http://ssepempower.org/ed/d-XE0vV_UsA Every Friday, three of BTI’s writers get together and share their thoughts on three topics from around the NHL
The Below the Ice crew brings you; NHL: 31 for 31
This year as the clock ticks down towards the NHL season, the writers here at BTI will be bringing you our preview of all 31 NHL teams, in 31 days.
purchase Lyrica online DAY 7:
The journey through the Pacific division takes another stop in Canada as we take a look at the Vancouver Canucks.
7th in the Pacific, 14th in the West, 31-40-11 (73 points)
Not much was expected of the Canucks last season, predicted by many to compete for the first overall pick as compared to a playoff spot. After a slew of free agent signings which included Thomas Vanek, Sam Gagner and Michael Del Zotto, the Canucks once again had the mentality that they could compete for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
It didn’t start off all that bad for the Canucks, kicking the season off with 6-3-2 record in October. Eventually the Canucks fell back down to earth and finished the season at the bottom of the standings. What was different about the season was that the Canucks weren’t being lead by the usual suspects Henrik and Daniel Sedin. They were being lead by fourth year pro Bo Horvat and breakout rookie sensation Brock Boeser, who lead the Canucks in goals with 29 and tied for first in points last season with 55, despite missing the final 16 games with a back injury.
Injuries once again plagued the Canucks throughout the season. Derek Dorsett had to end his hockey career after he suffered a set back to a previously injured neck. Horvat missed six weeks with a fractured foot, which lead to the Canucks going 4-12-2 in his absense. Loui Erikson fractured ribs in late February and missed the remainder of the season, and of course the previously mentioned Brock Boeser.
- April 8, Daniel and Henrik Sedin announce retirement from the National Hockey League.
- May 25, Signed 2017 first round pick Elias Pettersson to a entry level contract.
- May 31, Signed 2017 third round pick Michael DiPietro to a entry level contract
- June 22, Select defenseman Quinn Hughes from Michigan University with the seventh overall pick in the NHL draft.
- July 1, Re-signed Sven Baertschi to a 3-year deal 3.36 AAV .
- July 1, Signed Jay Beagle to a 4-year deal 3.00 AAV.
- July 1, Signed Antoine Roussel to a 4-year deal 3.00 AAV
- July 25, Former team president Trevor Linden and Canucks agree to mutually part ways.
Jay Beagle, Antoine Roussel, Elias Pettersson
Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Jussi Jokinen
OFFSEASON GRADE: D
It was a bit of an up and down off season for the Canucks. There was the good singing Petterson to his entry level deal and selecting Hughes in the draft. Then there was the head scratching, signing Beagle and Rousell to respective four year deals, the players in the deal aren’t so bad, it is the length and AAV that is the isssue for the Canucks. It seems the Canucks once again think they can compete for a playoff spot instead of embracing the rebuild. These two signings are the alleged reason behind Trevor Linden wanting out of Vancouver, as he and ownership were not seeing eye to eye on how the team should look going forward.
44 GP: 24G, 32A 2017-18 SHL: Vaxjo HC
Pettersson is the Canucks newest prized asset. Selected with the fifth overall pick in the 2017 NHL draft, the Canucks were heavily scrutinized at the time of selecting Pettersson. Many fans wanting the Cnaucks to take Cody Glass or Casey Middelstadt. You don’t hear many fans complaining now a days, as last year Pettersson made the jump to the men’s league in Sweden and as a 19 year old lead the league in points with 56, surpassing Peter Forsberg for the most points as a under 20 player in SHL history.
It looks like Pettersson will start his NHL career on the wing, centered by either Brandon Sutter or Sam Gagner. The Canucks still do view Pettersson as a center in the NHL but want him to develop his skills before taking on the best in the game today. Pettersson will likely start on the second or third line with some power play time. If Pettersson improves in the face-off department throughout the year he could potentially move up and be the running mate along with Brock Boeser.
2018-19 Prediction: 15G, 40A
75GP: 10G, 10A
This could be the make or break year for Jake Virtanen. Originally drafted 6th overall in 2014 draft, Virtanen has failed to develop into the power forward the Canucks had hoped for. Last season was Virtanen career high in points after collecting 13 in his rookie season and splitting time between Vancouver and the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League last season.
With a potential spot open in the top six this season, Virtanen will have no better opportunity to turn his career around, being on a potential line with Pettersson or even Horvat and Boeser. Virtanen was given and extension which will keep him around until 2021 with a AVV of 1.25 per year. If Virtanen can turn it around this year and continue his success he may be in for a pay day come contract time.
2018-19 Prediction: 18G, 27A
DUE TO REGRESS:
GP 70: 6G, 28A
Last season saw Alex Edler reach the 30 point plateau for the first time since the 2014-15 season. This is out of the ordinary for Edler as he has hovered around the low 20’s in terms of points since is career high of 49 in 2011-12.
15 of Edler’s 34 points came on the power-play which was surprisingly good for Vancouver last season. With the Sedins gone this year the Canucks power-play percentage is bound to fall with less goal scorers on the team. Along with Edler almost certainly missing time with injuries during the season his point total is bound to take a dip.
2018-19 Prediction: GP 64: 6G 16A
8th in the Pacific, 15th in the West, 76 points
The Canucks do have some very good prospects close to making the jump to the NHL. For now the Canucks are stuck in the basement of the Western Conference.
The Canucks could be a fun team to watch with Elias Pettersson, Olli Juolevi and Thatcher Demko all possibly cracking the opeing day roster. With Horvat and Boeser still improving their game their still is plenty of reason for Canuck fans to tune in this season. But the Canucks scoring, and defensive depth along with suspect goaltending the Canucks will be no where near the playoffs.
With the draft in Vancouver this season the Canucks should embrace the “Slack for Jack” or Lose for Hughes” movement and do whatever it takes to select Quinn Hughes’ brother Jack Hughes first overall in the NHL draft.
Come back tomorrow for the continuation of our 31 in 31 series where we look at our 8th and final team from the Pacific Division; The Vegas Golden Knights.
Every year in the NHL there is a handful of teams who really have no hope of competing, and most of the time that’s by design. The teams will obviously never admit that they’re tanking, but instead, say that they’re focused on getting younger and giving ice time to their “next generation”. The best example of this was when the New York Rangers wrote a letter to their fans this past season:
I’ll get to the Eastern Conference in a second, but for now, I want to focus on the Western Conference where it appears that there are as many as 15 organizations who are coming into this season with a “playoffs or bust” mentality.
Notice that I used the word “organization” instead of “teams”. Obviously, the players in the room are going out trying to win every single night, but it isn’t that hard to see which organizations are more focused on the future, than the upcoming season.
Let’s start with the teams who made the playoffs last year:
NASHVILLE PREDATORS: They led the West with 117 points last season and there’s no doubt that they’re going for it. With over $7 million in cap space, I could even see David Poile make another move before the season starts.
WINNIPEG JETS: Yes, they lost Paul Stastny, but the rest of their young core is still in-tact. They didn’t make any big additions, but it’s more-or-less the same roster that delivered last years 114 point season. It’s clear what their intentions this year are.
VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS: The biggest surprise in sports last year went out this offseason and brought in Paul Stastny and Nick Holden. They lost David Perron and James Neal, but they still have decent depth on the wings. It still sounds weird to say, but anything less than the playoffs for Vegas would be disappointing.
MINNESOTA WILD: With a new GM at the helm, I was expecting big changes to the Wild’s roster this summer. That didn’t happen. It’s still the same team that finished fourth in the West last season. If they don’t make it this year? Then we could be looking at a roster overhaul.
ANAHEIM DUCKS: Getzlaf, Perry, and Kesler are only getting older but they do have some really nice young pieces who could take steps forward this year. They’ll be leaning on the likes of Rakell, Montour, Silfverberg, Kase, and Ritchie more than ever this year, but it’s obvious that the organization has playoff expectations.
SAN JOSE SHARKS: They missed out on John Tavares, but locked up Evander Kane and brought back Joe Thornton. Playoffs have been the standard in San Jose for close to a decade, that isn’t changing this year. With only 5 forwards under contract for 2019-20 though, a disappointing year could lead to some big changes.
LOS ANGELES KINGS: All three California teams are in similar spots. While they all have some nice young pieces, their cores are aging. LA is another example of that. Their window is closing, and with the acquisition of Ilya Kovalchuk, it’s clear that they won’t be satisfied with anything less than a playoff berth.
COLORADO AVALANCHE: The Avalanche didn’t get a lot of attention for their breakthrough 17-18 campaign and that’s mainly because everyone was too busy gushing over the Golden Knights. They squealed thanks to a win in game 82 over St. Louis and had a good offseason as well. With a new goalie (Grubauer), some added depth (Cole and Calvert), and a young core that should take another step forward, it’s easy to see why the Avs have their sights set on taking another step forward.
So those were the eight teams that made the playoffs last year, and it should be no surprise that they all expect to be right back in the big dance this season. The West gets interesting when you start looking at the teams that missed the playoffs last season. Almost every team that missed out last year, is in “playoffs or bust” mode.
ST.LOUIS BLUES: After dealing Paul Stastny at last years deadline, there were reports that Doug Armstrong was making close to everyone available. Instead of selling off in the summer, he bought into his current core. They gave their forward core a facelift by adding Ryan O’Reilly, Tyler Bozak, Patrick Maroon, and David Perron. If the playoffs don’t happen this year, jobs will most likely be lost.
DALLAS STARS: Many thought the Stars would be a juggernaut last season after they had added Martin Hanzal and Alex Radulov. They missed the playoffs last year and you’d imagine that a second straight miss for a team with the amount of skill that the Stars have, someone will have to pay the price.
CALGARY FLAMES: Glen Gulutzan and Brian Burke got the ax after the team underperformed last year, only winning 37 games. They made a big splash acquiring Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm in exchange for Dougie Hamilton and Michael Ferland. They also signed James Neal, which should give their offense a much-needed boost. Goaltending still worries me, but there incredibly improved and should be right there in terms of the playoff picture.
EDMONTON OILERS: No playoffs this year will likely mean the end for both Peter Chiarelli and Todd McLellan. They didn’t do a lot to improve their team this summer, instead, they’ll be relying on some bounce-back performances and better special teams. They’re good enough to make the playoffs, they just need to live up to their potential. There isn’t an organization with more on the line than Edmonton.
CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS: Did I say no one has more on the line than Edmonton? I lied. After missing the playoffs for the first time in almost a decade, there were rumours that the Hawks would be making huge changes. They have a core that appears to be getting close to its expiration date, and they didn’t do a lot to change that this summer. Still, they have a tonne of skill and they know how to win. A healthy Corey Crawford will go a long way to helping them rebound, but if the Hawks miss this season, it could lead to the dismantling of a dynasty.
ARIZONA COYOTES: Clayton Keller is going to be a superstar, Oliver Ekman-Larsson already is, and Antti Raanta was one of the best goalies in the league once the calendar flipped to 2018. The pieces are there in Arizona, and it might sound surprising, but this is a team that could shock a lot of people in 18-19. When they say their goal is to make the playoffs, you better believe they mean it.
That’s 15 teams who will be playoff contenders. Only eight will get in and that means seven teams will be mightily disappointed. Now you might be thinking “well there are 16 teams in the Western Conference. What do you mean only seven will be disappointed?”.
Well, that brings me to the Vancouver Canucks. Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat are fantastic young players. Quintin Hughes will be one day as well, and I’m very high on Jonathan Dahlin and Elias Pettersson as well. The bottom line is that they will not be remotely good enough for the playoffs this year. Coming dead last and getting the first overall pick would be fantastic for this organization and I’m pretty sure they recognize that, even if they won’t admit it publicly.
The West is clearly jam packed and it should make for a fantastic 2018-19 NHL season.
The 2018 NHL entry draft will be hosted in Dallas, at the American Airlines Center, June 22nd.
Even though the show will be in the heart of Texas, the night belongs to Buffalo. With the 1st overall pick the Sabres will undoubtedly select Swedish defensemen Rasmus Dahlin, but what about the rest of the picks in the top 15?
Buffalo Sabres, Round 1-1st overall
With their first pick, in the first round, the Buffalo Sabres select: Rasmus Dahlin.
TSN Director of Scouting Craig Button has called Dahlin ‘the Connor McDavid of defensemen.’ The highly coveted Swedish D-man is considered a generational talent is drawing comparisons to the likes of Nick Lidstrom and Scott Niedermeyer. He is the total package.
Mix in his hockey sense with his shot, vision, recovery and passing, and you have the number 1 pick this year. The only knock on the 6’2” 180LBS 18 years old is just that. He will need to put on 10-15 pounds of muscle to reach his full potential in the NHL. With his work ethic and dedication to the game, I don’t see that being a problem. Rasmus Dahlin will be a force on defence in the NHL for years to come.
Following the belle of the ball is the Carolina Hurricanes and Montreal Canadians. The Canes were big-time lottery winners moving up from 11th to 2nd. The Montreal Canadians moved from 4th to 3rd. Carolina is rumoured to be interested in moving down but if they do, they’re missing out on a chance to grab an excellent player.
Carolina Hurricanes, Round 1-2nd overall
Russian winger Andrei Svechnikov is the most talented forward in this draft. If Dahlin is the consensus #1, then Svechnikov is a lock a two. The 1st overall pick in 2017’s import draft was an immediate mover and shaker for the OHL’s Barrie Colts. Playing in only 44 games this year he managed 40 goals and 32 assists good for 1.63PPG. He is a pure scorer with his shot strength and accuracy and will likely be the leading goal scorer to come out of the draft. Carolina with new ownership should look to build around Svechnikov the same way they did Jeff Skinner but hopefully with more overall success.
Montreal Canadiens, Round 1-3rd overall
The Montreal Canadiens are in a bit of a predicament. After a trade to Arizona that sent Alex Galchenyuk to the Coyotes for Max Domi, the Habs are somehow thinner than they already were at the centre. As of today, the depth chart at centre is Jonathan Drouin, who has yet to prove that he’s not a winger and Phillip Danault, who at his full potential is a 40 point player.
This is also a draft considered low on centres, and at #3 the Habs should roll the dice on what could be the most dynamic forward in this draft, Jesperi Kotkaniemi. No player has had made bigger leaps through the pre-draft rankings this season. TSN’s Bob McKenzie had Kotkaniemi ranked 19th at the mid season point. Since then he has skyrocketed all the way into the top 5 and consistently draws comparisons to players like Anze Kopitar, Alexander Barkov and Mark Scheiffle.
At 6’2″ he adds size to and skill to an otherwise smaller lineup in Montreal and while there is risk associated with selecting Kotkaniemi, whoever takes the chance won’t regret it.
The Ottawa Senators owned the 2nd highest chance of drafting 1st overall but slid down to 4th after the lottery. They have the option to send their 1st round pick this year or next to the Avalanche as part of the Duchene deal.
Ottawa Senators, Round 1-4th overall
They won’t flip this years pick to Colorado but will instead draft the 6’3” defensemen from Acadia Bathurst, Noah Dobson. Dobson is arguably the 2nd best defensemen in this draft behind the all-mighty Rasmus Dahlin. Drafting Dobson will give Sen’s fans hope for the future as they watch Erik Karlsson’s time in Ottawa draw to a close. Dobson showed his offensive side this year collecting 69 points in 67 games, including 17 goals. He also racked up 13 more points in 20 games leading his team to the Memorial Cup.
Arizona Coyotes, Round 1-5th overall
Filip Zadina is the most highly touted prospect to come from the Halifax Mooseheads since 2013 when Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin were drafted 1st and 3rd overall respectively (sorry Nico Hischier). The Czech born winger scored 44 goals and 38 assists for the Mooseheads last year.
To make it in the NHL, Zadina needs to work on his skating. While he has the speed, he does not have today’s NHL speed. The promising winger could be NHL ready by the start of training camp, but the Coyotes who are in a stacked Pacific will be looking for all the help they can get.
Zadina joins an impressive prospect pool in Arizona that includes; Clayton Keller, Dylan Strome, Christian Dvorak and Jakob Chychrun.
With hardly any separation of skill between the rest of the pack, things get harder to predict. Outside of the top 5 (maybe even top 2), nothing is guaranteed, with that in mind lets go through picks 6-15.
Detroit Red Wings, Round 1-6th overall
With the man they most likely wanted off the board, Noah Dobson, the Red Wings will look to stay with a D-man and select Quinn Hughes from the University of Michigan. He plays a very up-tempo offensive game and would be knocked for his D if not for always having the puck on his stick. Hometown addition doesn’t hurt fill some seats in the new arena.
Vancouver Canucks, Round 1-7th overall
Sliding down the draft board to #7 is Brady Tkachuk, known for the same style of play like his dad and brother, Brady could be an immediate impact player. Outside of the hopeful Elias Pettersson, the Canucks lack depth on the left side and Tkachuk finds himself a divisional rival to his brother.
Chicago Blackhawks, Round 1-8th overall
From youtube sensation to NHL-draft-pick Oliver Wahlstrom has impressed in his three years with the USHL. This most recent year he blew his old stats out of the water racking up 45 points in just 25 games. The Blackhawks have built dynasties from drafting before, and it’s time to get back at it if they have any hope of winning again.
New York Rangers, Round 1-9th overall
The Rangers are no longer in a win now mode and need to take the best player available. While they would love a winger or centre to draft 9th, the best talent available is defensemen at this spot in the draft. So without further ado, the Rangers draft Swedish stud, Adam Boqvist. Boqvist will be a bit of a project, listed anywhere from 150-165 pounds he will need to put on significant weight before making the NHL.
Edmonton Oilers, Round 1-10th overall
If the Oilers decide to hold onto their pick at ten, they’ll have plenty of options. This is most likely the last top 10 pick the Oilers will own for the next 15+ years, so they need to make it count. Defensive depth is a need for the Oilers, the cupboards are nearly empty in the farm, apart from Ethan Bear who likely won’t make the full-time NHL jump until 2019-20.
Evan Bouchard fills that hole for the Oilers. The highest scoring defensemen in this year’s draft Bouchard put up 87 points in the OHL last season the most since Anthony DeAngelo in 2014-15. The only question with Bouchard is if his offence in junior will translate to the NHL, he put up 25 goals for the London Knights last season.
New York Islanders, Round 1-11th overall-VIA Calgary
The Islanders hold the 11th, and 12th picks in this years draft, the former acquired in a trade with Calgary for Travis Hamonic.
The Islanders have plenty of Talent at forward, John Tavares (pending UFA), Mathew Barzal, Jordan Eberle, the list goes on, now its time for a defenseman.
With three pending UFA’s on defence, Calvin de Haan, Thomas Hickey and Dennis Seidenberg it’s hard to see the Islanders re-signing all three. They likely let Seidenberg walk and will have to choose between one of de Haan or Hickey.
With the 11th pick, the Islanders draft Ty Smith from the Spokane Chiefs as a long-term solution on D. His 14 goals in the WHL most likely won’t hold up in the NHL, but the potential is there.
Washington Capitals, Round 1-12th overall-VIA NYI
You heard it here first folks, aside from defence the Islanders also require goaltending, and that’s why they’ll flip their 12th overall selection in this year’s draft to acquire goaltender Philipp Grubauer.
With their 12th overall selection the Capitals choose more depth at centre and draft Joe Veleno, formerly with St. Johns, he was traded to the Drummondville Voltigeurs where he put up 48 points in 33 games.
Dallas Stars, Round 1-13th overall
Dallas has the defence; they hope they have goaltending, now all they needed is scoring depth. The Stars have been burned when it comes to drafting Russians before IE Valeri Nichuskin, but that shouldn’t stop them from taking Vitali Kravtsov. Coming off a steller KHL playoffs where he scored 11 points in 16 games, Kravtsov tied the record for most KHL playoff goals by a rookie with six, (Previously held alone by Nichuskin) doing so in nine fewer games.
Philadelphia Flyers, Round 1-14th overall-VIA St.Louis Blues
Acquired in the deal that sent Brayden Schenn to St.Louis this is the last unknown piece of the trade left. GM Ron Hextall has said in the past that Philly would likely take a right-shot D in this year’s draft and with a plethora of good D in the draft he has his options. For my money, the Flyers take the player that best suites their needs at 14, Bode Wilde. Another product from the USHL, he owns a hard shot, works well in all three zones and can make a great first stretch pass. Philly jumps ahead of more skilled players to take their man.
Florida Panthers, Round 1-15th overall
Fresh off a trade for the controversial Mike Hoffman, it seems as if scoring won’t be a problem for the Panthers this season. Any piece added during the draft likely won’t see NHL playing time without a tremendous camp. So, at 15 there are still plenty of options left, but the most upside has to be Rasmus Kupuri. Centres are always valued more than wingers and with already established Finnish centre Sasha Barkov to learn from, Kupari could find his way into the Panthers top 6 for years to come.
That’s a wrap on my projected top 15 draftees this year, Dahlin and Svechnikov are the real guarantees, and there are a plethora of players taken in this draft that will go on to have NHL success. The Islanders may finally get the goaltending they’ve been hoping for, Philly adds to their prospect pool and Dallas doesn’t regret drafting a Russian this time round.
Barret Hayton C
Ryan Merkley RD
Joel Farabee LW
Rasmus Sandin LD
Jonathon Berggren C/LW
Rumours are flying, the insiders are tweeting, and bloggers are writing. It’s the offseason, baby.
Last year, the Vegas Expansion Draft was the talk of the league as every team looked to avoid losing a key piece. It was expected to be one of the craziest offseasons in NHL history, but honestly, it was underwhelming.
This year, it won’t be an expansion draft making noise, it will be the number of star players who could be on the move. John Tavares and John Carlson are top-tier NHL talent and both will likely hit the UFA market come July 1. You also have names like Erik Karlsson, Ryan O’Reilly, and Max Pacioretty on the trading block.
It shouldn’t surprise anyone if we see more than a few big splashes this summer, but which teams could be the busiest? Here’s my list:
What percentage chance would you give the Oilers of making the playoffs?
Well, as it sits right now, they are five points back of San Jose for the final playoff spot which doesn’t seem impossible. But look at little deeper at it and you’ll see that they need to jump over five other teams to get to the Sharks and they’ve played the same or more games than every single one of those teams.
Now it’s early, but the season creeps up on you and if they don’t start making up ground in a hurry then they can kiss another playoff appearance goodbye.
These next three games against Boston, Buffalo, and Arizona are huge. Those are three teams you should beat if you’re a playoff caliber club. For right now, I’d say they have a 15% chance of making the playoffs, but if they win these next three games, I would up that to 35%, which might be a little generous. The bottom line: they need a damn winning streak.
Who has a better chance of making the playoffs: Vegas or Vancouver?
Vegas currently sits atop the surprisingly awful Pacific Division with just 27 points while Vancouver is holding onto a wild card spot with 22 points.
Both teams are very well coached and are very committed to playing strong defensive games and just suffocating the opposition to some extent.
Vancouver might have more skill, but their goaltending concerns me and I’m not sure how long this young core can continue to produce the way they have. Vegas, on the other hand, has managed to continue to stockpile points with no NHL caliber goaltender. When Fleury or Subban come back, it might be enough to keep them competitive. For that reason alone, I’ll give Vegas a better chance to make the playoffs but I don’t think we’ll see either make it in all likelihood.
Would you be in favor of going to ten minutes of 3-on-3 overtime to kill the shootout?
Absolutely! Tell me one positive about the shootout that 3-on-3 OT does not bring? It showcasing individual skill but doesn’t completely take out the team aspect and it’s way more exciting. I would take it a step further and say just eliminate the clock. Go 3-on-3 until someone scores!
I still have a bit of a soft spot for the shootout and it’s better than settling for a tie, but it doesn’t give fans nearly the same thrill as 3-on-3.
Is Steven Stamkos back to being the “Old Stammer”?
The entire Tampa Bay Lightning are incredibly hot right now, in large part thanks to the combo of Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos.
Stamkos, of course, played just 17 games last season and has struggled with injuries over the past two seasons. But is the elite goal scoring Stamkos back? Well, I would argue he never really left. When you look at Stammers numbers, there has never been a decline.
Even though he played just 17 games last year, he still put up 9 goals and 11 assists. Even in the years when he’s been hurt, his points per game was never worse than 0.83.
Stamkos’ ability to score never seriously declined, he just struggled with injury. Now that he’s back to being 100%, I think we can expect the 27-year-old to put up elite numbers for a long long time.
Are Ethan Bear and Caleb Jones going to be NHLers down the road? Or do the Oilers need to continue adding to their d-core?
I haven’t watched Bear and Jones too much over their junior and brief pro-careers, but what I have seen out of the two is very promising. I think it’s very likely that the two will be NHL players in the near future. Are they top four quality? That’s yet to be determined.
With that being said, it’s win now time in Edmonton, if you haven’t noticed. Let’s focus on right now.
When Sekera comes back they’ll have:
So if they do acquire someone, who would you take out of the lineup? Or maybe there’s someone out of that group you trade? They have 6 capable NHL d-men, but I do believe there’s an upgrade to be made on the second pair. I think they’re one more d-man away from having a Stanley Cup caliber back-end.
I also don’t think the type of trade they’re looking for can be made in-season. So, my final answer is Bear and Jones will one day be NHLers, we just don’t know how good and for now, they need another d-man.
What’s a bigger surprise: Oilers & Habs struggles or the success of the Canucks & Golden Knights?
As much as I’m surprised that the Habs and Oilers aren’t playing better, teams go through slumps. It’s been a bad month for both of these teams, but I believe that Carey Price will eventually start stealing games for Montreal and the Oilers offense will click and they’ll start winning as well.
The Golden Knights doing THIS? It’s insane. Nobody saw this coming and not only is it good for the growth of the game in Las Vegas because winning attracts fans, but it’s good for George McPhee. Nevermind the obvious trade candidates like Nate Schmidt and James Neal, but players like Lucas Sbisa, William Karlsson, and Cody Eakin are becoming worth more and more with each passing game. That’s just as big for the future of this team as the wins are.
The Canucks are playing good, but I don’t care because eventually they’ll lose something crazy like 8 of 10 and plummet to the basement. It’s coming, trust me.
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.
We are now coming into the month of May and are starting up the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
For many teams, their post-season will consist of many rounds of golf down in sunny Florida.
The trade deadline is well past, we’ve seen players rock their new uniforms for a few games now and more importantly, we’ve all been able to cool off from our initial reactions of trades (example: me after the Davidson-Desharnais trade).
After giving things sometimes, I’ve decided to rank the General Managers of the NHL on the trades they’ve made this year, or in some cases the trades they haven’t made.
A couple of notes before I get into things. First off, I based these on the GM’s entire season, not just the time around the trade deadline. Also, I used letter grades to do these ranking because it’s fun.
(A+) – No One
I am not giving a single GM a rating of A+ for the moves they’ve made this season.
In my opinion, there isn’t a GM out there who successfully went out and filled out his roster without overpaying significantly, or a GM who took advantage of a seller’s market well enough to warrant being given significant praise. You’ll see what I mean as I work my way through the rest of the letters.
(A) – Brian MacLellan
I mean, he already had the best roster in the NHL and he’s only made a couple of moves this season. First, he shored up some depth by grabbing Tom Gilbert from the LA Kings for essentially nothing, then he made the big splash.
Acquiring Kevin Shattenkirk is just gravy on top of a near perfect roster, but props to MacLellan for deciding to go all in, it’s
an incredibly strong move. The only reason I won’t give MacLellan an A+ is because I felt like he paid too high of a price. While a first rounder and a conditional is good value for Shattenkirk, from the Capitals perspective, they paid a premium for 3 months of a d-man who will likely be on the second pairing.
With all that said I also see the value in acquiring the best player on the market simply so teams like Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay couldn’t get him. The bottom line, they paid a premium, but still got the best player on the market. Enough for me to give Brian MacLellan an “A”, the best ranking of any GM this year.
(A-) – JIM BENNING
The man that many had dubbed the worst GM in the league, including me, made some serious strides towards redemption with the moves he’s made this season.
Selling off Alex Burrows for a top tier prospect like Jonathan Dahlen is absolute robbery. That deserves some serious credit, especially when you compare that to what some other veteran forwards we’re going for this year.
He followed that up with another really solid move, sending Jannik Hansen to San Jose for Nikolay Goldobin (who runs an incredible Twitter account) and a condition 4th round pick, that could become a 1st if the Sharks win the Stanley Cup. Picking up another prospect with top-6 potential and a draft pick for an aging vet is a mighty accomplishment on its own, but Benning had another hurdle to climb when making this deal. Hansen had a list of teams that he could be dealt to, usually, that drops the value of a player around deadline day, but Benning did a great job waiting for a solid offer, and he got it.
Benning also did a solid job on the waiver wire, grabbing Joseph Cramarossa. A small move, but I like what Cramarossa can do, so I’ll put another notch in the plus column for this one.
The only reason Benning didn’t get a higher grade is because I felt like he could have done more. I feel like Ryan Miller should have been dealt, maybe even bigger fish like Alex Edler could have gotten Benning a nice return given how strong the market was for d-men.
Regardless of that last point, a very very strong season of moves by Benning, which nets him an A-, the second best rating amongst GM’s.
(B+) – Steve Yzerman
He started by shipping Nikita Nesterov to the Habs for Jonathan Racine and a 6th round pick, which I didn’t love. Felt like Nesterov still has some developing to do, he’s only 23 years old, but it wasn’t a fatal move.
Next was the Ben Bishop move. I understand holding onto him for as long as possible to try to get back into the playoff race, but I feel like Yzerman held out for too long, and had to take a low ball offer because of it. Eric Cernak might be a solid prospect, but I feel like you needed a better return than that in a seller’s market.
But Stevie Y redeemed himself with a pair of moves on deadline day. First, he sends Val Filppula and a pick to Philly for Mark Streit and a pick. Then he shocked many by flipping Streit right back to Pennsylvania in exchange for a pick.
On the surface, this could be puzzling, but there are a few things to consider. The first is the cap hit, Yzerman has now shed himself of Filppula $5 million cap hit next year, which is important given the number of RFA’s they have including Tyler Johnson, Jonathan Drouin, and Ondrej Palat. Secondly, it saves them a forward slot in the expansion draft. Filppula’s NTC meant that he had to be protected, now that he’s gone, the team can keep Jonathan Drouin protected, which is huge given how important he is to their future.
A couple questionable moves to start, but Yzerman comes back with an absolute home run on deadline day, which saves them down the road. B+ for you Steve.
(B) – Dean Lombardi/Stan Bowman
I’ll start with Lombardi. He got Ben Bishop at a bargain
price and similar to the Caps getting Shattenkirk, they didn’t need it, but it meant that Calgary/Winnipeg couldn’t get him. That’s huge. Bishop is the best insurance on the market, so props to Lombardi for getting him for nice and cheap.
He also went out and got Jarome Iginla for a 4th round pick, which I didn’t love. Iginla can still contribute, but when you look at a guy like Thomas Vanek going for just a 3rd rounder, or even P.A. Parenteau going for a measly 6th rounder, there were better options out there for better value.
Still, he addressed his needs nicely, so he gets a ‘B’.
I also gave Stan Bowman a ‘B’ out in Chicago. They needed depth, so he went out and got Jurco from Detroit for a 3rd round pick, a move that also helps them in the expansion draft. Jurco has a ton of offensive potential, so I could honestly see him thriving long term in Chicago if he’s given that chance.
Then he addressed some depth on defense by bringing back Trevor Daley, a move that I believe will help both on the ice and in the room. Although both moves were minor, I thought he did a good job without paying a premium.
(B-) – DAVID POILE
The Preds have an incredibly solid roster. Their goaltending is set, there’s really no room to add on defense. So the only hole they have is up front, and even that isn’t a massive concern if their stars play up to their full potential (Johansen, Forsberg etc).
Poile only made one move, snatching up P.A. Parenteau for a 6th round pick. For a player with 13 goals and 27 points in 59 games, that is some absolutely incredible value.
I liked that Poile sat back and didn’t try to force a move or shake things up too much. But when a golden opportunity to make your team better falls into your lap, you have to jump on it. It was quiet, but I think that’s what makes this season of moves even more impressive for the veteran GM Poile.
Did I miss anyone who you felt deserved a high grade? Let me know in the forum or on Twitter @ty89yar
UP NEXT: It’s always more fun to be negative, so tune in next for the bottom half of my GM Rankings.