Two trades:

Cal Clutterbuck & the 70th pick went from the Minnesota Wild to the New York Islanders for Nino Niederretter.

Cory Schneider went from the Vancouver Canucks to the New Jersey Devils straight up for the 9th overall pick, which Gillis used on Bo Horvat of the London Knights.

1st:

Nathan MacKinnon of the Mooseheads, goes to the Avalanche. It isn’t a surprise that they went with someone other than Jones, but it should be a disappointment. The Teams defense has been awful for years, and some years not even that good.

2nd:

Aleksander Barkov, a center that might be the perfect solution to upping their offensive ante. The Panthers need depth at every position, and this is a solid start.

3rd:

The Tampa Bay Lightning completely ignore their need to build a defense, and draft a Center and Left Winger Jonathan Drouin. Very highly regarded player, but is this the pick that eventually dooms Yzerman’s tenure as general manager?

4th:

Seth Jones is taken by the Nashville Predators, they could have taken a center here and not done themselves a disservice, but a guy with the potential to replace (and surpass?) Ryan Suter.

5th:

Carolina selected Elias Lindholm and gave themselves a very solid option at center in a year or two, and will give them a lot of flexibility going forward.

6th:

Calgary finally got a top notch center in Sean Monahan. They will need to add more on the wings. With the centers taken in the last two or three years, this is a pretty smart pick as they just about have to hit on Monahan and one or two more

7th:

It was not a surprise that Darnell Nurse was the second defenseman taken, just a surprise that Edmonton took him. The Oilers are a year or two from now a notch or two above

8th:

With all the questions surrounding Tyler Myers, the Sabres went back to the well and picked defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen.

9th

After trading Cory Schnieder for this pick they select Bo Horvat a strong two way center who may start in the NHL on their third line. We all know London Knights players are going to be solid in all three zones, so this might be a positive turning point for the Canucks after trending downward for a couple years.

10th:

The Stars tool big bodied RW Valeri Nichushkin as their pick. With not many larger forwards on the team this is a solid pick.

The draft always has surprises, in fact they’re more the rule than the exception. Here’s a few things that would surprise me today:

Any of:

Jones, MacKinnon,  or Drouin falling outside the top 10, although one falling out of the top five is possible.

A goalie:

being drafted before the fifth defensemen. With Seth Jones, Darnell Nurse, Nikita Zadorov, Rasmus Ristolainen, Ryan Pulock, Josh Morrissey, and Shea Theodore all expected to go in the top 25 or 30 it is hard to justify taking a goalie before any of them.

Max Domi:

failing to be drafted in the first round. Name recognition, and his highlight real passing and scoring ability alone are enough to get him a lot of attention, playing a solid game is what will likely see him drafted in the top half of the first round.

Jordan Subban:

falling out of the second round. With one brother of having just won a Norris trophy, and the other having been taken last year in the first round,  general managers might just be swayed to take him higher than the end of the second where he has been ranked (about where P.K.  was taken).

Less than:

10 players and or picks traded before the end of the second round. With the Tyler Kennedy to San Jose for a 2nd round pick we’re only eight away from that total.

Either of:

Valeri Nichushkin or Elias Lindholm falling outside the top 10. When your name gets compared to Henrik Zetterberg and Patrice Bergeron before you’ve even walked into an NHL locker room, you are not a talent to be passed over lightly.

More than:

Six goalies going in the top two rounds. There’s a lot of cheap goalies available right now, and I don’t see many general mangers taking goalies this high without great, great need.

 

 

There are reports from RDS and elsewhere that Kris Letang has reached a deal with the Penguins to keep him in town another eight years. For $7,250,000.00 each season player 58 will be on the ice for the foreseeable future.

This contract makes him the third highest paid defenseman in the NHL and in the 2014-15 season stands to make him the 13th highest paid player in the NHL. The question is why? Is he offensively gifted? Sure. He also plays in a nearly pure offensive system with two of the best playmakers in the NHL, and a couple 30 goal men too. When you have six, or seven highly talented forward to pass the puck to or serve as decoys when you shoot, scoring is a bunch easier. Even with that level of production in front of him, he’s still just over half a point a game for his career in the regular season at .54ppg.

Also to be considered is his injury history. Since breaking into the NHL during the 2006-7 season, he has only played the full season once. His litany of injuries includes concussions and numerous “lower body injuries”. As a guy whose whole game is predicated on his ability to move, those lower body injuries have to be worrisome.

By comparison, Drew Doughty who has turned into a legitimate two way defenseman is at .51ppg, and the comparisons between an offense that has been in the bottom third of the NHL most of Doughty’s career doesn’t even compare to the Penguins. Doughty also missed just 11 games in his career, won Olympic gold, and yet somehow the Penguins are paying Letang more.

Letang’s playoff performance has also been spotty at best. In the 2012-13 playoffs he was held pointless by the Boston Bruins as part of the team being swept. In the 2008-9 playoff run he put up a goose egg against the Carolina Hurricanes. The 2007-8 second season saw him held pointless against the Detroit Red Wings, The New York Rangers and the Ottawa Senators. That’s fifty percent of crucial games where an offensive defenseman has failed to provide offense.

Another telling stat is his on ice save percentage. In this season, counting only the Penguins defenseman that played thirty or more of the forty eight games Kris Letang ranks dead last and by a wide margin. Letang’s on ice save percentage is in fact the only qualifying defenseman who’s numbers are worse than both team goalies. By comparison the Boston Bruins Zdeno Chara who Letang will now make more than has a OISvP of .930 to Letang’s .914, Montreal Candiens Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban owned a .926, and his teams goalies were significantly less average than Pittsburgh’s this season. The other Norris finalist this season was Ryan Suter who played with a rookie defensive partner much of the season (as did Chara) he laid claim to a .925.

Suter, Chara, Subban, and of course Doughty are demonstrably at least as productive at both ends of the ice as Letang, and all four are healthier, two of the four played more minutes than Letang and yet all will be paid less than the owner of Pittsburgh’s latest mega-contract.

Some of the biggest cities are really tight to the cap, the Bruins, Flyers, and Lightning could all use a touch more cap space to deal with. Both the Bruins and Flyers are likely to lose pieces to free agency. The Canadiens are in danger of losing Ryder and Armstrong. Boston is supposedly getting attention on Seguin, and the Lecavalier to Montreal rumors won’t die until he’s retired or the Canadiens move, unless of course he does sign there.

What We Know

(By New Divisions)

Division C

Boston: After a run to the finals with lots of injuries, and some key contracts that are due, the Bruins could be in for a bigger offseason makeover than expected. With Horton headed to free agency, questions about Seguin and a previous lack of depth at that position, the right wing position is an area of need.

Buffalo: Miller rumors persist, as do rumors of trading nearly everyone. With the eighth and sixteenth picks overall, the Sabres should be able to get at least one more building block that enters the lineup and contributes within two seasons. It is an open question if that time frame is enough to keep Regier in the general managers office.

Detroit: Moving back into the eastern conference might be an advantage in start times and travel for the Red Wings, but they are no better than the third best team in their new division. They are fortunate enough to have a solid goalie, and two stars at forward, not much else is worth noting about the team with the longest active playoff streak.

Florida: The Panthers have just about declared the starting job for Markstrom by putting Scott Clemmenson on the market. Taking home a 2nd round draft pick or solid NHL player for that trade would be great. With the 2nd pick they ought to be able to solidify one position on their team. Tallon has shown he isn’t afraid to spend on free agent so don’t be surprised by surprises in Sunrise.

Montreal: Having returned to the playoffs last year after an embarrassing hiatus they need to take a long hard look at who they expect to be the core of the team going forward. There are some clashes between players that are visible on TV, they may or may not be short-lived events. But, building around a hollow center isn’t the best of ideas. It may feel wrong to do it, but making a move to ship out a good soldier or two for more cap space, less conflict and younger picks or prospects might be the best thing to do. The Norris trophy winner also has just one year left on his contract.

Ottawa: The first two questions the Senators leadership should be asking about any player they want to sign or draft are: can they stay healthy, and are we sure about that? From there fitting them into the roster or the farm system is the next step. With a bit more health the Senators might just have knocked off the Penguins. Adding a veteran playoff competitor like Briere, or Horton might push this team to the next level.

Tampa Bay: With the expiration of the Southeast division, the Lightning find themselves more in need than ever of improving a threadbare defense. In the last three seasons they’ve finished 28th, 30th, and 21st. They’ll be drafting in the lottery forever at that rate. Swapping for defense with a team deep at the position like St Louis or adding veteran Andrew Ference would be a step in the right direction.

Toronto: They made one of the more interesting moves of the offseason by picking up Bernier. Some say there was no need and Reimer was good enough, neither Nonis nor I agree. They have a clutch of offensively gifted defenseman, a lot of roster space, and decisions to be made on Tyler Bozak, Nazem Kadri and most the defense they iced last year. They are in a position of great flexibility but also a lot of vulnerability. The next two weeks will likely tell us how long it will be before the Maple Leafs next playoff appearance.

Division D

Carolina: With the Staal brother, Semin, Skinner, and Tlusty offense won’t be an issue for this team so long as Faulk and his henchmen can get the puck out of their own zone and away from the triage unit that served as goalies last season. Improving the defense could come at the cost of Ruutu or several draft picks. For the first time in recent memory the Hurricanes don’t have a huge amount of cap space either. With the new divisions configuration, they need to act and act smart.

Columbus: The Blue Jackets came within 2 points of getting into the playoffs last year. The most important thing they can do is to sign their goaltender Bobrovsky, after that getting some scoring and puck distributing touch up front will make them a much better team. With three first round picks 14, 19, and 27 as well as their own 44th pick, via trade or draft this should be a productive weekend for ‘Lumbus. If Lecavalier could be landed at a reasonable cap hit together with Dubinsky the team team could have a very strong 1-2 punch at center.

New Jersey: The Devils are rumored to have two suitors interested in buying the “financially stable” team. Its unknown what impact that will have on team activity over the next week to ten days, but the team has enough holes almost anything is a good move. A slick passing center to maximize Kovalchuk’s shot, an aggressive defender or two to keep Broduer from having to work to hard, a future goaltender so the team doesn’t experience its own Flyers like run of disasters in net going for stop gap after stop gap. It might just be a good idea to resign Henrique and Clarkson before to long too.

New York Islanders: The  Islanders really should reup with Hamonic, and if at all possible swing a deal for another blueliner with playoff experience. It also might not hurt to have an NHL worthy goaltender under contract. It is likely the empty forward roster spots will be filled with the return of some combination of Boyes, Bailey, Aucoin and prospects.  Hickey was a solid find too, his contract is up as well.

New York Rangers: A new coach is coming, and no one knows what he’ll bring to the roster. It is hoped he can perform some necromancy on the powerplay and get it to shamble along. Brad Richards is being given one more chance after playing less minutes and posting less points against the Bruins than their enforcer Shawn Thornton. Former coach John Torterella said the team wasn’t “stiff” enough. With most key position filled, the Rangers can afford to be picky with free agents, but might want to get a head start on locking up core players. Only one defenseman is signed beyond next season,  neither goalie is, and there are just three forwards who are.

Philadelphia: The bloodletting began with the Bryzgalov and Briere being bought out. It is unlikely to end any time soon as this team is a disaster cap wise and not much better on the ice. To make matters worse Coburn is one of the names most active on the rumor mill and their defense is not pretty even with him.

Pittsburgh: Kris Letang has the gratitude of Penguins scribes for giving them something to write about. He’s rejected long term huge money deals. I’ll be shocked if he’s a Penguin on opening night and even more shocked if he’s still there after the trade deadline. The Penguins still need to come to terms with the issues with Fleury, and there is something wrong with the mental makeup of this team when the playoffs arrive. They’ve lost composure and the ability to play at both ends of the ice in the same game over the last three post seasons. Maybe they should reacquire Gill and Scuderi?

Washington:  Oates had done solid work rehabilitating this team, but he can only work with what he’s given. A big roster shakeup is overdue for this team. Regardless of what they say to the media, there is too big a gap between their regular season scoring and their post season scoring for this team to believe in itself. Without that swagger you just can’t win in May or June.

With the NHL draft this weekend we know three things a: There will be trades 2: there will be “off the board” picks and d: all bets are off on sane prices being paid to get starting goalies and top four defenseman. Some of the names being talked about are Scott Clemmenson of the Panthers, Cory Schnieder of the Canucks, and Rich Peverley of the Bruins as trade bait. Your guess is as good as any on which move where.

What We Know (by the new divisions)

Division A:

Anaheim: There are more rumors surrounding the Ducks and Bobby Ryan going to at least 41 other NHL teams than in at least a year. Capwise they can probably afford to keep him, in reality they need a 2nd line center, to resign Palmeri and of course the Ducks aren’t a cap ceiling team.

Calgary: While we’re all sympathetic to the flood devastation in the Flames home arena, it might just be considered a metaphor for what ownership and management have been doing to the team for a decade. Free agency will likely bring one or two more contracts like Wideman’s. They do have a good deal of cap space, and if the move Cammalleri, they’ll gain six million more. What they’d get in return is a mystery but based on recent trades…

Edmonton: They desperately need a viable defense, which is why they’ve been linked to every goaltender on the planet. With the 7th pick of the first round a player like Darnell Nurse would be a great find, if history holds true expect a forward to be drafted. Unfortunately the UFA market doesn’t hold much hope of pulling in a blueliner or two that would help, and the best name linked to Edmonton in rumors is Braydon Coburn.

Los Angeles: They need to get faster, and their cap hit needs to get slimmer. They have 10 forwards and 5 defenseman signed, and only six million in cap space. It’s likely several of he free agents like Dustin Penner, Rob Scuderi, Brad Richardson and one or two of the RFA’s have played out there string. With Martinez, Muzzin, and Lewis as yet unsigned and the Kings having no first round pick, a trade or two might be a solid solution for cap and talent reasons.

Phoenix: The more I watch this saga, the less convinced I am the Glendale city council wants a sports team in town. Four picks in the first three seventy five gives a solid chance for moving the roster forward, no matter what happens to the franchise.

San Jose: As the only one of the California teams not to have won a Stanley Cup the pressure on the franchise has to be mounting. With their aging core, leadership should be mighty nervous. They really need to find a way to move a big contract or two, and get back some younger, cheaper talent in return. Talent that doesn’t wilt in the playoffs would be a bonus. It is not unfair to say that if the Sharks don’t extend Couture in the immediate future that they are playing with fire and someone is likely to end up yajibuka.

Vancouver: Never a dead or a dull quiet moment in Canuckville. In addition to the ever present rumors of Luongo being traded or bought out, Cory Schneider’s coffle has been dragged to the auction block as well. With the Sedin’s aging poorly, Kesler unable to stay healthy, only 17 players signed for next year and $47,222* in cap space, this team is ready to be fleeced.

Division B

Chicago: While the celebration continues in the streets, the corner office has to make some tough choices. They have seven million in cap space and no backup goalie, no Bickell, no Kruger, no Stalberg and neither Leddy or Rozsival signed there’s likely to be turnover. It doesn’t project to be as deep at four summers ago when less than half the championship roster returned to the ice in October, but some big names and fan favorites might be pulling on another jersey this fall.

Colorado: Despite deep and pressing needs at defense, the team has said they would not take Seth Jones at number one. This could mean they intend to trade down and take him at 2-4, or it could just be another case of not having a clue. Cap wise the team is one of the few in an enviable state with 22 players signed and over $11 million in space.

Dallas: With three picks in the first forty, it is possible the Stars will find a center to go with high end wingers Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson, and maybe just maybe a solid young defenseman to play with Alex Goligoski. They too have a lot of cap space if they are able to spend higher and could end up doing quite well in trades against some of the teams feeling the cap crunch.

Minnesota: The Wild have been rumored up and down the Twittersphere to be moving iconic hit maker Cal Clutterbuck this weekend. Having finally reached the playoffs after a long layoff, the team is loaded with talent, and also high end contracts. They have less than 3.5millon in cap space. Clutterbuck’s qualifying offer would be less than two million, but he’s unlikely to sign for less than 2.5 in my book.

Smashville Nashville: To call last season a disappointment is a bit of an understatement. After making themselves a playoff fixture, the team took two steps back and ended up in the lottery. If the fates are kind, or the general managers ahead of them smart, they will get a much needed dynamic forward in the draft. Respectable centers are needed for the top two lines, and some goal scoring. A trade that saw them land a center for an immediate push back towards contention would be a savvy move for the general manager of team USA and the Nashville Predators, might such a trade involve a Team USA veteran and a cap strapped western rival?

St. Louis: The Blues are in need of more offensive minded and able forwards. They presently have arguable the best defense in the conference, certainly top 3, but just can’t score enough. Vladimir Tarasenko should help the offense, but priority one for this team this off season isn’t the draft or any forwards, it is locking up Alex Pietrangelo for as long as they can. Simply put he’s one of the two or three best defensemen under 25 with  complete game, and his best years ahead of him.

Winnipeg: The Jets need depth. Depth at center, depth at wing, depth at goal, depth in warm winter coats. The honeymoon phase of the midnight train from Georgia is pretty much over and the fans are going to expect production. With both roster spaces and almost thirty million in cap space, the Jets are in good position to exploit the trade and free agent markets for what they possess. The Dustin Byfugelien trade rumors continue which makes zero sense at this point even if he’s stated he will never sign another contract there.

This summer look for my series on increasing NHL scoring without sacrificing fundamentals of the game.

 *According to Capgeek

This is an occasional feature that will take a look at multiple issues, each in 100 words or less.

Team USA Management  Announced:

Dan Bylsma will coach, and David Polie will be the GM. Only one of those is hope inducing. Here’s a look at potential players. Given who performed in the playoffs, are Paul Martin and Torey Krug now on the shortlist?

Naoko Funyama Is Gone:

News hit that Naoko would not be returning to Bruins broadcasts this fall. Since then everyone has checked in keeping her name a trending topic through the night, even with the NBA draft, and she’s gotten support from coworkers, other professionals, players like Tyler Seguin, and fans. Will NESN revisit the idea?

Kris Letang

 

The Penguins have reportedly offered Letang north of $7.5 million a year. Somehow he didn’t take this offer and personally get the contract certified by the NHL before the Penguins could come to their senses. Rossi takes a look at the situation. Over $7.5m would have him in the top 3 NHL defenseman, and he’s just not that good.

The Buyout Boys

Of the seven NHL players to receive compliance buyouts, two may have played their last NHL games. Steve Montador and  Ilya Bryzgalov. Montador is 33 years old, and didn’t play a single game for the Blackhawks last season after stops in five other NHL cites. Bryzgalov has melted down completely in goal since landing in Philadelphia going from two straight years of .920%+ to just 900sv% last year.

Alfie Not Giving Up The Throne

So with Alfredsson coming back another year, the old guys club of the NHL is waiting on on Selanne, and Jagr to give NHL coaches someone they don’t feel the urge to cut their meat for.

The unrestricted free agent market tends to be where NHL general managers make their most interesting, and often fatal mistakes.  The right wings in this market represent a very strong crop. There are at least three who were in the top twenty for scoring at their position, some of whom were on pretty bad teams most or all of last season.

Jarome Iginla

While the entire Penguins roster evaporated in second round, and that might not give teams the greatest confidence in him, he did put up 10 points over his first twelve playoff games since 2009. In Calgary was a winger he took a lot of faceoffs and was at times their best man on the dot. Another seven million dollar a year contract is probably not in the cards, but two to three years at five per year is not an undue risk

Michael Ryder

The former Dallas Star, Boston Bruin and Montreal Canadien managed to tie for 14th in scoring for right wings with one of his teammates from the Stars, Jaromir Jagr. Not as physical as most forwards he still holds one of the fastest releases in the NHL. Most times when he gets his shot off there is no warning at all. At 33 he’s still young enough that if you believe he’ll stay healthy and motivated a five or six year contract is worth considering if you don’t want to deal with a roster spot for a few years.

Brad Boyes

Perhaps the most enigmatic UFA this year, Boyes is capable of outstanding offense, silly turnovers, sound but not stellar play in all zones, and being completely invisible. With 30% less games played than the previous year in Buffalo he put up 30% more points this season with the New York Islanders. It seems noteworthy that he’s been collecting more of his points of late as a setup man, so perhaps teams that have a shooting center versus a playmaker might want to sign the 31 year old, former 40 goal man.

Nathan Horton

Without even looking at his current skill set Horton is worth signing for two reasons that can contribute to his next teams success; he went high in the ultra-deep 2003 draft and he’s been part of a Stanley Cup win. Add in a willingness to play through pain, playoff experience as a top contributor, and having spent years at the bottom of the barrel to feed his hunger and you’ve got a compelling package. He’s still got his shot, he’ll play physically, has played at center in the past as well as his normal right wing slot. With the right linemates he’s still got thirty goal potential.

Pascal Dupuis

At thirty four having had his two best seasons in the last two years, its probably safe to call Dupuis a late bloomer. The forty five goals in just two years represent 25% of his career total in a career that is two games short of 800. The versatile Quebec native has a strong two way game, is a good penalty killer, plays on the penalty kill and has been pretty healthy throughout his career. A team willing do double his $1.5 million a year salary and sign him for multiple years is likely to end up with a guy who will be happy to sign and play hard every night.

David Clarkson

Speaking of late bloomers, the undrafted David Clarkson toiled as a bottom six player for years. Two seasons ago he gets elevated minutes in the wake of an unremitting string of injuries to the Devils forwards. How does he respond? He tosses up a thirty rack of goals. After that ‘fluke’ he put up fifteen goals in the lockout shortened season a stat in which he lead the Devils. At 29, he’s got several more good years left in him.

Teemu Selanne

While it is likely his list of choices this summer are A: return to the Ducks or B: Retire with maybe, just maybe C: play in Europe a distant third, no one expects Selanne to do anything but one of the first two options. Diligent general mangers will still place a call, but it should be regarded as strictly pro forma.

Jaromir Jagr

Anyone expecting the top flight goal scorer of ten or fifteen years ago is sorely out of touch. He is however a quality playmaker, almost immovable when he’s got the puck, and one of the most underrated passers in the NHL. On a team that gets a lot of powerplays he could be a difference maker. Seeing him dive into the pile to protect the net this post season should be enough to convince people he’s still playing because he’s hungry and not that he just doesn’t know what else to do with himself.

The offer sheet had been a dead letter in the NHL until the mammoth offer sheet the Philadelphia Flyers dropped on the Nashville Predators  Shea Weber. The Predators ended up matching one of the largest offers in league history and signing their franchise cornerstone and most beloved player.

The left wings in this restricted free agent class have a wide variety of reasons to catch the attention of teams. Some are pure talents, some are being squeezed off the ice on deep teams that are deep up front. One or two more were involved in some trades recently.

Carl Hagelin

The New York Ranger had a notable points per game increase last year on a team that had a notable lack of contributions, particularly in the post season of some of their “best players”, that left the team struggling for offense. Hagelin was fourth n the Rangers in scoring in the regular season and third for the playoffs. While a qualifying offer will be under $750,000 it is unlikely he signs for less than two million a year. If for no other reason, teams like the Kings who need to add speed, the Red Wings who are still in need of quality young players, or the Islanders or Devils who just want to discomfort a division rival, Hagelin might end up with a new home address by the time the puck drops in October.

Benoit Pouliot

The former OHL and CHL rookie of the year has gotten around the NHL since being drafted. Taken in the fourth slot of the 2005 draft. The Minnesota Wild kept their draft selection for a couple years before shipping him to Montreal where he played a season and a half before moving on to Boston, and eventually being traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning in a draft day deal. His ability to draw penalties has been noted for two or three seasons, and while he doesn’t get a lot goals he has scored some very timely ones and has been known to dish a pretty pass here and there.

Magnus Paajarvi

Yet another of the Edmonton Oilers high draft picks. He’s split the last two seasons between the Edmonton club and the teams AHL affiliate Kansas City. With a mile and a half list of other high end youngsters the Oilers might wish to trade him to a cap strapped team for some defensive help, or maybe for some additional draft picks. A player who doesn’t take many penalties, he’s just got upside that will lead teams to at least kick the tires on him.

Mikkel Boedker

Two season ago when the Phoenix Coyotes advanced to the Western Conference finals, they couldn’t have done it without their Danish winger. Two overtime game winning goals made a lot of noise. The Coyotes have to be anxious to retain him, and teams short on left wing talent should certainly be looking in his direction.

Lane MacDermid

While he might be most famous as the answer to the trivia question “What player traded for Jaromir Jagr in 2013 had the most NHL experience?” MacDermid is also a rugged player capable of playing solid two way hockey and throwing punches with the best of them. The Dallas Stars also got a first round pick. With the west staying at just 14 teams for the next three seasons, his toughness might just buy some space for whoever he ends up playing with.

Every season, every series we get unexpected things. The NHL wth its grueling schedule, physical play, and hard working players you simply can’t escape the drama.

6: The New York Islanders; Throwing Blows

The Islanders may have gone down int he first round, but they didn’t go out alone. The Islanders in fact put Marc-Andre Fleury on the shelf and possibly set him up for a buyout. Another element of the surprises was which defenseman was tasked with defending Sidney Crosby. It wasn’t Lubomir Vishnovsky who probably owns the best league wide reputation in his own zone among the Islanders. It wasn’t Mark Streit, captain and slick skater. It was the 22 year old veteran of a slim 186 regular season games, Travis Hamonic. The St. Malo native performed admirably, and much to the surprise of many NHL observers, and Pittsburgh Penguins fans the series went six games.

5: Vancouver Canucks: Silence of the Twins, Voiding of Vigneault

The Sedin twins failure to score even one goal between them in the first round was stunning. Just two years removed from back to back MVP season for Henrik and Daniel, they were bound and gagged by the Sharks able only to contribute assists. The team was swept from the playoffs, and the coach, quite surprisingly was the one to bear the brunt of the organizational wrath. Alain Vigneault was fired quickly after the defeat opening the way for a new voice, and new system.The firing of a seemingly bullet proof coach, is always something that while frequently deserved, is almost always a surprise by the time it happens. Vigneault, seemed to lead a charmed life in Vancouver escaping blame for an underdisciplined team

4: Bryan Bickell: Post Season Superstar

To say this playoff run was a surprise would be a charming understatement. In this his fourth playoff run, Bryan  Bickell racked up what is north of 69% of his post season points total. The 41st pick of the 2004 draft racked up 85 hits, went a plus 11, and put up 17 points on his way to helping the Chicago BlackHawks hoist the cup for the second time in four years.

3: Pittsburgh Penguins: Swimming Like A Stone

The first round saw the Pittsburgh Penguins go blow for blow with division rivals the New York Islanders, and win. In the second round they had an opponent in their sights they had won handily against in several consecutive games. Unfortunately three things doomed them. The first was an offense that wilted under a punishing Bruins defense. The second was a lack of composure that saw Malkin get into his third NHL fight, Crosby not merely get in the face of the NHL’s apex predator, but start the confrontation, and the team as a whole fail to accomplish anything, and third was a lack of accountability that saw them make few adjustments, none effective. The team scored two goals in four games. They were shutout not once buy twice, and never managed to get into the series, much less take control of it. Hardly what one would expect from the team that won the eastern conference.

2: Patrick Kane: American Hero

Jokes about Kane’s life off the ice are as easy to make as hailing a cab, but no one can deny his on ice prowess. The speedy sniper put up g0als against every netminder he faced, scored timely goals and looked entirely relaxed doing it. The big stage isn’t something that makes Kane shrink and hide. What was surprising was to see him win the Conn-Smythe. Not just because he’s neither a goalie nor a center, but because he’s an American. You could make legitimate cases for Corey Crawford, Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith all of whom had enviable second seasons, and who had the good grace to be born Canadian. Kane is just the fourth American to win the Conn-Smythe and the third in a row, his former USA Olympic teammate Tim Thomas started the streak.

1: Anaheim Ducks: No Migration

The Ducks cruised through the regular season racking up wins with very nearly the easy and regularity of the Chicago squad, fans and NHL observers hoped for a Western Conference Finals for the ages between the Ducks and Blackhawks, but it was not meant to be. Despite scoring from depth players, solid goaltending from Hiller, and Getzlaf and Beauchemin providing leadership the Ducks lacked one thing that would keep them from taking flight into the second round; killer instinct. Game five ended with them up three to two in the series. They had home ice advantage, and went on to lose to the Detroit Red Wings in seven games.