With the deadline looming, and about a bakers dozen games left for many team, it is time to take a look at what we know about all the teams in the NHL.
Pittsburgh: We know Ray Shero likes to make deadline trades, we know health is sorta returning for this team. We also know that with a current cumulative cap hit higher than next years cap, and Morrow’s decline and questionable health that this is likely a one shot deal for the guys currently in uniform.
Montreal: It’s kinda hard to figure out why more people aren’t excited about his team. They are fifth in goals for, ninth in goals against, there only real bad component is their penalty kill. While we’re at it, Tomas Plekanec deserves way more attention than he gets, if he could drag the penalty kill into respectability, or even just score a shorthanded goal or two he’d be on my Selke shortlist.
Winnipeg; We know this team needs desperately to buy quality defense at the deadline. Adding offense wouldn’t hurt at all, but the backend needs to come first they are one of just two top eight teams in the east to allow triple digit goals already.
Boston: This team needs an attitude adjustment. They do not have the raw focus or hunger they did in their Cup winning year, what body they add isn’t the solution, the size of the fight in that dog is.
Ottawa; Clearly this is a team made up of undercover superheros, or at least the guys left on the ice. They might not go to far this year, but oh man this team has some good young talent and might even lead the conference if they were healthy. A cheap rental forward who can add to the scoring would be nice, but this team could easily produce an upset or two.
Toronto: The fact that no real changes have been made to this team since Brian Burke was fired, and it has just about locked up a playoff spot means he shouldn’t have too much trouble landing his next GM job, and probably trading for Kadri, Gardiner, and Grabovski or pennies on the dollar.
New Jersey: The Devils have spent all season proving last season wasn’t a fluke. How they’ve done this is anyones guess. They are winning right now even without Kovalchuk, It would not surprise me if they became sellers at the deadline, but in a very limited sense.
New York Rangers: We know this is either the Eastern Conference’s best bad team or worst good team. We know time is running out on the current off ice leadership for this team. We know in order to get this level of under-performance elsewhere in sports you’d have to threaten professional cycling with accurate testing and jail time for violators. We know that if the Islanders and Devils make the playoffs and the Rangers don’t the angst in Blue Shirt nation will be legendary
New York Islanders: We know John Tavares should be getting way more attention than he does, he is after all over a point per game, second in goals, and seventh in points. If the Islanders make the playoffs, he has to be on the Hart shortlist. We know that Brad Boyes would be a frickin’ idiot to sign anywhere else next season given that he has more points in 34 games this season, than in 65 last year.
Carolina: With several games in hand their current 10th place position is deceiving, we know however they need to win those games. We know that Cam Ward isn’t nearly as irreplaceable as the faithful would have you believe. We know that Jeff Skinner (signed to a big endorsement deal by Dewey, Slewfoot and Diver) will probably not like the attention he receives night after night from top defenses.
Washington: We know that Adam Oates deserves a boatload of capital for turning the ship around on the fly without the benefit of a training camp, stable goaltending, or a team with any confidence in itself. He’s also got Ovechkin back to a point per game by using that weird thing called logic and letting him play more minutes. We also know that this team still isn’t built right and that problem still resides at a higher level than Oates.
Tampa Bay: We know that Yzerman is just as good at constructing a defense as he was at fighting.
We know he needs to fix that if he’s going to make it to his fourth year as general manager. He’s clearly good at identifying offensive talent, so swapping some of the current stable to rebuilding or needy teams for a veteran defenseman or two shouldn’t be completely impossible.
Buffalo: We know Terry Pegula can’t be pleased with the state of his hockey team. We know that with next years realignment no one with an ounce of hockey sense would pencil this team into next years standings about sixth place without major changes. We know if they blow up the team right they could have a pretty good chance at drafty both Seth Jones and Connor Mcdavid.
Philadelphia: We know the keep defenseman healthy the same way The Real World finds the mentally unbalanced to film every season. We know that no to long ago the Flyers went to the Stanley Cup finals, and have regressed further and further every year. WE know this is another team that’s due for some administrative housekeeping even if the health problems make things look worse than they are.
Florida: We know that last year despite an absurd amount of injuries the team went toe to toe with the eventual Eastern Conference champions. We know that this year, another absurd amount of injuries and dramatically poorer goaltending from the guys not named Markstrom have lead not to the Southeast division title but once again to the eastern conference basement. We know they have a couple more solid prospects in the pipeline. We know there is tons and tons for Dale Tallon and company to do.
The Montreal Canadiens will enter the draft with few desperate needs. They had a horrible season that included chaos in the administration, coaching Non-Francophone-roulette, injuries galore and substandard performances from key players. Realistically though given the previous years performance, the growth of players like Paccioretty and Diaz going nuclear isn’t reasonable.
The top need would be for an effective center for the two lines. With the third pick it’s unlikely the draft will be over before they choose. Russian Mikhail Grigorenko could be just the pick. Having played in the Q this season he spent his first North American hockey season playing right in the Habs backyard. With a set of solid numbers and a high ranking by NHL Scouting Central and International Scouting Services all year, he might just be the best option. He could also be gone.
Riskier because of injury, but less likely to bolt to the KHL is American Alex Galchenyuk. An injury cost him nearly all of his season, but he had a strong performance at the NHL Entry Draft Combine. He also picked up four points after returning from his knee injury. Virtually the same size as Grigorenko, Galchenyuk was just the fourth American born player to be taken at number one in the OHL priority draft.
Other names that are less likely, but could still happen are Radek Faksa of the Kitchner Rangers. Another big body, the left shooting center just finished his rookie season in the OHL, and represented his native Czech Republic at the World Juniors. Filip Forsberg is the top ranked European, but like Thomas Hertl of the Czeck Republic might be downgraded similar to college players for the shorter seasons of many European leagues when compared to the major junior or NHL seasons.
While I don’t see a defensemen as the most needs based move, I’m not their general manager or head of scouting. there’s a lot of good blueline talent. There is even a very slight possibility Yakupov could drop to third. Another option is drafting a top goaltending prospect, like one Malcom Subban.
The big question affecting the draft and all else is how well management feels negotiations are progressing with key players on expired contracts at the time of the draft. Carey Price and P.K. Subban have to be considered priorities 1a and 1b, while both are RFA’s the NHL’s dead letter known as the offer sheet remains a possibility for both. There aren’t many starting goalies of any quality available this off season, and arguably none of Price’s ability. Subban is also an intriguing option for a team moving upwards. He’s about the same age as the young forward cadre and Edmonton and on the New York Islanders.
This is the fourth installment of the dive for the first overall pick. Earlier editions can be found at three, two and one.
Ain’t no dive like a Montreal dive
’cause a Montreal dive don’t stop
The Montreal Canadiens were perhaps the most successful divers around the deadline. They kicked the party off weeks early by dropping Mike Cammalleri (@MCammalleri13) for Rene Bourque (@RBourque17). The first has had seasons of 39 and 34 goals as well as being a point per game player in the playoffs over 32 games. Rene Bourque has never topped 27 goals, and his playoff performance is something like one half the quality of his regular season norm over his career. Next out the door was locker room leader, Stanley Cup champion, shutdown defensive defenseman Hal Gill. He too was shipped out in advance of the deadline. Last was a blow to local nightclubs as Andrei Kostitsyn, In both the Gill and Kostitsyn trades the Habs didn’t take back a single NHL player. They did however go with one of their traditional “heritage picks” by grabbing Blake Geoffrion, who wasn’t offensively gifted enough to stay in the Predators lineup.
In a bid to avoid having any sort of quality depth Scott Howson General Manager of the Columbus Blue Jackets set the asking price for Rick Nash at roughly a Dr Evil like figure. Apparently neither Glen Sather or Pierre Gauthier had working phones the last two weeks. He did also add a defenseman who according to fans of his first team was utterly useless, and lose a former first round pick in the fabled 2003 draft. In order to make sure accountability didn’t creep into the team mentality they gave the aging Vaclav Prospal a hefty raise for turning in a -17 and 8.3% shooting accuracy. They carefully avoided trading for any quality players in the future as well. As compensation for moving Pahlsson, Smithson, and Vermette they picked up two fourth round picks, a 2nd round pick, a fifth round pick, and UFA journeyman goalie Curtis McElhinney. I’m reasonably certain the entire central division and likely the whole league was put on notice by these shrewd moves.
The Edmonton Oilers are smack dab in the middle of the fourth five year plan to rebuild. In mid February they traded guys none of the beat writers could pick out in a broom closet with the Anaheim Ducks. On deadline day they swapped blueliners with the Minnesota Wild. The trade was greeted with a heaping helping of meh with a generous side of wtf by fans and observers. The team is in danger of not having the most balls in the lottery machine for the first time a while if they don’t somehow find a way to get 11 less points than Columbus the rest of the season. Unfortunately for their quest it appears Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will be playing a couple more games as he’s patently refused to stay out of a lineup he lacked the muscle to stay in and stay healthy having recovered from two shoulder injuries already.
The tailgating fans in Raleigh have had little to celebrate this season. Sadly the brain trust of the Carolina Hurricanes didn’t even raise their hopes on deadline day. None of that reason to celebrate came in the days leading up to the deadline. Nor did they happen on the deadline itself. While shedding Alexi Ponikarovsky for a minor league defenseman and a fourth round pick probably seemed like a great way to make sure the Devils didn’t make the playoffs either, it hasn’t worked out that way. As the deadline drew nearer and nearer Jim Rutherford locked up more and more of the players who have helped the team to a tie for 27th place in the NHL. Showing all the savvy that saw him sign Kaberle to a bloated deal he handed out a number of surprising contracts. Showing none of the savvy that saw him trade Kaberle he didn’t trade any of his players for picks while telling them it was for the good of the team and that things might change in the future.
The good news for New York Islanders fans this season is that people now with an All Star appearance behind him know who John Taveres is. The bad news is pretty much everything else. Rick Dipietro is still healthy as a middle ages town in the grip of the black plague, his contract still expires roughly two years past forever. There is no deal for an arena, and on deadline day they biggest asset they picked up is MarcCantin. None of the unsigned players like Parenteau or Nabokov who they probably want to keep were locked up, and none of the aging stiffs were shuffled off free tattoo gift certificates or second round picks.
Given the quality of the teams its likely that Yakupov or whoever might go first overall if someone has a stroke on their way to the podium will toil in obscurity for several years possibly as the only player keeping the franchise afloat. Eventually he’ll either leave as a free agent or get sold up the river to another franchise desperate for success but with little else to build with. Hopefully for his sake he’ll be able to justify the hundred thousand year contract someone will try signing him to.
In case you fell out of a dimensional rift in the last few hours, Sam Gagner taken 6th in the 2007 NHL Entry draft, and restricted free agent at the end of the season, had a good night last night. An eight point night to be specific. The last time that happened he hadn’t been born. He shares the Edmonton Oilers record of 8 points with a couple guys who’s names you know so I won’t bore you with them. Here’s the video of last nights fun:
Am I the only one greatly amused by the Mcguire for Canadiens GM movement that seems to be sweeping the hockey world? Honestly, I know he annoys some people by being on the air. This won’t help. He’s likely have a press conference daily any way, and how long do we really think it will take the Bell Centre faithful to eat him alive and force Molson to replace him? In his extensive tour of duty as a coach back before the lockout, the CBA, Sidney Crosby or the ends of the Stanley Cup droughts in Chicago or Boston he lasted all of six months. No coaching and managing are not the same task but Mcquires capacity for the first has to be used as a benchmark or ballpark figure to estimate his ability at the second. It’s realistically the only benchmark. His only other head coaching experience was in the ECHL, another team that failed to reach the playoffs under him.
The other slice of the “Habs need help” pie is just as hilarious. That being the Patrick Roy for coach. First the thought of Roy bellicose aura not killing and eating Mcquires ego is just too much for words. Anyone thinking the two personalities could coexists as anything other than a Jersey Shore gone hockey reality show is deluded. Saint Patrick is owner, general manager, and coach of his QMJHL Remparts. That isn’t hugely uncommon, but I don’t think Roy ever shared the spotlight at the NHL level except when he went to Colorado. I really, really don’t know how well he’d do in either Montreal or Colorado where rumors surface every six months about him arriving to drive the suckage from the mile high city. Assuming he jumps to the NHL, either team is pretty bad and unquestionably need fixing, but if he’s the right guy is a different question entirely.
The upcoming NHL Entry draft will soon emerge from the shadow of the NHL trade deadline and playoffs. The unsurprising, but still important news that this draft class contains almost no forwards worth knowing is pretty apparent from who has been talked about. Dumba, Murray, Finn, Keokeok, Trouba, Ceci, Finn, Reilly, Reinhart are just a few of the young men who have been mentioned as potential top 15 picks on multiple lists this season, and all of them are defensemen. That’s pretty amazing given the aversion some NHL general managers to drafting defensemen. Knowing several of the GM’s who will be drafting early, expect no more than 5 defensemen to go in the top ten, three is probably more likely. The only thing I can see changing that would be those GM’s trading their firsts for NHL ready prospects or players.
When the NHL CBA talks eventually become the top news in the hockey world, don’t think for a minute this will be as simple as owners vs players. This will be big market teams vs small, older players vs younger, stars vs role players. Divisions will center around revenue sharing both among teams and with players. Escrow figures and who if anyone will be be exempt from them are a likely topic as well. One of the favorite topics of pundits over the last month or two surrounding the next collective bargaining agreement is if there will or won’t be a one time get buyout period similar to the NBA’s to rid teams of bad contracts. An issue that might or might not come up is Olympic play. With the 2014 Olympics looming, some players will be very eager to represent their country even if the NHL doesn’t formally break for the festivities. Realignment will also end up on the table. I would not be terribly surprised to see ownership pushing for a unilateral right to rearrange divisions and schedule formats.
Future NHL Head Coach Shawn Thornton has a solution the Boston Bruins current woes:
"It’s simple: show up." - Shawn Thornton, after loss to Carolina on what the Bruins can do differently http://t.co/ctWNcQnP
This is part two, part one which had 8-10 and an honorable mention is here.
Number seven: Mad For Marchand
One of the most mesmerizing stories for fans was the hellion from Halifax making the team. He wasn’t supposed to. Arniel, Hamill, Suave, Caron, Colborne were all counted to be well ahead of Marchand on the depth chart. Legend has it he told Julien before the season started he was going to score twenty goals. He started the season on the fourth line. Unless you’re the Lemieux-Jagr era Penguins, not many teams have 20 goal scorers on the fourth line. He managed to just barely squeeze Daniel Paille out of playing time early in the season. Over the course of the regular season he got under the skin of opponents, into the stat sheet often and into the hearts of millions of Bruins fans. In the playoffs he put himself in company with Lemieux and Roenick for rookie goal scoring in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Number six: Pacioretty Hit
No other hit was as analyzed, dramatized and polarizing in the last decade of NHL hockey as this one. From the word go Chara was vilified, the Montreal populace whipped into a fury by the most irresponsible media in north America. The police were involved, an investigation continued for months, and months not ending until November for an incident that occurred back in March. The NHL concluded there was no intent to injure, Chara was not suspended or fined, but so hostile was the environment that when the playoffs started and the Bruins were set to square off with the Canadiens they didn’t even stay in the province and went instead to Lake Placid New York for practice and rest in peace and safety.
Number 5: Marc Savard
One of the saddest stories in recent memory for the Bruins played out as the team climbed to the greatest heights. Marc Savard had come back earlier than he should have from his concussion to take part in the disaster that ended the previous season. He missed more than twenty games to start the new season, and then was hit by former teammate Matt Hunwick. The hit was clean, but it was a clarifying moment that Savard should not play again soon.
As time passed it became apparent “not soon” could transition to “not again”. As more time expired updates went from “no change” to “still experiencing symptoms”. Undoubtedly, the loss of Savard led to the Kaberle trade as Savards offensive wizardly was the corner stone of the Bruins powerplay. As he began to improve slightly he made appearances at games, sitting with Bergeron in the luxury box when Bergeron sat out two games during his own concussion. As spring turned to summer Savard took to twitter (@MSavvy91) and become one of the most entertaining players with welcome insight into the Bruins, and a knack for knowing who’s going to get hot.
Just over a year ago I wrote a piece about who has the greatest influence on a teams personality. Go ahead, take a look. I don’t see way what I said then was untrue, but it was not complete. I had hoped to follow it up sooner, but well real life and Stanley Cup run got in the way. I’m only sorry one of those happened.
It’s undeniable that there’s more than one way to build a winning team. Every general manager on the planet believes they have the right recipe. Some of them are even right. Part of the winning is just dumb luck, but only part, While the general manager, all his appointees and luck play a part in what a team will look like, just like cooking at very high or very low altitude the environment will heavily influence what a team can be made of.
The last four Stanley Cup champions clearly illustrate the differences in how one can win. Most recently the Boston Bruins did it with great goaltending, stout defense, raw physicality, questionable special team and depth. The Chicago Blackhawks did it with an amazingly deep cadre of skaters, blueline and forward lines were stacked like nothing since the Roy/Bourque Avalanche, and in the crease they had a rookie goalie who was occasionally average. The Pittsburgh Penguins won with firepower, firepower, and more firepower. The Detroit Red Wings won with a not especially physical, opportunistic, puck possession team that played a smooth skating game in front of a six week star between the pipes.
Ask each of those teams fan bases which team plays the best style. Each group will overwhelmingly tell you it’s their team. If you ask the fans of the Montreal Canadiens, New Jersey Devils or Minnesota Wild the same question the answers will be very similar. Ask any Bruins fan how they’d react to the knights of north station suddenly playing like the Habs and be prepared for stream of invective of astonishing strength. Likewise if you offer to turn the Wild into the Broad Street Bullies, you’ll be met with heartfelt but probably more politely expressed disgust. I don’t think anyone needs to ask fans in Vancouver and Chicago how much they’d adore swapping teams.
Part of the expectations of each fanbase is history and tradition. The Canadiens have been built around goaltenders for decades. The Boston Bruins have lived and died by great defensemen. The Pittsburgh Penguins success has been leashed to highly talented centers. You don’t want to be a bad goalie in Montreal. Heaven help a poor defenseman in Boston,
The longer these traditions extend, the harder they are to move. I don’t think you could market the Red Wings team that spanned the lockout in Boston. For established teams this is both blessing and curse. If you win the traditional way, you probably won’t hold fan support much better than if you’re mediocre for years. For teams that haven’t won the Cup, or who have had unstable ownership and no real identity establishing one that will keep fans in the seats, the proshop and at the tv is huge.
The expansion teams, even the long established ones who haven’t won a Cup or two or haven’t had sustained high level play have the most finicky markets for a reason; there’s nothing for a supporter to cling to. The Senators are an example of this. When they first came into the league they were built on great skating, rugged defense and a remorseless attack. Now, they have some skilled players but no depth and less identity. The Canucks are another example of this. If they had won the cup last June, even as bad as he played the calls for moving Luongo (who isn’t the reason they lost) wouldn’t be anywhere near as loud or frequent. Don’t believe me? Look at the way the Boston media has reacted to Tim Thomas, Zdeno Chara and Claude Julien this year versus two or three years ago.
The greatest rivalry in sports rejoins the fray. As always PuckSage, PuckSage.com, the NHL, The Bruins, Canadiens and anyone else you might try and blame your problems on assume no responsibility for your actions but promise to Like the Youtube video of you doing something regrettable.
Take One Drink:
For each fist pump of Rene Rancourt, or one for each bar in which an alternate singer misses a note.
Each time Carey Price is shown doing the Dryden pose.
Tim Thomas is shown smiling.
Someone mentions Perry Pearn
The words “hot seat” or “hangover” are used to describe either team.
Take Two Drinks:
Each time the Subban hit on Marchand is played.
For each replay of video from this springs playoffs.
For each injury injury mentioned.
If a Montreal skater switches between forward and defense at any point in the game.
Take Three Drinks:
If there is a post whistle scrum involving P.K. Subban and no one gets between him and whichever Bruins player he’s annoyed.
If there is a replay of Jack or Bricks best lines from the playoff series.
Each time the broadcast makes it to a commercial break without mention to the Chara-Pacioretty hit from last season.
Take Four Drinks:
If the all time record for the teams is mentioned.
Someone mentions the last time the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup.
Cole scores a goal.
Pouliot scores a goal.
The pain of hearing about “The Kids” in Edmonton drives you to needing pain relief.
Video or screen shots of something that happened in the game make it to twitter or a major blog before the end of the game.
Skip A Drink:
When Subban or Marchand are on the ice and someone else on their team is doing most of the jawing.
If Chara loses it because someone took liberties with a team mate.
This series will cover all thirty teams and go over the most important player, and player who’s performance most needs to improve to help the team succeed.
Habsland is always equipped with its own view of the universe. The Brain Trust added a couple pieces, let Hamerlik walk, but didn’t seem able to dump any of its more unfortunate contracts when teams were dying to get to the cap floor, nor did they seem too keen on any of their prospects. None of the roster moves really strike anyone as well, impacting.
Carey Price had the type of year last season that should fill every Canadiens fan with glee. He played a huge number of games, put up great numbers and then improved them in the post season. If the team came equipped with more than one potential goal scorer it might have been them and not the Boston Bruins meeting the Vancouver Canucks for an All-Canada All-Riots Stanley Cup Finals.
PK Subban has is entering his second full season in the NHL. With a very solid 38 points on an offensively challenged team he’s clearly got the goods to juice the offense almost at will. With 124 PIMS that included 2 ten minute misconducts, nine tripping calls and six slashing infractions discipline is something he’s going to have to tighten up. With increased powerplay time expected and a full year for the coaches to access him its clear he’ll be given enough rope to hang himself or succeed as he can.
This series will cover all thirty teams and go over the most important player, and player who’s performance most needs to improve to help the team succeed.
If there is a team more in need of a post season cup of coffee than Ohio’s boys of winter I can’t think of who they might be. With their additions since their season ended in early April, and the chance of a sparkling rookie breaking the line up they have a good chance of making it happen. With the new deal that will lower the financial burden of the team and keep them in the city longer they should also have a little more flexibility to retain talent.
While Captain Rick Nash is undoubtedly more talented, than Jeff Carter the latter is the key to the season. Jeff Carter has been on high end teams with a legitimate shot at winning the cup. No forward on the BlueJackets has more recent playoff experience, and some have never been on a team that has won a playoff game. Carters experience will need to be passed on to his new teammates and how much how well he does this will affect the teams post season hopes and performance can’t be understated.
Of all the major deals struck over the summer, James Wisniewski received perhaps the most discussed. It is easy to see why when you hit the stat sheet. His salary this season will be more than twice what it was last year. Despite having debuted in the NHL in the 05-06 season last season was the first year he played more than 70 games (75), and the only season he’s had more than 31 points. This is also the first multi-year deal since his entry level deal. On the plus side of the ledger when he got the chance to play quality minutes in an offensive role last season it took him just 43 games to equal his best NHL production level previously achieved in 69 games. He also managed to collect points in a hard fought series against the eventual Stanley Cup Champions. It’s pretty simple, if last year was the real James Wisniewski Columbus just got a new cannon for the blueline. If last year was an aberration, they may never live his contract down and heads will likely roll.