For the Minnesota Wild I think the biggest goal in adding depth to the team is pretty simple; Don’t disrupt the chemistry. Offensively, and even at defense they don’t have a single current NHL superstar. Eric Staal once held that status, Ryan Suter probably should hold that status, and Zach Parise spent several years right on the cusp of superstardom, Mikko Koivu has been largely ignored in his career.

Hanzal at 30 will have all the things he should need to contribute without disrupting the locker room:

  • agemates
  • motivation to perform as he’s a UFA
  • the opportunity to play on a team that is easily the best of his pro career going into the playoffs.
  • no need to do everything
  • guys happy to see him because of what he brings

On top of that, being that Minnesota is a medium or small market, he won’t face the galactic size culture shock of going someplace like Montreal, Toronto, or one of the big cities where you not only have all the pressure of playing and winning but are likely to be set upon by fans, media, and traveling rival fans at any given moment. The Twin Cities are sure as heck going to be colder for the next few months than the greater Phoenix area, but playing hard and long shift will keep him warm. Not to mention the hope of a Cup playing for what is quite likely the most consistently good team of the year out west.

Win or lose in the playoffs, how he does for individual stats will greatly impact the number of teams, and number of dollars he is offered in July when he hits UFA status.

The first three days of the NHL season are in the books and while I’m not prepared to hand out any major awards or declare the Stanley Cup a given to anyone, there’s been some fun stuff to watch.

The Los Angeles Kings are so thin at forward that even when Marion Gaborik gets back on the ice it is still quite likely that Dwight King and Trevor Lewis will see top six minutes. Good guys, honest players they are, the core of an offense they should not be.

Did someone hide Jonathan Toews’ prescription strength discipline? He’s had a couple iffy penalties, and fight just two games into the season. I’m not sure anyone knows what’s going on here, but this looks more like the rattled guy Seabrook felt the need to comfort in the penalty box back in 2013 than ice cold muscle and sinew of the franchise people depend on.

A Patrice Bergeron deficient Boston Bruins squad is nothing the Causeway faithful have had cause to look forward to int he last twelve seasons, but in their first game of the season, fans were exposed to just that. The play wasn’t just iffy in the first half of the game, it looked like a scramble of eight year olds in their own end. They did right the ship and win, but only because of the extraordinary efforts of Marchand, Backes, Pastrnak. A quick look will tell you six forwards were held to one shot or less, including David Krejci the highest paid player on the team.

Auston Matthews put on a very memorable show, there are a couple things worth keeping in mind. First, the only notable defensive defenseman on the Senators is Phanuef, and he was only on the ice for one goal against. And two, a lot of the players who have had very memorable debuts  have gone on to be not very much. Matthews has talent, drive, and passable size, but no one knows what the future will bring.

It’s clearly October, Edmonton is at the top of the standings, where they will likely stay for two or even three more games.

Pay no attention to the rumors that Joe Thornton’s beard has acquired it’s own agent, and is looking to be traded.

The NHL schedulers have conspired to keep the Vancouver Canucks out of the loss column for as long as possible, on this the fourth day of the season they will play their first game.

The Arizona Coyotes who are a team to watch this season have an exciting mix of young stars up front, and what may be the most under rated top four on their blueline in the NHL.

Even knowing that he’s spent the bulk of his career in markets with less assertive media than places like Toronto, Boston, New York or Chicogo, I don’t know how James Neal escapes a well earned reputation for being one of the dirtiest players in the NHL. Head shots, slew foots, and more are a routine part of his game. Sure players like Shaw and Marchand are annoying, but they are looking to keep people off their game not off the roster.

Here’s a roundup of some of what’s going on in the hockey world:

I’m a bit surprised we haven’t seen this one from Patrick Kane or Alex Ovechkin.

General Manager Jim Benning is on record as saying the Canucks still need a top six winger. This is not a shock to anyone given that their second and third highest scoring wingers last season didn’t even hit 40 points. Not surprisingly they were second worst in goals for last season with a flaccid 186 goals for the season.

Kirk Luedeke has a look at the impact of undrafted free agents in the Boston Bruins system.

The Franchise To Be Named Later headed for Las Vegas is supposedly held up, in part by the London Knights, a junior team, located half a continent away. Maybe, just maybe for future NHL expansion prospective team owners should have a list of names to hand in with the rest of the paperwork. Personally if they can’t settle up with London, maybe go with Nevada Nighthawks. Seriously, the CFL had two teams with the same name, and somehow we can’t have an NHL team and a OHL team with the same name? How does that work for the Rangers?

It still looks like Vladimir Sobotka should be back in the NHL this fall. The gritty forward has had two solid years in the KHL. Last year he finished second on his team in scoring, up from fourth in his first year playing in Europe.

Mark Giordano of the Calgary Flames gets some love, or at least respect out of Logan Couture of the San Jose Sharks.

So who is the best Nashville Predator? For my money, I want to see a full season of Subban and Johansen before I make up my mind.

Good-bye Antoinne, and hello Dylan, or maybe Christian, watching the Coyotes off season just got a bit more interesting.

There are a number of teams with really good centers.

There are a number of teams who need good right wings.

Nearly every team is trying to keep their young lions in the minors or junior until  the expansion draft is a done deal.

Having watched Eric Staal’s career start circling the drain about three years ago, one has to wonder what the cause is:

  • apathy
  • cumulative injuries
  • playing (in Carolina) with a mostly AHL lineup
  • playing (in New York) under a coach who can’t or won’t make adjustments at any point after training camp

It is hard to say, but assuming he’s healthy and motivated, the best thing he could do would be to take a short money deal for one year to prove himself and maybe get another crack at the playoffs. On paper, barring the last couple seasons (and without the crippling price tag) he’s still a very attractive commodity. He’s big, he’s still got speed, he’s willing to hit, his shot is still something no goalie looks forward to having come at their head, and he’s free of a the types of injuries that make front offices panic.

Pushing his agent for a one year deal in a city with two or even three different style centers for him to play wing with would be the best situation. Assuming the Penguins had space Malkin, Crosby, and Staal on one team would be enough to make most defenses break before the midway point. So where are some spots that might be ideal for Staal?

  1. San Jose: The Sharks were in the finals for the first time in franchise history, adding a big body to play with on either of the top two lines would be an enormous boon.
  2. Arizona: The Coyotes missed the playoffs last year but have some incredibly talented youngsters on the roster. Domi, Duclair, and Staal could be dominant line. For a more veteran unit welding him to Vermette and Hanzal could be a very reliable two way line with more than a little offensive punch.
  3. Boston: With Bergeron, Krejci, and Spooner as the three top options at center, if Staal can’t regain his form here, he just needs to hang the skates up. The three play different styles and tempos and one would almost have to fit with one of them.
  4. Washington: Here Staal might just be a strong contender for a center slot in addition to his chances to play right wing opposite Ovechkin. Both Staal and Ovi are headed towards the end of their peak years, and the two together is something I don’t think many would want to defend.
  5. Nashville: Like Washington this might be a place for him to spend time at center and make big contributions. Laviolette would have to love the idea of Johansen and Staal dishing to Forsberg and Neal on two separate lines, or for that matter the four together as a high powered man advantage.

Wherever he sets his sights, he shouldn’t be aiming any higher than four million unless he’s just looking for an excuse to head to the KHL.

 This is a feature that will run about every two weeks with improbable stats and situations in the National Hockey League.

 

Players;

  • Among all defensemen with more than five games played there are still six with a perfect on ice save percentage; Ian Cole, Kevan Miller, and Erik Gudbranson, and three teammates Jonas Brodin, Ryan Suter, and Jared Spurgeon.
  • That Jay Harrison of the Carolina Hurricanes would lead the entire NHL in PIMS with 27, higher than the top three PIMs pilers from last season put together, all from a guy who’s never topped 72 PIMS, in just 6 games this year.
  • That six games into the season Carl Alzner would be finishing up in the offensive zone at a rate 24.4% less than his starts there, while still maintaining a positive plus minus.
  • That Daniel Carcillo, would lead all forwards in penalties drawn per sixty minutes and only have two himself.
  • Two plus weeks into the season there would be two defensemen playing over 28 minutes a night, Shea Weber and Ryan Suter.
  • That Chris Stewart would have the most shots on net without a goal standing at 26 shots and eight games with no goals.
  • At nearly the end of the first month of the season Evgani Malkin, Sami Vatanen, Trevor Daley, Claude Giroux, Johnny Boychuk, David Backes, Linden Vey, Brad Boyes, Scott Hartnell, Mark Giordano, Tyler Johnson, Tyson Barrie, Keith Yandle, Kevin Shattenkirk, John Carlson, Teddy Purcell, Jaromir Jagr, Alex Edler, Oliver Ekman-Larson (among others) would all have something important in common, they have all only scored a goal(s) on the powerplay.

Teams

  • Seven games into the season the Detroit Red Wings would be the final team not to have allowed a powerplay goal.
  • The Chicago BlackHawks would lead the NHL in shorthanded goals with two in just six games played.
  • the last two teams not to have scored a powerplay goal would be the Minnesota Wild and Buffalo Sabres.
  • the Carolina Hurricanes would be winless, a minus 29, and still have scored more goals per game than the Winnipeg Jets, Florida Panthers, and Buffalo Sabres.
  • The Boston Bruins would be 13th in the NHL in goals against.
  • Three teams, the Arizona Coyotes, Philadelphia Flyers, and Carolina Hurricanes would all be winless when scoring first.
  • The Columbus Blue Jackets would have the best differential between powerplay and penalty kill time after finishing 17th in the NHL last season.

The NHL season is here, and its time to take a quick look at all 30 teams and how they will start the season.

Anaheim Ducks: On paper, if their goaltending can be sorted out they might just be the best regular season team in the NHL. That said, the regular season is nearly meaningless when you start off this damn good.

Arizona Coyotes: Maybe the return of the distractions that hung over this team for half a decade will push it back into playoff position. Ekman-Larsson may be getting better every year, but Shane Doan isn’t getting any younger.

Boston Bruins: This is a solid team but the entire right side of the team is questionable, and with the trade of Boychuk the defense becomes much less steady.

Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres are working very hard at getting better while getting worse, the addition of Josh Georges makes the defense better, the loss of Ryan Miller leaves two goalies shaped question marks in the crease. Almost certainly a lottery team.

Calgary Flames: This team could have two legitimate All-Star’s this year and still be 10+ points out of the playoffs, no matter how good Giordano and Monahan are the rest are not.

Carolina Hurricanes: With Jordan Staal and Jeff Skinner down and out, things look grim for this season’s point total. Last year they hit 34 ROW’s, the same as the Detroit Red Wings, might not be achievable. Noah Hanflin or Oliver Kylington might not be the distant dream they seemed just a few weeks ago.

Chicago Blackhawks: Take a good long look at the core opening night, unless the cap goes up about ten million, they are really likely to be broken up, Hossa is almost 36, and Seabrook only has this and one more year left on his contract.

Colorado Avalanche: Regression to the mean is what all the advanced stats folks are expecting this season. I’ll just say that the new additions to the team, are going to slow it down…

Columbus Blue Jackets: With Johansen starting late, Horton’s career is in doubt, and Dubinsky is on the injured reserve, that said they still have a solid shot at the playoffs.

Dallas Stars: The off season fairy was kind to the Dallas Stars forward depth but their defense and goaltending could still use a gift or two.

Detroit Red Wings: Injuries, aging players, and a coach who might not return next season, what a recipe for success.

Edmonton Oilers: The Nikitin injury should accelerate the development of Darnell Nurse, add in the other injuries and it makes starting the season off on a good note difficult, on the plus side they only play three road games in October.

Florida Panthers: Willie Mitchell,, Roberto Luongo, and Jussi Jokinen are nice adds, I’m not sure the team escapes the bottom five but games will be closer.

Los Angeles Kings: Like the Blackhawks, this team is likely to be very different at the start of next season, is that enough to push them over the top into being the first team to repeat in the salary cap era? They didn’t add anyone, but this year, they also didn’t lose any of the core.

Minnesota Wild: Only four of the nine October games are at home including an opening night rematch with the Avalanche, and a visit to the defending Kings early on will tell people more about the healthy version of this team than anything else.

Montreal Canadiens: No captain, contract years for two key, young forwards, a reliable member of the defense gone, the much relied upon backup gone, this year could indeed be interesting times for the men in the CH.

Nashville Predators: For the first time in team history the Predators will have a new head coach and a new playing style, to compliment that James Neal, Olli Jokinen, and Derek Roy were added up front. General Manager David Polie has to hope he’s found the right way to make sure he’s not the next out the door.

New Jersey Devils: The End of The Brodeur Era is what is being talked about, some interesting additions have helped mask the other question; How much longer will the Lamoriello era last? On October 21st he’ll be 72 years old.

New York Islanders: The additions of Boychuk and Leddy at the end of training camp are the single most disruptive preseason moves in recent history. Fans, players, and executives have to hope upsetting balance in the standing follows.

New York Rangers: Depth and balance helped the blue shirts make the finals last year, this year they start off without Stepan, Pouliot, Richards, Dorsett, and Stralman are gone. An argument can be made that those voids are all filled, but that doesn’t mean the team is as good.

Nashville Predators: Rinne is healthy, Weber is ready, Neal and Roy are part of the squad, a better year is  ahead.

Ottawa Senators: If this team gets great goaltending they likely finish eight to ten points outside the playoffs, if they get average or bad goaltending they are in for a very long season. There just is much depth here to work with.

Philadelphia Flyers: This is a team with a lot of opportunity to change peoples minds. Mason, Simmonds, Giroux, Voracek all had solid seasons last year, but the rest of the squad is more question marks than answers.

Pittsburgh Penguins: In the off season they lost a third of their defense, a top six winger, and will enter the season with at least one of their best players below 100%.

Saint Louis Blues: The Blues have a really interesting team, and have a really good good shot at playing in the second half of April and beyond, the big question about this team is goaltending as it has been for years.

San Jose Sharks: This team is imperfectly mixed concrete. With all the outside pressure, maybe, just maybe the team will come together and like that imperfect concrete hold for just long enough.

Toronto Maple Leafs: In the first 10 games we’ll see if the team has fixed their penalty kill, if they have they are a notably better team they were last year on that alone.

Vancouver Canucks: More stability in net is great, but up front this team is clearly not as good as last year, GM Benning still has a long road ahead.

Washington Capitals: Picking up a solid pair of defensemen is good, taking them off the hands of a division rival is better. Wrapped up in that is the addition of someone who can arguably improve their mushy penalty kill.

Winnipeg Jets: Evander Kane is the only player on the team making over four million a year without a no trade clause, if he’s there at the end of the season is anyone’s guess.

The Boston Bruins are one of the teams with the roughest salary cap position heading into the season. They’re going to have to move someone. Probably more than one someone. Why might the much respected Campbell be part of the departing parade? His value as a penalty killer, his leadership, and the fact that he does have a Stanley Cup right make him worth something. It might be a prospect with 2-3 years before they are NHL ready, or it could be a draft pick.

The most logical teams to land him are teams for whom the difference in their penalty kill last year might have meant either making the playoffs, or advancing once in. So which teams make the most sense? Here’s the short list:

  • Arizona Coyotes.
  • Minnesota Wild
  • New York Islanders
  • Nashville Predators
  • San Jose Sharks

The Coyotes finished last season just two points outside the playoffs with the 26th ranked penalty kill in the NHL. Even with their goaltending issues finding two to three more points with a penalty kill that didn’t suck would have put them in the playoffs.

The Minnesota Wild finished with 98 points and the first Wild Card position. As good as the rest of the team was, with Campbell taking penalty kill minutes from Koivu and Parise who were both playing over 20 minutes a night last season, where do they end up? Do they get enough more points to climb into the 3rd or even second slot in the ultra-competitive central division?

The Islanders are a conference rival, and made other moves to improve their team this off season. One more move that takes them from the second worst penalty kill to something respectable could be what it takes to make the last game in their current stadium a playoff game. There’s already been rumors of Johnny Boychuk going to Long Island, why not make it a package deal?

The Nashville Predators are desperate to get back to the playoffs. New head coach with a new attitude and a like of rugged players who play they game the right way, its a natural fit. The penalty kill prowess, and faceoff wins would almost be a bonus for Peter Laviolette. Maybe a prospect like Saku Maenalanen is the return?

For the San Jose Sharks who have little to no problems in the regular season, Campbell might just be able to help fix their postseason woes. Campbell played well in the Boston Bruins Stanley Cup Run, and could help solidify both the locker room and the post season shorthanded play.

The Pacific division is probably the murkiest to forecast, you’ve got the defending champs last seasons top team in the western conference, an several teams that made changes that could add up to a better or worse finish.

Top Shelf

Anaheim Ducks

Last season they were one of two teams to finish with more than 50 regulation or overtime wins. They addressed the need for a second line center when they acquired Ryan Kesler, and solidified the third or fourth line by adding Nate Thompson. They did get a bit more questionable in goal moving on from Hiller and bringing John Gibson into the mix. One can ask how much of a distraction the absence or even the potential return of Sheldon Souray is, but it is impossible to know. They were handily the best regular season team in the league last year, if the coach can keep from jostling the elbow of the goaltenders, they might just finish with even more points this year.

San Jose Sharks

California’s only team not to win a Stanley Cup enters the season in a unique position among contenders; they have cap space. The only other major differences from this time last year are the departure of Boyle, the ‘lack’ of a captain, and Burns going back to defense full time. If the Sharks were to help themselves out in the early season by swindling one of the cap strapped teams like say Chicago out of Kris Versteeeg, they could be more than a handful in the regular season and still have cap space to work with when the trade deadline rolls over the horizon. At first look Boyle’s departure would appear to be a big loss to the Sharks powerplay, as it is, they were 20th in the NHL last year with the man advantage.

Wild Cards

Los Angeles Kings

The defending champs are returning a very high percentage of their Cup winning roster. Which is good in the sense that there’s a high level of ability to work together successfully and feed off each other emotionally. It is bad in the sense that you have to have something to feed off of. Most of this roster has now won two Stanley Cups. Many of them have played in the Olympics as well. That’s a lot of hockey, a lot of travel, and not a lot of rest. More good news is that this year they enter with Martin Jones ably backing up Quick. The two are a great one-two punch in net.

Arizona Coyotes

They were so close to making it into the playoffs last year. This despite a rather poor overall season by Mike Smith, and the distractions surrounding Mike Ribiero at the end of the year. If the team as a whole can turn three of the overtime losses from last year into wins (preferably in regulation) they make it in. If its five they are in comfortably. A full season of Sam Gagner and Tippet willing, Domi could add a lot more finesse than the roster has seen years.

The Rest

Vancouver Canucks

The Canucks have a new General Manager, a new goalie, and are almost certainly worse off than last season. No Kesler, and a cut rare replacement. The Sedins are past their prime. To put it in perspective, last year despite less games played Mikko Koivu finished with more points than either twin. While Ryan Miller is probably a better goalie than Roberto Luongo, it remains to be seen if he can catapult the team into the playoffs given how patchy the roster is. The good news I suppose, is that when the trade deadline rolls around they have some depth players who can be dealt for picks and young prospects.

Calgary Flames

This team has an inside lane to the draft lottery. They lost Mike Cammalleri to free agency. Even with the young, and talented players who may be added to the roster for the season this is not a good team. Between Giordano and Hiller they’ll likely stay in a lot of games. but beyond that there’s not a lot in the way of difference making talent on this team. There are some solid players like Hudler and Glencross who will be a help to younger players like Sean Monahan,  Johnny Gaudreau, and Lance Bouma.

Edmonton Oilers

The Oilers on paper are better than they were last year. Hockey is played on ice. I happen to consider Nikita Nikitin a bit under rated league wide. He’s a solid second pairing defenseman who finally got a tastes of the playoffs last year. I’m not quite as high on Aulie or Fayne, but they are at least serviceable. Benoit Pouliot joined them for the opportunity to become a highly paid third line winger who has never scored twenty goals. Not a great decision, especially he length of the contract. Even if you consider all the additions worth twelve points and the maturation of the core talent worth another five, come April they’ll still be looking up at more teams than they are looking down at.

The Phoenix Coyotes summer overshadowed the season. The single most important event to happen since the franchise landed in the deseret, owners took over who were committed to keeping the Coyotes in Glendale. The team’s season wasn’t what they wanted. Oliver Ekman-Larsson continued to grow and develop. Mike Smith was a cornerstone, and Keith Yandle led the Coyotes in scoring.

The draft and the summer were good for the team too. Max Domi is the biggest name on the prospect list, but Henrick Samuelsson, Connor Murphy and Andy Miele will try and steal some of the limelight and earn a spot on the roster. With a roster that so lacked in offense last year (21st), anyone who can play responsible two way hockey and put the puck in the net has a good chance of making the roster this year.

The Phoenix Coyotes will open the season at home, and then go on a road trip that crosses the continent. After hosting the New York Rangers at home, they will travel to face the San Jose Sharks, Detroit Red Wings, New York Islanders, and Philadelphia Flyers. That’s four playoff teams, five cities and three timezones.

Number of days 1-5: 8

Number of cities: 5

Best opponent: Detroit Red Wings

Weakest opponent: Philadelphia Flyers

Home games: 1

Projected points:  5

The future is now for the Coyotes, with five years to become a profitable, team and build a fanbase that will make future lean years both rare and survivable; the clock is ticking. They have draft some interesting talent, they have some All-Stars, and a good coach. Ownership should take the most important marketing measures and add one or two talented players through trade to put this team on the map locally, and internatiionally. The first week of the season will be tough, the month perhaps better a bit better with only has two back to back sets. Shane Doan, Mikkel Boedker, Zybnek Michalek and the rest of the teams most reliable players will need to step forward and hold the line for Coyotes to be playing in the third week of April.