A WAY Too Early Playoff Projection – 2017-2018

To be honest, I’m just bored waiting for hockey season to finally start again. What better way to pass the time than making longshot projections. There should be a few changes to who makes the playoffs this upcoming season, let’s see how close I can get to what really happens this season.

Eastern Conference

Let’s start with how I see the Eastern Conference playing out. Here’s who I have making it, in no particular order, and a quick hit on why:

Returning Teams:

Pittsburgh Penguins – The defending Champs are a lock to be near the top of the standings again. There are some people predicting a three-peat, which I think is a bit of a stretch, but they should be in contention at the very least.

Montreal Canadiens – Carey Price will have his work cut-out for him again this year, as the blueline takes a big hit in my opinion. They added some much needed scoring with Drouin, but still didn’t fix for me to consider them a contender for the Cup at this point. They should still make the postseason, but likely another early exit.

Washington Capitals – The Caps are poised to take a step-back this year, but not far enough to drop them out of the playoffs. Ovechkin is still a goal scoring force, but has slowed in recent years. Can Kuznetsov take that next step? Is Oshie really as good as he was last year? They also lost both Karl Alzner and Nate Schmidt this offseason on the backend, but with Braden Holtby arguably the best goalie in the past two seasons, they should be fine.

Toronto Maple Leafs – The Leafs took a major step forward, with big seasons from their rookies, and great seasons from their veterans. They upgraded on forward this year adding Patrick Marleau, and you can definitely put Ron Hainsey as an upgrade over both Matt Hunwick and Roman Polak. They added some size to the backend in Hainsey, something they lacked big time this past season. They should compete for a top spot in the East this year.

Columbus Blue Jackets – The Jackets had a better year than most expected, and they’ll likely take a step-back this year. They traded Brandon Saad and brought in Artemi Panarin, which is an upgrade in scoring for them. They’re still a young team, but should find a way to make the playoffs.

Boston Bruins – The Bruins, in my opinion, are a bubble team. Their defense corps is weaker than it’s been in years, and while they still have Rask to man the crease, and the likes of Marchand and Bergeron up front, they’ll be in a battle all year to make the playoffs.

Teams Jumping In:

Tampa Bay Lightning – No one would have predicted Tampa to miss the playoffs last year, but with the amount of injuries they suffered, it wasn’t a surprise. The two question marks going into this season for Tampa are the health of Stamkos, and is Vasilevksiy truly a number 1 netminder. They’re built deeper than almost any other team in the East, and should find their way back into the playoffs this year.

Carolina Hurricanes – The Hurricanes are built deeper on the blueline than maybe every other team, save maybe Nashville. They have a good group of young forwards, and should continue to improve next year. The biggest question for Carolina is goaltending, and while the acquisition of Scott Darling helps, is it enough? Time will tell.

Falling Out:

Ottawa Senators – For Sens fans, they’ll argue “We were one game away from the Cup finals last year!”, but that was a big over-achievement for the Sens. They lost Methot on the backend, and while rookie Thomas Chabot should see a lot of ice time, they don’t have a deep enough group on the backend to push their way back into the playoffs. Up front, they lack goal scoring more than most teams going into next season. They’ll be on the bubble, but likely on the outside looking in.

New York Rangers – I picked the Rangers to fall out of the playoffs last year, and they ended up winning their first round matchup against Montreal. Signing Shattenkirk will help, but losing Stepan down the middle will also hurt. I think it’s about time King Hank starts to show decline, and if that does happen, the Rangers are screwed.

Western Conference

Not as much movement in the West, a lot of teams remain strong, while some didn’t do enough to change their fortunes. Here’s who I have making it, in no particular order:

Retuning Teams:

Chicago Blackhawks – The Hawks are a perennial powerhouse, and should continue to make the playoffs. Losing Hjalmarsson will hurt them defensively, and they’re likely to drop down the standings a bit. They added good depth scoring in Patrick Sharp, while shipping out Kane’s bestfriend and linemate Panarin to bring Brandon Saad back in. Losing Hossa for the season will hurt them as well, but not enough to make them fall out of the playoffs.

Nashville Predators – Last year’s runner-ups are almost as sure of a pick as any team at this point, stacked with the best blueline in the NHL. Adding Scott Hartnell and Nick Bonino up front helps improve their depth scoring as well. Nashville will continue to be one of the better rounded teams in the NHL today.

Minnesota Wild – The Wild had a big season from Eric Staal and Mikael Grandlund, as well as another good season from Devan Dubnyk. They added Marcus Foligno, which improves their bottom 6 forward group, and should have a full season from Eriksson-Ek, which is a big bonus. The Wild should be a lock to make it again next year.

San Jose Sharks – The Sharks were a toss-up for me this year. They lost Marleau and his 27 goals, which I think impacts them more than they think it will. How much does Jumbo have left in the tank? Can he still be the number 1 centre they need? We shall see, but they’re a team I’d keep an eye on early in the season.

St. Louis Blues – The Blues made some good additions this offseason, adding Brayden Schenn into their top six, as well as Beau Bennett as a good depth addition. Jake Allen proved he can be the goalie they need, and their blueline didn’t look any less formidable after removing Shattenkirk at the deadline. The Blues have a good shot at coming out of the West.

Edmonton Oilers – McDavid will continue to carry this team forward, backed-up by the likes of Leon Draisaitl and Cam Talbot. This team still is not deep enough to make a serious run, and their blueline isn’t built like a champion by any means. If McDavid happens to get injured for a long period of time, I can’t see this team making the playoffs.

Anaheim Ducks – The Ducks have a great blueline, and still have a decent forward corps. The question mark for them resides in goal, as Gibson has never been able to stay healthy. They brought in Ryan Miller, but he’s nothing more than a backup at this point in his career. They should still be able to push their way in, but it will be a battle.

 Teams Jumping In:

Dallas Stars – Losing Patrick Sharp doesn’t help Dallas, but adding in Martin Hanzal, Marc Methot, Alexander Radulov and most of all Ben Bishop pushed them further up the standings than anyone else going into next season. Their top-9 forward group is great, and adding in Methot gives them more stability on the backend as well. Look for the Stars to be one of the better teams this year in the West.

 Falling Out:

Calgary Flames – Mike Smith is hardly an upgrade in goal, which was a big issue for the Flames for most of last year. They’re still not good enough up front to be considered a lock for the playoffs, but they did upgrade their backend with Travis Hamonic. Adding someone like Jaromir Jagr would help their biggest need, so if they can add some additional scoring, they could make the push.

 

There are a few bubble teams in each Conference that could push their way into the playoff picture and should be in the fight to the bitter end. In the East I could see Buffalo, both New York teams, and even Philadelphia making a push. In the West, there are less teams I can see genuinely making an impact. Winnipeg could improve enough to stay in the hunt all year, but past them, other than Calgary I don’t see any other team with a legitimate shot at making a big enough impact.

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NHL: Worst Trades of the Salary Cap Era

Worst Trades of the Salary Cap Era

The Salary Cap Era began with the 2005-06 season, and so much attention lately has been on some awful trades being made, particularly highlighted by the Oilers and Chiarelli in particular. There have been a lot of trades that have worked out well for both teams and some that have been very one-sided. I’ve been seeing a lot of people talking about certain trades on Twitter the last little bit, which made me want to dive into a lot of them and see exactly how they’ve worked out for both teams. I’m excluding any trades that were simply picks for picks, too many of those to sort through. These are not ranked in any specific order of which one is worse, but here we go. I found a great site listing all of the trades I’m talking about here http://www.nhltradetracker.com/user/trade_list_by_season, check it out:

June 24th, 2006 – Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins

Toronto Acquires – Andrew Raycroft – GM was John Ferguson Jr.

Boston Acquires – Rights to Tuukka Rask – GM was Peter Chiarelli

Raycroft won the Calder trophy is his first full year in the NHL in 2003-2004, with 29 wins in 57 games played. He followed that up with a lackluster 8 wins in 30 games played, which for some ridiculous reason tempted Toronto to trade for Raycroft. They had 2 goalie prospects in Justin Pogge and Tukka Rask, and clearly the Leafs valued Pogge more, keeping him and shipping out Rask. Since the trade, Raycroft played 173 games, winning only 70 of them. Pogge played in a total of 7 NHL games, winning 1 game! Rask, on the other hand, has played 395 NHL games, won a Stanley Cup in 2011, and a Vezina Trophy as the top-goaltender in 2014. This could easily be one of the more lopsided trades in Leafs history. This is one of the rare instances where Peter Chiarelli has come out on top in a trade.

Winner: Bruins fans are probably still laughing at this one, while Leafs fans are likely still crying.

Feb 25th, 2007 – Montreal Canadiens and San Jose Sharks

Montreal Acquires – Josh Gorges & 1st round pick in 2007 (Max Pacioretty) – GM was Bob Gainey

San Jose Acquires – Craig Rivet & 5th round pick in 2008 (Julien Demers) – GM was Doug Wilson

Rivet was a much more established defender at that time, but only went on to play 91 games for the Sharks in just over 1 season. The Sharks didn’t make it past the 3rd round of the playoffs that year when they made this trade, but Rivet played well for them. The flip side however is what Montreal acquired from this trade. Gorges played a whopping 457 NHL games for the Canadiens, before they then traded him to Buffalo for a 2nd round pick. The pick San Jose gave to Montreal turned into Max Pacioretty… who’s currently the captain of the team, and has 411 points in 562 games since being drafted. He’s scored over 200 goals, and been the Canadiens go-to player for offensive since 2011. This trade is looking worse and worse as the days go on.

Winner: Montreal, by a mile

June 18th, 2007 – Philadelphia Flyers & Nashville Predators

Philadelphia Acquires – Scott Hartnell & Kimmo Timonen – GM was Paul Holmgren

Nashville Acquires – 2007 1st Round pick (Jonathan Blum) – GM was David Poile

Hartnell is your ideal power-forward – big body, hits & fights, and can score. After coming off of back-to-back 20+ goal seasons, Nashville decided it was time to ship him out of town. To make matters worse, Nashville also added in Kimmo Timonen, who at the time was a top-pairing d-man in his own right. Timonen would go on to play in 8 more NHL season, before injuries derailed his career. Either one of this players would be better than what Nashville ended up with, as the pick turned into Jonathon Blum, who played in a measly 110 NHL games.

Winner: Flyers come out on top in this one

August 11th, 2007 – Phoenix Coyotes & Chicago Blackhawks

Phoenix Acquires – Radim Vrbata – GM was Don Maloney

Chicago Acquires – Kevyn Adams – GM was Dale Tallon

Adams played his final year in the NHL with the Blackhawks after this trade, scoring 2 points in 27 games. On the other side of the trade, Vrbata has played 10 more seasons, scoring 204 goals and 439 points. Vrbata is one of the rare consistent goal scoring wingers in today’s game, who has averaged 24 goals/82 games played since this trade, while Adams had a whopping 8 points in the year prior to be traded. It’s hard to imagine that Tallon couldn’t have gotten more for Vrbata.

Winner: Phoenix wins this one, easily.

June 24th, 2008 – Boston Bruins & Colorado Avalanche

Boston Acquires – Johnny Boychuk – GM was Peter Chiarelli

Colorado Acquires – Matt Hendricks – GM was Francois Giguere

This was back when Chiarelli appeared to know what he was doing, as he traded career-4th-liner Matt Hendricks for Johnny Boychuk, who played in the top-4 for Boston for 5 seasons. Hendricks has never been more than a 4th line player in his career, and has actually been outscored by Boychuk throughout his career.

Winner: Rare Chiarelli win for Boston

June 30th, 2009 – Montreal Canadiens & New York Rangers

Montreal Acquires – Tom Pyatt, Scott Gomez, Michael Busto – GM was Bob Gainey

Rangers Acquire – Ryan McDonagh, Pavel Valentenko, Doug Janik, Chris Higgins

It’s hard to imagine what Bob Gainey was thinking when you look back on this trade, as yes Gomez was coming off a 58 point campaign, but that was for a much better New York Ranger team. To say he struggled in Montreal would be a vast understatement, as after one good season, he fell off a cliff in terms of production, never scoring more than 7 goals in a season for the remainder of his career. Meanwhile, Busto never played an NHL game and Pyatt is nothing more than a bottom-6 depth forward. For New York, they received future captain and top defender Ryan McDonagh. Janik and Valentenko did not pan out as hoped, but Higgins played in 711 NHL games after being traded, and was more productive than Gomez alone. This could be one of the worst trades in this article.

Winner: There once was a website tracking how long it had been since Gomez scored a goal, which eclipsed a year. So yeah, New York is the clear-cut winner here.

July 21st, 2009 – Arizona Coyotes & Tampa Bay Lightning

Arizona Acquires – Radim Vrbata – GM was Don Maloney

Tampa Bay Acquires – Todd Fedoruk & David Hale – GM was Brian Lawton

Another trade for Vrbata heading to Arizona/Phoenix that is a solid win for that organization. I’ve already spoken about his scoring prowess over his career, and he definitely is much better that the combined two players he was traded for. Fedoruk played one last season after being traded, scoring 6 points in 50 games. Hale played in two more NHL season, only totaling 64 games over those two years, and 9 points.

Winner: Vrbata again the best part of a trade to Arizona.

June 25th, 2010 – St. Louis Blues & Ottawa Senators

St. Louis Acquires – 2010 1st rounder (16th overall – Vladimir Tarasenko)

Ottawa Acquires – David Rundblad – GM was Bryan Murray

Ottawa decided they wanted to go after a young, recently drafted player in Rundblad, after he had 13 points in 47 games in the SEL. Rundblad did not develop into an everyday NHL player, topping out at a career-high 49 NHL games in 2014-2015. The pick the Sens gave up turned into one of the most feared goal-scorers in today’s game – Vladimir Tarasenko. One goal shy of back-to-back 40 goal seasons, Tarasenko has scored 70+ points in 3 straight seasons, and looks like he has no plan to stop. At only 25 years old, Tarasenko will be a dominant force in the NHL for years to come.

Winner: Tarasenko is arguably the second-best scoring winger in today’s NHL. Sorry Sens fans.

February 9th, 2011 – Toronto Maple Leafs & Anaheim Ducks

Toronto Acquires – Joffrey Lupul, Jake Gardiner, conditional 4th rounder – GM was Brian Burke

Anaheim Acquires – Francois Beauchemin – GM was Bob Murray

Beauchemin was a good defender for Anaheim, as he played in the better part of 4 seasons for Colorado, scoring 20 points 3 times. Lupul had two good seasons for the Leafs after being traded, but has since succumbed to injuries. The kicker in my opinion is giving up Jake Gardiner, as he has developed into a great puck-moving defenseman. He played more than any other defender for the Leafs in their playoff appearance this year, and looked great while doing so. Anaheim was a team trying to win now, and didn’t want to wait on Lupul and Gardiner, but looking back they should have been able to get more had they waited on Gardiner just a little while longer.

Winner: Leafs, as Murray was trying to win a Cup when bringing in Beauchemin, but he gave up a little too much to do so.

February 18th, 2011 – Boston Bruins & Atlanta Thrashers

Boston Acquires – Rich Peverley, Boris Valabik – GM was Peter Chiarelli

Atlanta Acquires – Mark Stuart, Blake Wheeler – GM was Kevin Cheveldayoff

Blake Wheeler has developed into one of the best wingers in the game today, and one is usually highly under-appreciated by most. He’s hit 60+ points in 4 straight seasons, including 2 at over 70 points. He’s a big-man, and uses that size to dominate possession for the now Winnipeg Jets. Stuart has been a serviceable d-man since the trade, playing parts of 7 straight seasons for Winnipeg. On the other side of the trade, Peverley had his career cut short due to a scary incident in 2014 in which he collapsed on the bench, while Valabik never played another NHL game. Even if it weren’t for the incident with Peverley, this trade would be incredibly lopsided. Wheeler is a top-10 winger in today’s NHL, and the captain of the Jets alone.

Winner: The beginning of the end for Chiarelli in Boston, as this is a brutal trade.

February 21st, 2011 – Pittsburgh Penguins & Dallas Stars

Pittsburgh Acquires – James Neal, Matt Niskanen – GM was Ray Shero

Dallas Acquires – Alex Goligoski – GM was Joe Nieuwendyk

After scoring at least 20 goals in his first 3 NHL season with Dallas, Nieuwendyk decided it was time to trade him to the Stanley Cup hopeful Penguins. He went on to score 40 goals in his first full season there, and has hit at least 20 in every season since. The other piece sent out by the Stars was Matt Niskanen, who has developed into a top-pairing defender. He himself has surpassed Goligoski in terms of value, who is actually older than Niskanen, which makes this trade even more bizarre. Goligoski is by no means a bad defenseman, he’s just not worth either of Neal or Niskanen in terms of trade value, let alone BOTH.

Winner:  Shero gets the best of Nieuwendyk and the Stars

June 23rd, 2012 – Toronto Maple Leafs & Philadelphia Flyers

Toronto Acquires – James Van Riemsdyk – GM was Brian Burke

Philadelphia Acquires – Luke Schenn – GM was Paul Holmgren

What on earth was Holmgren thinking?! Luke Schenn was rushed into the NHL, likely hurting his development, but he was NEVER an offensive d-man. He was drafted too high back in 2008, but the fact that Brian Burke was able to trade him straight-up for James Van Riemsdyk is mind-boggling. JVR is hands-down the better player in this trade, and it’s not even close. Schenn was barely a 3rd pairing player in Arizona this year, one of the worst teams in the league, meanwhile JVR is a key piece of a strong, young Toronto team.

Winner: Brian Burke pulls of magic for the Leafs.

April 3rd, 2013 – Tampa Bay Lightning & Ottawa Senators

Tampa Bay Acquires – Ben Bishop – GM was Steve Yzerman

Ottawa Acquires – Cory Conacher – GM was Bryan Murray

Conacher scored 24 points in 35 NHL games in his rookie year, prompting Bryan Murray to jump ALLLLL over him, trading out one of the best goalies in today’s NHL in a one-for-one deal. Since the trade, Conacher has fallen all the way to the AHL, over to Switzerland, and back to the AHL before suiting up in 11 NHL games this year, for the team that traded him back in 2013. Bishop, since being traded, has won 133 NHL games, with 17 shutouts. Ottawa had Craig Anderson in the fold at the time, but should have gotten much more for a goalie like Ben Bishop.

Winner: Another loss for Bryan Murray and the Sens.

April 3rd, 2013 – Washington Capitals & Nashville Predators

Washington Acquires – Michael Latta, Martin Erat – GM was George McPhee

Nashville Acquires – Filip Forsberg – GM was David Poile

This, in my opinion, could be one of the worst trades in recent history. Erat was sitting at 21 points in 36 games when he was traded for, and managed al of 2 goals, 25 points in 62 games for Washington in his 1.5 seasons there. Latta is now playing in the AHL, after putting up even smaller numbers for the Capitals. Forsberg has since developed into an elite winger for the Predators. Trading an 11th overall pick for two players who lack offense is always a risky move, but this turned out to be far worse than expected.

Winner: Poile is likely still laughing at this one, as are Preds fans.

July 4th, 2013 – Boston Bruins & Dallas Stars

Boston Acquires – Loui Eriksson, Joe Morrow, Reilly Smith, Matt Fraser – GM was Peter Chiarelli

Dallas Acquires – Tyler Seguin, Rich Peverley, Ryan Button – GM was Jim Nill

Chiarelli has had some bad trades on his resume, but this one is the worst for me. In the 4 seasons since being traded, Seguin has scored 306 points. He’s one of the best young centres in today’s NHL, and doesn’t look like he’ll slow down anytime soon. Smith played well in his two years in Boston, but was shipped out for Jimmy Hayes, who was disappointing for Boston. Eriksson had 1 good year for Boston, but still never hit the numbers Seguin did, before they lost him to free agency. Morrow hasn’t established himself as an NHL d-man, playing 65 games stretched over 3 seasons, and has since signed in Montreal. Fraser was waived after playing 28 games for Boston. All of this means, Boston traded away a true number 1 centremen, at the age of 21, and have nothing left to show for it.

Winner: Seguin is a core building block for Dallas, an exciting young team. Boston has nothing to show for it. Tough call…

July 8th, 2013 – Ottawa Senators & Anaheim Ducks

Ottawa Acquires – Bobby Ryan – GM was Bryan Murray

Anaheim Acquires – Jakob Silfverberg, Stefan Noesen, 2014 1st round pick (Nick Ritchie) – GM was Bob Murray

Bob Murray continues his streak of bad trades. Not only is this trade awful for Ottawa, but Murray then signed Ryan to a massive 7 year extension, with an AAV of $7.25 million. He managed “OK” in this first few seasons in Ottawa, in-and-around the 50 point mark, but Silfverberg himself has already established that kind of production, not to mention the remaining pieces they received in Noesen (now in New Jersey), and Ritchie (more points than Ryan this year).

Winner: Ottawa loses another.

July 1st, 2014 – Ottawa Senators & Dallas Stars

Ottawa Acquires – Alex Chiasson, Alexander Guptill, Nicholas Paul, 2015 2nd rounder – GM was Bryan Murray

Dallas Acquires – Jason Spezza, Ludwig Karlsson – GM was Jim Nill

It must seem like I’m picking on the Sens here, but I swear I’m not. Everyone thought the Sens would trade Spezza in this offseason, but the Sens got basically NOTHING for him. Chiasson was a dud, with 30 points totaled over 2 seasons. Guptill has yet to play an NHL game, and Paul has played all of 25 games. The pick was traded to the Devils in an exchange of picks, with no promising prospects coming from them. Spezza has continued to thrive in Dallas, scoring 30 goals in his second year there, while hitting 60+ points twice, and 50 in the other.

Winner: Surprise, surprise – Ottawa loses another trade.

January 14th, 2015 – Minnesota Wild & Arizona Coyotes

Minnesota Acquires – Devan Dubnyk – GM was Chuck Fletcher

Arizona Acquires – 2015 3rd rounder – GM was Don Maloney

I questioned putting this one in, because Dubnyk was struggling at this point in his career. He was coming off a season in which he only played 19 games, with a 9-5-2 record. After the trade however, he put up a record of 27-9-2, with a SV% of 0.936 and a GAA of 1.78. Those are remarkable numbers. He’s become one of the best goalies playing in today’s NHL, and the fact that the Wild were able to get him for a 3rd round pick is phenomenal.

Winner: The Wild win this one

June 26th, 2015 – Edmonton Oilers & New York Islanders

Edmonton Acquires – Griffin Reinhart – GM was Peter Chiarelli

New York Acquires – 2015 1st rounder (Matt Barzal), 2015 2nd rounder (Mitchell Stephens) – GM was Garth Snow

Yes, the Oilers desperately needed NHL defensemen at this point in time. The problem is, they gave up 2 great draft picks for an AHL defenseman. Griffin Reinhart was widely viewed as a bust, after failing to live up to his 4th overall selection in 2012. Whatever prompted Chiarelli to trade a 16th overall pick, plus a 2nd rounder, in what was a deep draft for Reinhart will never make sense to me. The two players who were taken with this picks are likely going to have much better NHL careers than Reinhart. To make this trade look even worse, Reinhart played a total of 37 games for Edmonton and was then claimed by Vegas in the expansion draft.

Winner: The Oilers are still looking for defenders…

June 26th, 2015 – Colorado Avalanche & Buffalo Sabres

Colorado Acquires – Mikhail Grigorenko, Nikita Zadorov, JT Compher, 2015 2nd rounder – GM was Joe Sakic

Buffalo Acquires – Ryan O’Reilly, Jamie McGinn – GM was Tim Murray

O’Reilly has been a leader on Buffalo since being acquired, and been consistently near the top of their leader board for points. McGinn had a good year for Buffalo in 2015-2016, before being traded for a 3rd round pick. Coloardo has wound up with much less in this trade, with Grigorenko scoring less than 30 points in his two seasons, and has departed for the KHL now. Compher made his NHL debut this year but struggled, while they traded away the 2nd round pick. The lone bright spot is Zadorov, and the jury is still out on him, if he truly is a top-4 defender or not. This is one Sakic would like to take back, and likely while he’s being cautious with trying to trade Duchene.

Winner: Buffalo wins this one

July 18th, 2016 – Ottawa Senators & New York Rangers

Ottawa Acquires – Derick Brassard, 2018 7th rounder – GM was Pierre Doiron

New York Acquires – Mika Zibanejad, 2018 2nd rounder – GM was Jeff Gorton

LOL Hi Sens fans! The picks have yet to be made, but let’s look at the two players’ 2016-2017 seasons. Brassard had 14 goals, 39 points in 81 games. Zibanejad had 14 goals, 37 points in 56 games. The fact that the Rangers got the better player, and upgraded a 7th rounder into a 2nd round pick is just hilarious. No clue what Ottawa was doing here, as the two had basically identically points in the previous season. Brassard is 6 years older as well, so not like they upgraded for youth.

Winner: Looks like Doiron really did learn everything he knows from Bryan Murray. Good trade by the Rangers.

July 27th, 2016 – Edmonton Oilers & New Jersey Devils

Edmonton Acquires – Adam Larsson – GM was Peter Chiarelli

New Jersey Acquires – Taylor Hall – GM was Ray Shero

Ohhhhh Chiarelli. How is this man in charge of an NHL team!! Yes, Larsson is an upgrade to what they had on defense, but you gave up Taylor Hall! For Larsson! 1 for 1!! Oilers fans could be the worst in the league, as they have been defending this trade since it happened. How you can possibly do that is beyond me. Hall is one of the best wingers in the NHL, while Larsson isn’t a true number 1 defender. This is bad, really bad.

Winner: Not even close, Devils win by a mile.

June 22nd, 2017 – Edmonton Oilers & New York Islanders

Edmonton Acquires – Ryan Strome – GM was Peter Chiarelli

New York Acquires – Jordan Eberle – GM was Garth Snow.

It might be a little early to have this one in here, but here’s another instance where Chiarelli did not get full value for the player he was trading away. You can’t keep trading away players and not getting full value back and expect it to all work out, even if your team has McDavid. Sure Eberle struggled in the playoffs this year, but he still scored 20 goals in the regular season, which was actually his lowest total since 2012-2013. Strome’s career best is 17, and then he followed that up with 8 the following season. The kicker here is that Edmonton was making this trade to free up cap space, or so they say. What did they do with this cap space? They signed Kris Russell to 4 years at $4 million per…

Winner: Edmonton will continue to hope McDavid saves them from all of these disastrous trades.

 

2017 NHL Playoffs Predictions – Round 1

Cup 2017

Let’s take a stab at predicting round 1 of the 2017 NHL Playoffs

Eastern Conference

(1) Washington Capitals vs (WC2) Toronto Maple Leafs

Toronto snuck into the playoffs in the second last game of the season and are set to take on Goliath. Can they play the role of David? I don’t think so. Washington is battle tested and hungry. Many have picked them to win the Cup in the past few seasons and they always seem to falter on the big stage. Will this be their year? They have possible the strongest team they’ve had yet. They will be too much to handle for the Leafs d-core, which is the weakest of all 16 playoff teams. I believe Toronto will steal at least one game, especially if they have a healthy Frederik Andersen. Auston Matthews and co will do their best to play the role of spoilers, and stranger things have happened. If Andersen gets hot, Toronto has a powerful offense, which has made up for their weak d-core most of the season.

Series Result: Capitals in 5 games

(2) Ottawa Senators vs (3) Boston Bruins

Boston comes into the playoffs playing extremely good hockey. Ottawa limps into the playoffs. Is that enough to decide the series? No, but Ottawa will be in serious trouble with the red-hot Bruins. The big/mean Bruins will be handful for the Senators, who have been dealing with multiple injuries on their backend over the past couple of weeks. The big matchup to watch will be Patrice Bergeron and Erik Karlsson. Only 3 other defensemen log more minutes than Karlsson, and surely Bergeron can’t play upwards of 26 minutes each game. If Karlsson is healthy, he could be the deciding factor in this series. I still think the Bruins will be too much for Ottawa to handle.

Series Result:  Bruins in 6 games

(1) Montreal Canadiens vs (WC1) New York Rangers

This was a tough one for me to pick ending so early, as the Rangers have been a powerhouse on the road this year. That being said, Montreal has been the better team all year. Carey Price has been playing well, and looks to carry the team again. Radulov has provided some extra offense for the Habs, and even with the Rangers high-powered offense they have to be considered heavy favourites. King Hank has been struggling lately to say the least. In his 6 starts since coming back from injury, he’s gone 1-3-2 with a combined SV% of just 0.886. They’ll need Lundqvist to be a lot better than that if they hope to win this series.

Series Result: Canadiens in 6

(2) Pittsburgh Penguins vs (3) Columbus Blue Jackets

There aren’t many players who get under Sidney Crosby’s skin more than Brandon Dubinsky, and you better believe he’ll be a thorn in Crosby’s side all series. The Jackets surprised everyone this season, they were a bubble team for a lot of people, and ended up 4th in the entire league in points. They draw the unfortunate luck of playing the defending champs in the first round. Crosby looks to have taken his game to another level this year, which looks like disaster for Columbus. I feel their luck will run out early in the first round.

Series Result: Penguins in 5

Western Conference

(1) Chicago Blackhawks vs (WC2) Nashville Predators

A lot of people are picking the Hawks to win the Cup, or at the very least come out of the West. They draw a tough matchup in the Nashville Predators in round 1. This is one series that could change the entire results of the playoffs. Chicago has that winning pedigree, and stars like Kane and Toews who live for these big game moments. Nashville doesn’t have nearly the star power up front, but they sure do on D. PK Subban, Roman Josi , and company will look to shut down the Hawks top 2 lines, and hope to get continued goal scoring from Filip Forsberg. Can they upset Chicago? Absolutely.

Series Result: Predators in 7

(2) Minnesota Wild vs (3) St. Louis Blues

I’ve picked the Blues in each of the past 2 seasons to win the Cup, and have come up empty. I truly believe this team has what it takes to make a run. They have a tough test in the first round in the Minnesota Wild. Many view the Wild as a defensive team, however only the Penguins scored more goals than the Wild in the regular season. Couple that with the likes of Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, and friends on D, and Devan Dubnyk in net? This is a Stanley Cup team if there is one. They are built with both veterans and youngsters. They are built deep. The Blues have a great team themselves, led by one of the best pure goal scorers in Vladimir Tarasenko, and they will give the Wild a tough fight – I just don’t think it will be enough.

Series Result: Wild in 7

(1) Anaheim Ducks vs (WC1) Calgary Flames

Another interesting matchup, with the younger Flames taking on the seasoned Ducks. Both have great goaltending, which neither can really take the advantage from. The Flames have struggled at times this year, while Anaheim has remained consistent, despite injuries to John Gibson. They’re battle-tested in the playoffs, whereas the majority of the Flames core are not as experienced. They matchup well in terms of offense, but the Ducks have one of the deepest d-cores in the league today. They will have their hands full with Johnny Hockey, but I like their chances of shutting down the Flames big line.

Series Result:  Ducks in 6

(2) Edmonton Oilers vs (3) San Jose Sharks

Connor McDavid is arguably the best (second in my opinion) player in the world today. That being said, he hasn’t yet experienced playoff hockey at this level. His first matchup will likely be dealing with the brute that is Brent Burns. He’ll have his moments, but Burns has shut-down the best of them. He is a beast, and will impose his will as he pleases. The Sharks are hungry to avenge their Stanley Cup loss last season, and the team is too experienced to get bounced in round 1. The Oilers have some toughness of their own in Milan Lucic and Patrick Maroon to name a couple, but they aren’t deep enough to fully challenge the Sharks. This will be a good experience for the young Oilers, but the Sharks are the favourite here in my eyes.

Series Result: Sharks in 6 games

Drafting Skill: Toronto Maple Leafs

Recent Draft History – Evaluating the first 3 rounds of the last 5 Drafts for each team. I’ve left out 2016, as it’s way too early to tell on 95% of the picks. Instead, this will be examining drafts from 2011 to 2015.

Toronto Maple Leafs

 

2011 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Tyler Biggs (RW) 22nd overall – Well, starting off with one of the worst picks in Leafs history. This one is entirely on Brian Burke. His ‘tenacity, grit, trucluence’ era. Biggs has never played an NHL game, and likely never will. He’s now playing in the ECHL, after being traded in the Phil Kessel trade. The worst part of this pick, is that the Leafs gave up 2 picks to MOVE UP and draft Biggs. Those two picks? Rickard Rakell and John Gibson. Biggs is one of two players to have never played an NHL game from the 1st round of the 2011 draft. Awul, awful pick.

Round 1 – Stuart Percy (D) 25th overall – Another swing and miss by the Leafs in this draft. Percy has played all of 12 NHL games since being drafted. He was let go by the Leafs after the 2015-2016 season, and signed by the Penguins. He’s played all of this year in the AHL, and doesn’t look like he’ll crack the Penguins roster. This was another miss for the Leafs, in a year where there were plenty of NHLers drafted after them.

Round 2 – This pick was traded to Anaheim, who used it to take current starting goaltender John Gibson. These types of trades are why the Leafs are just finally turning the corner.

Round 3 – Josh Leivo (LW)  86th overall – This pick is still up in the air for Leafs fans. Leivo has played a handful of games this year, and looked like a real NHLer when he’s cracked the lineup. The problem? He hasn’t played enough. He has a big league shot, and has played well enough defensively, but the Leafs boasts plenty of forward prospects, which make it hard to tell if he’ll ever find full time work in Toronto.

2012 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Morgan Rielly (D) 5th overall – Hard to argue with the Leafs pick here. The team was in desperate need for help defensively (still is), and Rielly was the best option available. He’s become the team’s #1 defender, and while some question if he truly is a #1 defender in the NHL, he has improved in each season. There were plenty of defensemen taken in the 1st round in 2012, and Rielly ranks 1st in games played, 4th in goals, and 1st in points. This pick has panned out great for the Leafs, and not many would change it for any other player.

Round 2 – Matt Finn (D) – 35th overall – Another Leafs draft pick who looks like a bust. He’s currently playing in the ECHL, after being dealt in 2015 as a package that brought in Michael Grabner. It’s tough to predict 2nd rounders as having success at the NHL level, but it doesn’t even appear that Finn can make an impact at the AHL level. With plenty of picks after Finn having played over 100 games in the NHL, it’s hard not to be frustrated with this pick.

Round 3 – Pick was traded to LA for Sondre Olden (originally picked in 2010). This pick was used to select Jimmy Vesey, who was a free agent that the Leafs took a big run at this past summer. Plenty of missed opportunities for the Leafs in recent drafts.

2013 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Frederik Gauthier (C) 21st overall – It would seem as though the Leafs again went after size here, rather than skill. Most believe Gauthier is still too slow to play in the NHL. He made an appearance in 21 games for the Leafs this year, and while he was a large upgrade over Ben Smith on the 4th line, the Leafs still felt they needed to upgrade him to Brian Boyle. If Gauthier couldn’t crack the lineup this year, will he ever? The Leafs are poised to only get better, so unless Gauthier makes strides in the offseason, he may miss his chance in Leaf-land.

Round 2 – Pick was traded to Chicago with a couple others to bring in Dave Bolland. He only played 23 games before being injured, and then signed with Florida the following offseason. Hard to accept this trade, knowing how little impact he had on the team, and giving up 3 picks to get him.

Round 3 – Carter Verhaeghe (C) 82nd overall – Verhaeghe was traded to the Islanders in 2015 after only playing 2 games for the Marlies. He was part of the package for Grabner, and since he’s still currently bouncing between the AHL and ECHL, it appears the trade was good for the Leafs. The draft selection? Not so much.

2014 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – William Nylander (C) 8th overall – I don’t know many Leafs fans who aren’t ecstatic about this pick. Nylander is part of the big 3 rookies changing the entire Leafs landscape. He’s been on fire since early 2017, and is one of the driving forces of the future in Toronto. His defensive game has come a long way, and he’s got a very high potential. For the Leafs to have gotten him at 8th, it’s a steal.

Round 2 – Traded to Anaheim in the Peter Holland package. Holland would play the better parts of 2 seasons for the Leafs, in a limited role most times. He was traded to Arizona this season, after being a healthy scratch for most of the year. The Leafs needed a player like Holland when the trade was made, so in my opinion it was a worthy trade.

Round 3 – Rinat Valiev (D) 68th overall – Valiev is a player many people are unsure of. He’s shown flashes that he could develop into an NHL defensemen, but also has shown signs that he won’t. I’m on the team that he won’t. He’s still young, but I don’t believe we’ll see him in a Maple Leafs uniform.

2015 NHL Entry Draft

Round 1 – Mitch Marner (RW) 4th overall – Another pick by the Leafs that fans LOVE. Marner reminds many of Patrick Kane, with his high-end skill set and smaller frame. Marner dominated in junior, and has had many jaw-dropping moments in his first NHL season. He’s definitely the real deal. He’s part of that big movement in Toronto, along with Nylander and Auston Matthews, that will be driving the Leafs forward. He’s on the verge of breaking a Leafs rookie record for assists, and appears to not have a ceiling on his potential.

Round 2 – Travis Dermott (D) 34th overall – Dermott is one of the few bright spots the Leafs currently have in terms of defensive prospects. Dermott is playing his first full year pro in the AHL, and has been great. He’s currently at 23 points in 50 games, and plays a well-rounded game. Depending what happens this off-season, we could see Dermott as early as next season as far as some NHL games go. He’s a smooth skater, which will transition well into the NHL. (This pick was acquired in the Jonathan Bernier trade from LA)

Round 2 – Jeremy Bracco (RW) 61st overall – Bracco is a small framed forward, with high end playmaking ability. He’s torching the OHL, with 147 points (101 assists) in 106 games. He’s likely to play a year in the AHL before making the jump to the NHL, especially with the depth the Leafs have at forward prospects. He impressed this year at the World Juniors, playing for team USA. He’s got the skillset to be a dominant NHL forward, but he may need to add size before making the jump. (Pick was acquired from Philadelphia in a combination of picks trade).

Round 3 – Andrew Nielsen (D) 65th overall – Nielsen is another bright spot on the back-end. He’s currently at 36 points in 63 games in his first full year as a pro. He’s a big body at 6’3”, 207 pounds but still possesses a great skating ability. He projects as a future NHL player, making the jump in the next couple of seasons. The Leafs need help on the back-end, and they’re hoping Nielsen can help fill a void in the next few years.

Round 3 – Martins Dzierkals (RW) 68th overall – Dzierkals is currently in his second year in the QMJHL, where he finished with 49 points in 47 games. These aren’t great numbers for a young player in junior, but it’s still early for Dzierkals. He’s likely a long-shot to make the jump to the NHL, and will likely play junior again next season before trying to crack the AHL roster. That being said, it doesn’t hurt your organization to have players like Dzierkals waiting in the wings.

 

All-in-all, the Leafs are a hard team to really grade as far as recent draft performance. They’ve had some AWFUL picks and trades, but it appears they’ve turned a corner back in 2014 starting with Nylander. Rielly was a great pick as well, but they followed that up with Gauthier the year after. Since 2014, they’ve made plenty of great picks, enough to stock the cupboard – which was once completely bare – for the future. They seem to finally have figured out how to hire a smart front-office.

 

Info: hockeydb.com; http://www.prosportstransactions.com/hockey/DraftTrades/Years

Team Rankings – Oct ’16

My current take on the first month of the 16-17 NHL season, power rankings style:

1) Montreal Canadiens – Does this start ring a bell to anyone? Montreal off to another great start this year, but we all know what happened last time around. Keeping in mind, with a healthy Carey Price they will most certainly help them continue this trend, they’re also sitting near the top of the league (tied 4th) in goals for with 31. Price has already missed time this year, however back-up Al Montoya has looked like he will be reliable. Shea Weber has done his job to silence any critics of the summer blockbuster that brought him to town putting up 4 goals and 6 assists in 9 games, along with a team-best +12.

Trending – Even

2) Pittsburgh Penguins –  The defending Cup champions haven’t missed much of a beat, even without their captain to start the season. Having Crosby back in the lineup (4 goals in 3 games so far) has been a big boost for Penguins, as they’ve also recently gotten young goalie Matt Murray back into the lineup. Their in a much better start at this point in the season than they were last year. Barring any big injuries, the Penguins have a strong chance to have a great season.

Trending – Even

3) Minnesota Wild – For myself, this is the biggest shock so far of the 2016-2017 season. Goaltender Devan Dubnyk can claim much of the credit for this on his own, as he posted 3 consecutive shutouts at the end of October. Minnesota’s best acquisition of the off-season was bringing in new head coach Bruce Boudreau, who could be the most underrated coach in all of the NHL. Boudreau has changed Minnesota’s style of play, and so far it appears to be paying huge returns. Can they keep it up? I personally didn’t expect them to be 3rd in NHL points by the end of October, but now I’m beginning to wonder how wrong I actually was about this team.

Trending – Up

4) Edmonton Oilers –  Similar to the Canadiens, this has a lot to do with their star player being healthy. Connor McDavid is arguably the best player on the planet already in only his second season. The things he can do at such a high rate of speed is incredible to watch. Milan Lucic appears to be a fit on his line, and the Oilers are showing both improved D and goaltending. This should be the year they finally find themselves in the playoff picture.

Trending – Even

5) Tampa Bay Lightning – This team is built to win a championship – now. They’re running out of time, as they will lose a couple key pieces to both the expansion draft, and to the salary cap in the next year – despite Steve Yzerman’s wizardry with re-signing star players. Ben Bishop hasn’t been playing like his old self, but could be on the move sooner rather than later with other teams suffering key injuries to goalies. Future goaltender Vasilevskiy has looked great in 3 starts (2.05 GAA, 0.929 SV%). They lost their last 3 games in October after winning 4 of their first 5, so they will look to bounce back before in November.

Trending – Down.

6) Chicago Blackhawks – Off to a 5-3-1 start, the Blackhawks are once again near the top of the Western Conference standings. Richard Panik has been the biggest surprise in the early going, with 9 points in 9 games. It seems Chicago has a way of just FINDING players that can help them score. Panik had been bounced around before landing in Chicago, so one has to believe it won’t last. But then again, it’s Chicago…

Trending – Up

7) NY Rangers – Jimmy Vesey has looked great so far for the Rangers, living up to expectations that he set by opting out and signing with the Rangers this summer. Chris Kreider is enjoying a good year so far, despite missing a few games due to injury. Mika Zibanejad has looked stellar early on. All has been going well so far for the Rangers. Can it keep up? It’s still very early, but they’ve looked like a complete team.

Trending – Even.

8) San Jose Sharks – The Sharks have looked pretty good so far this season, posting a 6-3-0 record. Brent Burns, Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski are up to their usual thing, and Tomas Hertl has looked great early on. With not many years left for Jumbo Joe, you have to think the mind-set in San Jose is win now. They’ll have to add some scoring depth mid-season, but they boast a strong lineup night-in and night-out.

Trending – Up

9) St. Louis Blues – Jaden Schwartz started the year on the IR, Jori Lethera has missed time, but overall the St. Louis Blues have been hit or miss depending on the night. Some nights they look elite, others they haven’t. They managed a great record in October (5-2-2), and they’re hoping they can build off of that going into November. The better they start, the better off they’ll be playing in the tough Western Conference.

Trending – Even

10) Washington Capitals – The Caps have gotten off to a slower start this season, after dominating for much of the regular season last year. Part of the struggle has been scoring goals. Ovechkin has only managed 6 points (4 goals) in 8 games played. Issue is, with those 6 points he sits 2nd in team scoring behind only Marcus Johansson. They’re having some struggles that they haven’t shown in the past, however they still have an impressive record (thanks to Braden Holtby) at 5-2-1 through to the end of October.

11) Detroit Red Wings – Another big surprise – for me at least – is the play of Detroit through October. They’ve gotten excellent goaltending from both Jimmy Howard and Petr Mrazek. Howard has started 3 games and is currently at a GAA of 0.86 (!!) and a SV% of 0.973. Those numbers are sure to take a hit, but he’s certainly playing well in an expansion year in which he could be taken by Vegas, or traded to one of many teams who could use an upgrade. Also worth noting, Tomas Vanek put up 8 points in 7 games for Detroit in October before getting hurt, very impressive.

Trending – Up

12) New Jersey Devils – The Devils added Taylor Hall in hopes that he would increase their goal scoring, and he’s done well (5 goals in 8 games), however Adam Henrique has fallen off in production through October. He managed to score 2 goals and 2 assists, which isn’t awful, but they were hoping for an increase from him. Cory Schneider continues to be one of the best at his position, sporting a solid 0.941 SV% and 1.86 GAA. The story is the same, goal scoring wanted.

Trending – Even.

13) Florida Panthers – Losing young stud Jonathan Huberdeau before the start of the season really hurt their chances. Enter Jonathan Marchessault. He has put up an incredible 6 goals and 5 assists in 9 games for Florida in October, however they were sitting at 4-4-1 when the month ended. They’re going to need more from Aleksander Barkov (5 points) and Jaromir Jagr (4 points) if they hope to be in a good position when they finally do get Huberdeau back.

Trending – Even

14) Ottawa Senators – The Sens struggled early on defensively, but Craig Anderson has been rock solid as of late. Coming off receiving terrible news regarding his wife’s health, he posted an impressive shutout of the red-hot Edmonton Oilers. If the Sens can play with the emotion that they did in this game, and carry it out further, they can rattle off some wins early on. Mike Hoffman has struggled early this season, posting only 1 goal in October. They’ll need more from him if they hope to climb their way into the playoffs this year.

Trending – Up

15) Boston Bruins – Brad Marchand has continued his strong play from last season, and at the World Cup, putting up 10 points in 8 games. Boston has managed to stay at .500 (4-4-0) despite having time missed by all of Patrice Bergeron, Tuukka Rask, David Backes, and David Pastrnak. If they can get all of the above healthy and into the lineup, they should do just fine.

Trending – Up.

16) Philadelphia Flyers – Last year it seemed as though the Flyers finally found viable goaltending. This year, that’s definitely not the case. They were near the top of the league in goals for, but finished dead last in goals against. Both Mason and Neuvirth have been terrible for the flyers, both sporting a higher than 3.45 GAA and lower than an 0.880 SV%. The offense is there, they just can’t keep the puck out of their own net.

Trending – Even

17) Anaheim Ducks – The Ducks started the year missing 2 key players in their lineup due to them remaining unsigned – Rickard Rakell and Hampus Lindholm. Both are now signed, however neither suited up in a game for the Ducks in October. John Gibson has been shaky at times to start the season, and the Ducks finished 3-4-2 in October. Adding these two back into the lineup will be a much needed boost for the Ducks going forward.

Trending – Up

18) Buffalo Sabres – Losing your future star in Jack Eichel, as well as Evander Kane before the season was a gut-punch for the Sabres, who had playoffs aspirations at the start of the season. A big boost to the Sabres is having goaltender Robin Lehner back healthy to start the season. He has missed a couple games due to a stomach virus, but has looked great as of late. The Sabres are hoping they can keep pace in the Eastern Conference until they can get their injured players back later in the season.

Trending – Even

19) Calgary Flames – I think it’s safe to say Brian Elliot would love to forget his three starts in a Calgary uniform in which he surrendered 14 (!!) goals. He has turned it around since then, allowing no more than 2 goals in his next 4 starts. Calgary as a whole has gotten off to a tough start, with Sean Monahan also struggling early (4 points). This team is better defensively than they’ve played, and should be able to produce more offense than they currently have been.

Trending – Up

20) Dallas Stars – The Stars have been struck by injuries early on, as Ales Hemsky, Jason Spezza, Jiri Hulder, and Patrick Sharp have all missed time. Hemsky will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing hip surgery, however the key loss is Sharp who’s currently rehabbing from a concussion. If he can come back healthy, with no relapses, this team should still make the playoffs. Goaltending hasn’t been great for the Stars either, but everyone knew that coming in. Perhaps they will look to improve this through trade? Bishop? Fleury? There are plenty of better options for a team this talented than Niemi and Lehtonen.

Trending – Even

21) Colmubus Blue Jackets – Rookie d-man Zach Werenski has outstanding, playing most nights on the top pair, while putting up 6 points in 7 games. He’s definitely put himself in the Calder conversation early on, and has helped ignite offense each night for the Jackets, which they desperately needed help with. Sergei Bobrovsky has started each game, and while he’s 3-3-1, he’s rocking a solid SV% of 0.941 to go along with 2 shutouts. He’s been everything anyone would want in their number 1 goalie. He needs help up front. If the Jackets want to push themselves into the playoffs they’re going to need outside help.

Trending – Up

22) Vancouver Canucks – The Canucks had surprised everyone and got off to a 4-0-1 start which no one expected, beating teams like St. Louis, LA and Anaheim. They lost their next 3 games in regulation to end October at a respectable 4-3-1 record.  The issue that most people predicted has been coming to the front – goal scoring. They managed a league low 17 goals for in October. Their major signing in the offseason, Loui Eriksson, managed all of zero goals in October, with 4 assists and a -4 rating. The Canucks appear to be in for a long season, the nice start will soon be forgotten.

Trending – Down

23) Toronto Maple Leafs –  The rookies in Toronto have been incredibly fun to watch. The Leafs have struggled in the early going to close out a lead, as they’ve blown multiple 3rd period leads. Frederik Andersen has looked better as of late, after struggling early on. William Nylander was just named NHL Rookie of the Month for October, and along with Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and Nikita Zaitsev, the young leafs have looked great in the early going. Add in a little better defensive play and they should be able to round-out their game going forward.

Trending – Up

24) Colorado Avalanche – Starting goalie Semyon Varlamov has not been great, posting a GAA of 3.18. Not the worst in the league by far, but the Avs themselves are only averaging 2.85 goals for per game. So there’s blame to be placed on both sides. The Avs recently called up their number 1 rated prospect Mikko Rantanen, so Avs fans are hoping he jumps starts the offense. So far, he’s come up with zero points in 2 games, not an ideal start.

Trending – Down

25) New York Islanders –The Isles big signing of the offseason has not lived up to expectations at all. Andrew Ladd has managed no goals and only 1 assist so far in 9 games.1 point in 9 games! That’s while spending 99% of the first 6 games on a line with John Tavares. Not what you were hoping for when you signed him to an AAV of $5.5 million. Yikes. The Isles defense have been helping out offensively, scoring 10 of their team’s 27 goals in October. They need more help up front. Fans must be missing Kyle Okposo right about now..

Trending – Down

26) Winnipeg Jets – The Jets are an interesting case. They’ve looked great in some games, and bad in others. They’ve gotten steady goaltending from their tandem, and they’ve gotten good offensive support from rookie Patrik Laine, Mark Scheifele, and Blake Wheeler. But after those three, it falls off quickly. They don’t possess the depth that others do in the division, not to mention that Jacob Trouba is still holding-out on the Jets, hoping for a trade. Time will tell, but as of right now they don’t look like a playoff team.

Trending – Down

27) Los Angeles Kings – Another team hit with injury trouble, which includes start Jonathan Quick. Tough to get by in today’s NHL without your starting goaltender (see Montreal last season). The Kings are also struggling to score, as they put up only 20 in 9 games in October. Hard to win in today’s NHL with that kind of support, no matter who’s in net. They’re now on their 3rd goalie of the season in Peter Budaj, and while he has played better lately, he’s not an ideal number 1 goalie. Things are looking bleak in LA.

Trending – Down

28) Nashville Predators – This has to be the biggest disappointment so far this year. Many were picking the Predators to win the Cup, yet they’ve started the year 2-5-1. Yikes. This team possesses a lot of talent, and boasts the best defensive corps in the league, but they were near the bottom in goals allowed in October. They’ve got to be better than they’ve been, and they can be.

Trending – Down

29) Carolina Hurricanes – A noticeable trend early in the ’16-’17 season was more goal scoring, or, as in the case with Carolina, weaker goaltending. The combo of Cam Ward and Eddie Lack has been awful for Carolina. Lack is posting a GAA of 4.00 and a SV% of 0.857, while Ward isn’t much better at a GAA over 3.00, and a SV% under 0.900. One of the only bright spots for Carolina so far is the play of Jeff Skinner, who put up great numbers in October – 5 goals, 6 assists, +1 (somehow) in 7 games played in October.

Trending – Down

30) Arizona Coyotes – Once again, the Arizona Coyotes are dealing with goaltending issues. Mike Smith is dealing with another injury after only starting 2 games. The Coyotes are a young team, with a cupboard full of high-talent prospects. Last year was the emergence of Max Domi and Anthony Duclair, this year we’re seeing Dylan Strome, Jakob Chychrun, Lawson Crouse, Christian Dvorak, and more as they try and make an impact for the Coyotes. Time will tell if this team can imrpove, but the future is definitely bright for the Yotes.

Trending – Up

 

*Stats from NHL.com. Cap info from CapFriendly.com*

Players To Watch – Breakout Candidates

It’s the Eve of the 2016-2017 season, beyond excited to get this year going. Most people have already completed their fantasy drafts for the upcoming season, but here’s who I think will be the player to watch for each team this upcoming year.

Arizona Coyotes – Dylan Strome. Although he didn’t have as great of a year last year in Erie as many would have thought, the 3rd overall pick from 2015 is set to begin his rookie campaign this season. Adding his size and talent to the young-and-improving Coyotes is a combo that should work out well for both sides. He could wind up 45-50 points in his first year.

Anaheim Ducks – Nick Ritchie. He’s excelled at every level he’s played so far, and managed 30 points in 38 AHL games last year. He struggled last year when called up, but coming into his first full season Ritchie has a lot left to prove. He should get minutes on the ducks top 6, and surrounded by guys like Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry should help Ritchie get to 45 points.

Boston Bruins – David Pastrnak. Slipped a bit in production last year with 26 points in 51 games, however I expect a big season coming from the young forward. He should open the season on the top line with Bergeron and Marchand, which only boosts his value. If he remains there all season, and gets some PP time, he could be near 60 points at the end of the year.

Buffalo Sabres – Sam Reinhart. This is the year where the 2nd pick in 2014 really makes an impact with the Sabres. He showed great chemistry at the end of the year with Jack Eichel, and started to see more ice because of it. He’ll carry that momentum into this season and continue to increase production. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t hit 65 points this year.

Calgary Flames – Sam Bennett. Centering the Flames second line, Bennett has steadily improved his overall game in each of the last 2 seasons. While I don’t expect him to shoot the lights out this year, I think it’s reasonable to expect him to approach the 50 point mark in his second full season. If Matthew Tkachuk sticks with the Flames all year, it will give him better linemates than the likes of Michael Frolik and Lance Bouma.

Carolina Hurricanes – Elias Lindholm. Should see some time on the top PP unit coming into his third season. His numbers have held steady at 39 points, should be no reach to see him get close to 50 this year. He’ll have some more skilled linemates this year in Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen, which could also boost his production.

Chicago Blackhawks – Nick Schmaltz – I don’t particularly believe Schmaltz will have a stellar year, but he is someone to keep an eye on during the season as a late waiver-wire grab. I think eventually he will replace Artem Anisimov on Chicago’s second line between reigning MVP Patrick Kane and most recent breakout star Artemi Panarin. But until then, only choose the top dogs when it comes to the Hawks. They have a very thin bottom 6.

Columbus Blue Jackets – Zach Werenski. Right now he’s been playing top pairing minutes with Seth Jones. That right there is enough to take a gamble on, not to mention the 14 points he had in 17 AHL playoffs games leading to the Calder Cup win. Kid can play. Could he be the newest young d-man to take the NHL by storm? Yes please.

Colorado Avalanche – Nathan MacKinnon – Last time I’ll say this – this is HIS year! It’s always felt as if he’s on the cusp of an 80-point campaign, but just hasn’t gotten there yet. He showed brilliance at the World Cup, it’s time to start putting it all together. I truly believe he can be among the elite in the NHL.

Dallas Stars – Jiri Hudler – Not exactly lining up with most of my other picks, in that he’s not exactly ‘young’ anymore. Hudler gets a chance to play with a few of the best offensive forwards in the NHL today in Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Will he take full advantage of this? He’s an upgrade on the role Patrick Eaves was playing on this line the last few seasons, and even if he bounces off the top line, he’ll still be lining up with Jason Spezza as his centreman. Hudler could hit 60 points if the Stars can manage to stay fairly healthy this year.

Detroit Red Wings – Gustav Nyquist. Expect a bounce back season from Nyquist, he’s far too skilled to be a 40-point player. Will he break 60? Doubtful, only because of the surrounding cast he currently has in Detroit, but he should be a lock for 50-55.

Edmonton Oilers – Connor McDavid. Just kidding, I expect Leon Draisaitl to take another step forward after putting up 51 pts last year. The Oilers have gotten better around him, and this should free him up a little more. He’ll get plenty of looks on the PP this season, especially with the departure of Taylor Hall. I’d be willing to bet that Draisaitl breaks through the 60 point plateau this season.

Florida Panthers – Jonathan Marchessault. With the nasty injury to Jonathan Huberdeau, this opens up a spot on the top line in Florida. Marchessault has put up great numbers in the AHL (263 pts in 306 games), but the 25 year old has never had a full season in the NHL. This is his chance to take the ice-time while it’s available and make the most out of it. If he sticks there for a few months, he should hit 40 points by year end.

Los Angeles Kings – Teddy Purcell. This team doesn’t really possess a potential breakout candidate in my opinion. Their forward depth is ugly when you look past Kopitar, Carter, Toffoli, and… well that’s it. Purcell will get plenty of ice time in the top 6 and on the powerplay, but it looks like this team will struggle to score. Don’t expect more than 40 points out of Purcell.

Minnesota Wild – Matt Dumba. Here’s a guy I would gamble on for a late defensemen to breakout. He showed in junior he can score, and show glimpses last year he can as well. Problem he’s facing is playing time. If he can gain more minutes, he could push past the 30 point mark, and potentially 15 goals if the Wild use him on the PP.

Montreal Canadiens – Alex Galchenyuk. If they ever give this guy the chance to play on the top line, and it looks like he will this year, he could easily breakout for 65 points. Play him a full season with Pacioretty and see if it works. If not, then bring in a centre who does work. Galchenyuk has all the skill, I just feel he hasn’t been fully given the opportunity to play with the best players. Let’s do that this year.

Nashville Predators – Kevin Fiala. The Swiss winger looks to be a lock to make the team and stick there all year. He’s been practicing on the top line with Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen, so if he can stick there… lookout. Adding PK Subban to the mix has only increased the scoring opportunities that will come to this team, and Fiala looks to be right there in the mix. The rookie should be right in between 40-50 points in his first year in the big leagues.

New Jersey Devils – Adam Henrique. Re-united with his old buddy Taylor Hall, Henrique’s value has never been higher. He had 50 points last year with weaker linemates, expect 60-70 this season as he teams-up again with the speedster Hall, who will be playing this season with something to prove.

New York Islanders – Ryan Pulock. The key here will be if Pulock can bump Boychuk off of the top PP unit in New York. He’s got a HEAVY shot, and can put that on display with the likes of John Tavares on your team. He showed some poise late last year when he was called up, and played well in the playoffs for Isles. He had 17 goals 2 years ago in the AHL, so if he can bring that touch to the NHL level, he could be a force from the back-end.

New York Rangers – Pavel Buchnevich. Highly regarded as a rookie to watch, Buchnevich will see plenty of ice on the Rangers’ second line. Will he hit 50 points? It’s tough for many rookies to get to this level, especially in his first year coming over from the KHL, but Buchnevich possesses the skill-set to do so.

Ottawa Senators – Derick Brassard. A trade to Ottawa looks to have sparked Brassard as he’s looked great on a line with Bobby Ryan so far (yes, I know it’s only preseason). He didn’t quite have the most productive linemates last year, but he’s still a top 75 fantasy player in today’s NHL. Don’t reach too high for him, but he should be a lock for 50, and could hit 60 points if the chemistry with Ryan is real.

Philadelphia Flyers – Ivan Provorov & Travis Konecny. Technically cheating, but both of these rookies should have solid campaigns. Provorov has dominated junior for the past couple of seasons and with the injury to Del Zotto, will have plenty of ice-time available. Look no further than the Flyers again this year to have the breakout defensemen of the year on their team, as he could easily put up 40 points for a rookie. Konecny should be able to manage the same, as currently he’s playing alongside Jakub Voracek who has looked to be back to his old-self after an off-year.

Pittsburgh Penguins – Connor Sheary. A full season on a line with Sid the Kid? Sheary possesses the speed needed to keep up with Crosby. If he can continue the chemistry shown late last year and in the playoffs, he could be the new and improved Chris Kunitz. If Crosby recovers from this most recent concussion scare, he should return immediately to the dominance he showed at the World Cup and in the second half of last season. Look for Sheary to put up 25 goals minimum if he sticks with Crosby for an extended period of time.

San Jose Sharks – Tomas Hertl. He showed some great chemistry late in the season with the two Joes. Can he carry it over to this season? If he does, expect high 50’s. He’s got loads of talent, just needs to finally breakout.

St. Louis Blues – Nail Yakupov. I was picking Robby Fabbri here until the trade for Yakupov, but I’ll take one last gamble on the Yak. He’s got the skill, and the work ethic. If he finally gets a chance with good linemates, I think he can regain the magic that made him a 1st overall pick. He sure looked good on McDavid’s wing until the injury earlier last season. I’d take a gamble on 50 points this year, it’s now or never.

Tampa Bay Lightning – Jonathan Drouin. Easy pick, he’s coming into his last season on his rookie contract, and Tampa will have a tough time keeping him. Expect him to perform very well, to showcase his skills for whomever he’ll be playing for in 2017-2018. That is, unless Tampa unloads some other contracts, which is a possibility considering the magic Steve Yzerman has been able to wield recently (see Kucherov contract).

Toronto Maple Leafs – Morgan Rielly. Auston Matthews is hyped to get anywhere from 40 to 60 points. Morgan Rielly looked like a top defensemen at the World Cup this year, logging big minutes for the young guns. Add to the Leafs a much improved offense, and the smooth puck-mover could be in for a good season offensively. Time will tell how much time he gets with the man-advantage, but I’d be willing to be he creeps over 45 points this year.

Vancouver Canucks – Bo Horvat. It’s time to move on from the Sedins and start giving the future more minutes. That starts with Horvat. Give him more time at even-strength, and on the man-advantage. Start seeing what your future looks like, see how much further he can grow. But on a team I envision finishing dead last, I can’t see more than 45 points out of Horvat. If he can click with some linemates, maybe he’ll sniff at 50.

Washington Capitals – Andre Burakovsky. He’s shown some flashes of high-end skill, and it looks as though this year he’ll get the minutes. Playing alongside either Backstrom or Kuznetsov will only enhance his skill, as he did score 87 pts in the one year he played in the OHL. More than likely he’ll end up on the 2nd unit on the PP, however he should still be in reach of 50 points. I’d take a gamble on this young skater going even higher.

Winnipeg Jets – Mark Scheifele. He scored at a point-per-game pace near the end of the season, and proved he has what it takes to be a number 1 centre in this league for years to come. Add in the hard-shooting Patrik Laine, and Scheifele’s point totals should continue to rise. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t hit 70 points this year.

Follow me on twitter @RubberOnIce

(*Credit hockeydb.com – great place to look up historial stats easily)

 

Outlook on 2016-2017: Toronto Maple Leafs

The first post in a series, outlining a few predictions for a few of the bottom teams heading into the 2016-2017 season.

First up: The Toronto Maple Leafs

2015-2016 Important Notes:

Finish – 16th place in the Eastern Conference, 30th overall

Goals for vs. goals against – minus 48 (29th overall)

Picked 1st overall in 2016 NHL Entry Draft – Auston Matthews

Where will the Leafs finish?

While the Leafs are sure to improve overall as a club from last season, it’s difficult to predict how much of an improvement it will be overall. There will be an injection of youth into the lineup, with the likes of Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and perhaps (most likely) even Mitch Marner, but how much will this improve the club?

While the Leafs fate will rely mostly with the youth movement, goalies Frederik Andersen and Jhonas Enroth will also be required to step in and perform better than the tandem they are replacing. The majority of this responsibility will rest on Andersen’s shoulders. He has posted good numbers during his time in Anaheim (77-26-0-12 in 114 starts, 125 games played), however this isn’t the same type of team he was backstopping in Anaheim. The Leafs will need Andersen to stay healthy (which is another cause for concern for Leafs fans) and contribute 50-60 starts in order to have any hope of improving over last year.

It’s hard to see the Leafs improving more than 13th position in the East, and out of the bottom 5 of the league. It appears that the Leafs are headed for another lottery pick, which isn’t a bad thing for on the rise. One thing’s for sure, this team will be a lot more fun to watch than it has been in previous seasons.

How will Auston Matthews perform?

The saviour!! No, calm down Leafs fans. While Auston Matthews projects to be a star in this league for many years, no single player can carry an entire franchise on it’s back. What Matthews does bring to Leafland is Hope and Optimism, something that has been lacking for many years. With players like Matthews in the fold, it’s sure to attract better and better players to Toronto, which hasn’t exactly been at the top of the list in desired locations among free agents.

So what can we expect out of Matthews in his rookie season? Mike Babcock will surely have him focused on learning the game at both ends of the ice, with a heavier emphasis on his defensive game to begin with. He has already stated Matthews will start as the 3rd line centre, and while we know this shouldn’t (won’t) last for long, Matthews won’t be starting out at 20 minutes of ice time per night. He’ll be eased into everyday life as an NHL’er, as he’s never before dealt with the rigorous schedule of an 82 game season. Still, Matthews has performed at exceptional levels in every scenario he’s played. He played his first full professional season last year in the Swiss National league, where he had 46 points in 36 games. He followed this up with an impressive performance at the World Championship, playing against NHL players.

The NHL is whole different level, however if Babcock was able to get 40+ point seasons out of PA Parenteau and Nazem Kadri on a weaker team, it’s not difficult to foresee Matthews reaching the 50 point plateau in his first season. I will go out and predict that if Matthews plays a full 82 game schedule, he will hit the 60 point plateau in his rookie season (64 pts for an exact prediction).

Biggest Surprise of the season?

Joffrey Lupul stays healthy, plays well, and gets traded to a contending team. If Lupul can stay healthy, he will surely face the weaker sets of defenders on most nights, playing on the 2nd or 3rd line. Maybe he can find some of the magic only a few short years ago. Plus, the Leafs somehow seem to be able to boost players’ values and then find teams willing to give up assets for them.

 

All in all, the Leafs are a team on the rise, just not as quickly as some fans would hope after drafting future star  Auston Matthews.