THE CASE FOR TYLER SEGUIN
The common thought is that Vlad Tarasenko is more of an elite finisher and produces more offense. That statement would be false. In the past 3 seasons, Seguin has played 14 FEWER games than Tarasenko and they have the EXACT SAME amount of points over that span (222).
My argument for Seguin to win this matchup is fairly simple: versatility. If you want him to centre your top line, he’ll do it. If you need him to shift to the wing, he can do that as well. That’s something Tarasenko simply doesn’t offer.
While Tarasenko may score more goals, Seguin does a better job of complementing his linemates and making those he plays with much better.
Where Tarasenko may be the sexy pick, ask yourself: If you were starting a franchise today, who would you choose? I would go with the versatile centerman who has put up over a point per game in 3 of his last 4 seasons.
THE CASE FOR VLADIMIR TARASENKO
Vladimir Tarasenko is one of the game’s best finishers and has proven so over the past three seasons; only Alex Ovechkin (136) has light the lamp more than him – Tarasenko scored 116.
Also throughout those three seasons, the Russian winger has single handedly carried the Blues’ offense scoring 222 points with the next closest, Alexander Steen, coming in with 167 points. Only one other team in the Western Conference had a bigger gap between their highest scorer and their second highest scorer: the Chicago Blackhawks with a 77 point gap.
Tarasenko has played on much less talented teams, offensively, compared to Tyler Seguin who has been able to play alongside somebody as talented as Jamie Benn.
Although Tarasenko may not be as versatile as Tyler Seguin, if he can go out there and score my team 30 plus goals a season you simply cannot complain about that.
So over at BTI HQ, we were trying to think of a way to pass the dog days of the hockey offseason. As you can imagine, trying to find content to write about in August can be tough.
So we decided to start a bracket. But a simple bracket of who is the best player in the NHL would end one of two ways: Connor McDavid defeating Sidney Crosby OR Sidney Crosby defeating Connor McDavid in the final. So we switched it up a little.
A few week’s ago we had Jeff Carter and Brent Burns go head to head. Brent Burns came away victories in that battle and now this week we’ve got two heavyweights ready to battle it out!
THE CASE FOR Jamie Benn
Patrick Kane is very very very very (you get the point) skilled. You know that I know that, everyone knows that.
Majority of hockey fans know how good Jamie Benn is, but sometimes I feel as though his effectiveness gets lost in today’s fast paced, skilled NHL.
Benn is a big body who actually skates very well for someone who’s 6’2 and well over 200 pounds. He can park himself in front of the net and wreak havoc, or he can sit on the wingers and fire home one timers with his surprisingly strong shot. He can kill penalties as much as he can make other teams pay for taking them. You want a player you can trust to protect a lead late in the game? It’s Benn. You want a player who you can throw out with a minute left and you’re down a goal? Benn can do it.
As for scoring, Kane has an edge there obviously, but the gap isn’t huge. He’s eclipsed a point per game in 2 of the last 4 seasons and was dangerously close to that mark in those other two “off” years (69 points in 77 games & 79 points in 81 games).
THE CASE FOR Patrick Kane
Three time Stanley Cup champion, Patrick Kane is one of the biggest names in the NHL.
He’s consistently been on the box score since day one of his NHL career, always coming up clutch when the Blackhawks need him the most. Kane has been a huge asset in changing the Blackhawks culture into a winning one. His tremendous 72 point rookie campaign helped Chicago to their first winning season since 2002. Since Kane has been with the organization they have not had a single losing season and have only missed the playoffs once: 2007-08.
Kane is a prolific scorer and over the past three seasons, nobody has scored more points than him. A big chunk of those points came from his outstanding season where he won the Ted Lindsay, became the first American born player to win the Art Ross, and took home the Hart Trophy: beating out Jamie Benn. That same year, Kane went on a 26 game point streak which became the longest in Blackhawks history and also the second longest streak since Mats Sundin in 1993.
Kane’s elite scoring touch is better than anybody else in the league today. He’s a big time player who makes big time plays.
Make sure to vote on our Twitter poll (@belowtheice) for whom ever you believe won this argument!