Every Friday, three of BTI’s writers get together and share their thoughts on three topics from around the NHL
Which NHL team should be the MOST disappointed by their start?
TYLER YAREMCHUK: It’s got to be the LA Kings, but it shouldn’t really be surprising. Their core is ageing, their big offseason add was a 36-year-old Ilya Kovalchuk who hasn’t played in the NHL in half a decade, and they’re coming off a season where Kopitar, Doughty, and Quick dragged them to the playoffs. They also relied on lots of third-period comebacks last season, which isn’t sustainable.
They fired their coach, and GM Rob Blake is reportedly open for business. Those aren’t exactly signs of success.
IAN SHEPPARD: The St. Louis Blues just missed out on the playoffs last year after dealing Paul Stastny at the deadline. The team wasn’t poised for an outstanding season, but it could be said that the expectation was that they would be challenging for a playoff push with teams like Colorado and Dallas expected to fall back, especially with the additions of Ryan O’Reilly, Tyler Bozak, Patrick Maroon, and David Perron. Their defence has been atrocious, being outscored 48-46 this year and goaltender Jake Allen sporting a 4-3 record and a .879 SV% and GAA of 3.99.
It’s not the fact that the Blues aren’t near the top of the Central Division that is so shocking to me as I only saw them being in the middle of the pack. But I did not expect them to be at the bottom with only 13 points through 13 games.
WYATT ZIEGER: The Anaheim Ducks, specifically, their play without the puck to start the season, mostly because they haven’t played with it at all. Not a single Ducks player has above a 50% CORSI so far this season. Even at 7-7-3, Anaheim is still in the playoff hunt solely off the backs of their goaltenders, but if this trend continues, Randy Carlyle is going to be looking for a job sooner than later.
Which NHL team’s early season success has been the most surprising?
TYLER YAREMCHUK: I probably won’t be the only one with this answer, but it has to be the Montreal Canadiens. My prediction at the beginning of the year, and a strong majority of hockey fans agreed with me, was that they would only go as far as Carey Price could drag them. I expected that to be somewhere around fifth or sixth in their division.
It’s actually been their offence carrying them, and Price has been a huge let down as of late. It’s a long season, but given what we’re seeing from their top two centres, Philip Danault and Max Domi, and the rest of their offence, combined with the fact they’re going to have Shea Weber back in the lineup eventually, I could see the Habs pushing for a playoff spot.
IAN SHEPPARD: The Vancouver Canucks. Coming into the 2018-19 season, I would have never assumed that the Canucks would hold a top-three spot in the Pacific Division. After losing the Sedins to retirement, the future for Vancouver looked bright, but the assumption was that it would take some time before the team would find success. In fact, I had them in the running for the Jack Hughes sweepstakes next spring.
Elias Petterson has been lighting it up the year with 16 points (10G-6A), and the team’s secondary scoring has been exceptional with Bo Horvat, and Brock Boeser find themselves in second and third on the team each with 11 points.
While I don’t see the Canucks maintaining this success through the season, it is a shock to me that they currently find themselves at the top of the Pacific after 17 games.
WYATT ZIEGER: The Montreal Canadiens. Like a lot of people at the beginning of the season, I picked the Habs to be a basement dwelling team and so far this season they’ve humbled me. Max Domi is over a point a game through 15 contests and has already matched his goal total from last season (9). What impresses me most is their resiliency, Price was supposed to bounce back this season and really hasn’t, sporting a .901SV%, still, the Canadians are winning hockey games and are 1st in the East Wildcard right now.
Last year we saw our first big trade of the year in mid-November, will we see one this November? And who could it involve?
TYLER YAREMCHUK: There are some big names on the market this year, most notably the two pending UFA’s in Columbus (Bobrovsky and Panarin), but the Jackets are in the hunt, and if they do sell either of those guys, it won’t be until the deadline. There’s also Wayne Simmonds in Philadelphia, but again, if he goes anywhere, it won’t be until later.
We could see a deal before the new year, but I think November might be a stretch. If we do, I could see it involving one of the New York Rangers (Mats Zuccarello), the Detroit Red Wings (Gustav Nyquist), or the LA Kings (pick one of many rumoured names).
I could see the Columbus Blue Jackets trade Artemi Panarin to the New York Rangers. Panarin wants to get paid which would be a problem for New York in the short term, but if they can make a bargain trade now for a guy who isn’t happy with his current situation, they could buy themselves some time to free up the space to pay him. But a big market like New York might be what Panarin is looking for.
The ‘dramedy’ that is the Ottawa Senators have several players including Matt Duchene and Mark Stone, who are both set to be UFA’s after the season. I could see one if not both being moved before the deadline and with the latest tabloid scandals, Duchene could be on the move sooner than later. I could see Montreal making a push for the former number 3 overall pick. Prospects and picks are something Montreal has to burn right now, especially while they’re still in contention. Being a UFA after this season, without a deal in place Duchene’s value does take a hit, but Montreal has 2 seconds this year to dangle like carrots in front of Dorion.
Here’s a potential trade:
Ottawa sends: Duchene + 2019 fourth-round pick
Montreal sends: two 2019 second-round picks + Matthew Peca
(cover photo via RDS)