Every season brings us a new saga, hundreds upon hundreds of games, thousands of plays, innumerable shifts. First, last, and always there are the players. Thanks to league coverage we experience every moment and non-event of certain superstar’s season as if we were on the receiving end of Mike Milbury’s most notable near ice exploit. But there are nearly a thousand players to watch each season, and it can be hard to winnow out interesting players. A few of the stories worth knowing this year will begin in earnest when the puck drops in game one.

12: Josh Anderson

The subject of one of the very few long term contract disputes. He’s on a team that was up, down, sideways, and vastly entertaining last season. One of the better reasons to end contract talks early is to keep players on the ice and in the groove with rest of the team. Consistency was the most notable lack for the team last year. When teams can’t figure out how to get their talent back on the ice they are handicapping both the player and, if they don’t replace him adequately, the team. As it stands Anderson will be starting his race to midseason form a standstill while the rest of the team, and NHL has a quarter lap running start.

11: Corey Perry

Once a fifty goal scorer. Once a forty goal scorer. Once automatically considered the among the top players in the entire NHL. Once. Last year “Scorey Perry” barely did. With just nineteen goals despite playing all 82 he was 103rd in goals. A player making more than eight and a half million tripping and falling into less than twenty goals is appalling. His four goals in 17 playoff games wasn’t anything to write home about. Was the crash from 34 goals to 19 just a blip, or is he the first of the great players of the staggering 2003 draft to fall into ignominy?

10:  John Taveres

For better or worse we won’t hear the end of the John Tavares to everywhere rumors until he is either moved and signed longterm or signed by the New York Islanders (or is it Seattle Islanders?). The teams management hasn’t done much to make him stick around. The best player on defense is probably Johnny Boychuk, their goaltending alternates between trash-fire and merely bad, and aside from himself they might have two bonafide top six forwards. Ownership seems to think a viable arena is optional. What happens here will likely tell us where the franchise will be three and five years from now.

9: Jonathan Marchessault

Last year lightning stuck 30 times for an entirely unheralded, undersized, unassuming Cap-Rouge native. The former Tampa Bay Lightning player moved cross state and changed his fortune going from an unremarkable 18 points in 45 games to a breathtaking 30 in a Florida Panthers uniform. One of the players the Golden Knights acquired by trade, he will be playing for his third NHL team in as many seasons and his fourth overall.This year he in addition to a new coach, a new city, a new conference, and a brand new team he’ll be playing for a shiny new contract. He’ll be a UFA on July 1. Where he ends the season is anyones guess both on the map and the stats sheet.

8: Jaromir Jagr

All the reasons to sign him, and it took until October to do it. He’s good for butts in seats, merchandise, and concessions even against teams as wretched as the Avalanche. Leaving aside all the records he’s likely to hit this year, there is the question of how well he’ll adjust (if that’s the right word given his style of play) to another new team, another new city, and what he’ll do for you know, offense.

7: Malcolm Subban

The surname alone makes him noticeable. Close observers will note he’s one of the most athletic players around. Utterly mismanaged in his time in Boston, it will be interesting to see him thrive in a new situation. With him now in the western conference there is a small chance he will play against both his younger and older brothers in the same week. And while no one counts it likely, the chance exits two or more of them could be featured All Star weekend. While I won’t claim he’s the fantasy value of his better known brother, there are more than a few worse goalies in the NHL.

6: Evander Kane

The questions around this guy are nearly as endless as the talent. Is the off ice smoke racially charged nonsense or is he really a dick? Is he able to stay healthy enough for two or three seasons to have another year like last year or when he scored 30? Will he continue to mesh with Eichel to be one of the best duos in the NHL at full strength? Will he be retained on the team. His usually linemate has been signed to what is the new reasonable contract for high end talent. If he isn’t retained will they get the right return for him?

5-1 coming soon, in the meantime listen to the latest Two Man ForeCheck.

With a summer full of discussion of various RFA’s remaining unsigned far, far to long, and of course the saga of the unsigned Jaromir Jagr, people have left out the other future hall of fame inductee. This particular winger is younger, still faster, and despite the years still more pugnacious. Obviously I’m talking about Jarome Iginla.

The last few years of Iginla’s career have been spent entombed in the Colorado Avalanche roster. His numbers tailed off. That’s undeniable. What’s also undeniable is that Colorado Avalanche have been the worst team in the NHL for most of the last half decade and beyond. Amazingly, they are getting worse. They don’t have a defense worth naming, their goaltending, which would be uninspired behind a good six pack, can’t pick up the slack, and the forwards… the less said about the defense of the forwards as a collection the better.

Iginla had just eight goals in 61 games for Colorado before being traded. The eyeball test will tell you that’s ungood. No need for fancy stats. What happened when he got to a team that was also struggling enough to fire the coach who brought them two cups? Well, he stretched the twine six times in 19 games. Taken over a an 82 game season that’s on pace for 25 goals (no rounding).  And that’s on a team who’s offense was carried all season by Jeff Carter and the equipment guy who made sure #77 had his skates and sticks.

So right now, 31 NHL clubs are sitting about staring off into space while a guy who has no character issues, is physical, a sniper, a leader, and hungry for a Stanley cup is still unsigned. Based on last years goal totals, if the Arizona Coyotes had gotten 25 goals from Iginla they’d have likely picked up another seven or eight wins on the year, meaning they slide even with or even pull ahead of last years Kings. The New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning each finished within a win of the playoffs. One win over the course of 82 games. A motivated, experienced veteran goal scorer could be exactly that difference maker.

The Carolina Hurricanes finished just seven points behind the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs last season. they had 15 overtime losses. With a little more leadership, and a little more attitude, not to mention the scoring touch, even they could have seen the playoffs last year. For reasons that can’t be explained, the Calgary Flames when in search of a right wing earlier this summer signed Kris Versteeg. Versteeg may be younger, but he’s not nearly as healthy, has never had a better offensive season than Iginla and seems determined to play for every team in the NHL before he retires.

For all that they had a record winning streak, and finished with their best point total in franchise history last year the Columbus Blue Jackets finished fourth in goals for in the Metropolitan Division. Number 12 would add an incredible element of consistency to a team that had great highs and equal lows last year. Someone, anyone tell me why in a summer where loads of guys were overpaid on long term deals there hasn’t been even a short term deal for Jarome Ignila? Someone let me in on the secret please.

It’s August 24th, 2017 and Jaromir Jagr remains unsigned by any NHL team. In the past two and a half months guys who spent most of their season on the bench, on the injured reserve, or in the pressbox have been signed.

Does anyone honestly think Steven Gionta is going to make a bigger impact on an NHL team this year than Jaromir Jagr? Well, outside of the New York Islander’s front office. Yup, when faced with the choice between a 33 year old with a career total of 16 NHL goals, and a first ballot hall of famer with more goals than that last season, they chose wrong. Even the Nashville Predator’s who have one of the better GM’s in hockey chose wrong in going with Austin Watson over Jagr. Watson has never been productive above the AHL level, and Jagr has never played in the AHL.

So why should you teams sign the man who forever set the bar for mullets?

History

First is history. Jagr is currently fourth on the All Time NHL games played list. With a full season, he climbs to the top of that list, and whoever signs him gets to be a part of history. Even if the remarkably durable 45 year old plays a sliver more than half a season he’ll still jump to the number two spot ahead of Mark Messier, Ron Francis and everyone else. His career history says it’s a safe bet he climbs all the way to the top of the mountain this year, he needs just about 68 games to do it. He’s also twenty assists from passing Ray Bourque for number four on the all time list, a number he should wrap up before the all star break.

What he brings to the game

Last year, for the Florida Panthers Jaromir Jagr was 4th on the team in offensive points share at 3.0, and seventh on the team for defensive points share, eclipsing most of his team mates in both categories by a handy margin. We all know about his work ethic, and teams building up can use that. We all know the Panthers were not a good team last year, but no one who played more than 35 games had a better relative Corsi for than Jagr. This means even a team with ‘unlimited growth potential’, he is going to make the team better all by his lonely. One other interesting number is his even strength goals against per 60 minutes. With 2.5 goals against per 60 at even strength he was seventh on the Panthers, ahead of most of the team, and light years better than team mate and fellow old dude Tomas Vanek.

Attendance

As a sure thing to be in the hockey hall of fame whenever he retires, Jaromir Jagr has a certain ability to draw fans just by being himself. Some are nostalgia buffs from his early days in the NHL, some have joined the legions of thronging mulletites more recently. Few, if any, are more devoted than the Traveling Jagr’s. As the living legend has traversed the hockey map, so to has this legion grown. More importantly, they have traveled, drawn media attention, and bought tickets. For teams who struggled in this regard, he’s a viable investment in improving the gate.

The Ottawa Senator’s had a troublesome 87.4% home attendance last year despite amazing seasons by Karlsson and Anderson. The Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames were also among those Canadian teams that failed to get to 100% attendance.

Who Should Sign Him?

For one or more reasons there are a dozen teams that should sign Jagr, including if this is indeed his swan song, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Who could use him the most? The Vancouver Canucks could use him for a variety of reasons, he’s not going to outpace the Sedin’s too badly, and unlike that pair he can hold onto the puck. The Carolina Hurricanes lack both depth and star power in their forward group, and Jagr combined with Williams, and Staal is a pretty compelling core to build from, and three guys who are different enough you should be able to reach any youngster worth damn who walks into the room. The Arizona Coyotes much like the Hurricanes are in need of a depth infusion, and something to generate ticket (and merchandise) sales, or any other form of revenue.

The New York Islander’s could sign him for no better reason than ticking off Rangers fans, but it would at least be a remedial step in potentially keeping Tavares. If the Colorado Avalanche were to sign him, not only would it give us a respite from the never ending Matt Duchene trade saga, it would put at least one forward on the ice who actually, provably, likes to win and is willing to work at it (and their attendance sucks too). If the Anahiem Ducks were to add him to the roster, it might just get them to play a full season, and it might also shame Perry and Getzlaf into trying hard enough to keep up with a guy who they were watching before they were old enough to shave.

Stick tap to Hockey-Reference.com and ESPN for the numbers.

 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 New Jersey Devils are outside the playoff structure. The New Jersey Devils have played more games than most of the teams ahead of them. Lou Lamoriello has assembled a team with a long pedigree, and unfortunately no future. Even with first ballot hall of fame induce Jaromir Jagr on the roster, and three time 30+ goal man Michael Ryder, the team is 26th in the NHL in goals for. The defense, and goaltending is in better shape, but any team with six players over age 35, including their top three scorers and the goalie with the most wins, isn’t fit for anything but the glue factory.

Its time to hit the hard reset and go for it. Adam Henrique is young enough to play all the way through even a five or six year rebuild. Travis Zajac can either stay long term or be used as a mentor in the upcoming transition and then moved for a missing piece if he’s not part of the solution. Jon Merrill, Adam Larsson,  and Cory Schneider all have their best year ahead of them. Damien Brunner is in much the same shape as Zajac.

As for everyone else: Fire Sale.

Last year at about this time Jagr was traded for a first round pick and two prospects. There is no reason he can’t be traded for more value by the Devils when the Olympic break is over. Michael Ryder who doesn’t have the same name recognition but is most of a decade younger with a year remaining on his contract should command a slightly better return. If Elias who has a NMC can be persuaded to go, he could easily fetch even more than Ryder since he lacks the New Foundlander’s reputation for streakiness.

Bryce Salvador might actually be the prize pick, he plays solid minutes overall at about 21 a night, but almost four of those are short handed and there are several playoff teams who could use him to add a bit more stability to the mix, he too has a year left on his contract. Marek Zidlicky is another guy with a reasonable contract, and who has to be asking himself how many more chances he’ll have to win the Stanley Cup.

Just among those five players you’re looking at enough return to reshape the roster, and the future of the New Jersey Devils. At minimum, that haul of resources should net them three first round picks, four to six prospects one or two roster players and two or three second or later round selections. This is completely leaving out pending UFA’s like Ryan Carter, Steve Bernier, Stephen Gionta, and Mark Fayne. They say the future is now, and in some cases that is true. But when you’re talking about sports franchises the future is built now is more true. If Lou Lamoriello, Josh Harris, and David Blitzer want to see a glorius future for their franchise, the time to reshape it is now.

Last season was a distinct retreat from the pre-lockout trip to the Stanley Cup Finals. The injury report reads like a who’s who of New Jersey Devils players; Ilya Kovalchuk, Bryce Salvador, Adam Henrique, Martin Brodeur, and more. Worse, the players on the ice didn’t execute. The Devils finished 28th in goals for, without a solid defense, the team would have finished even worse.

The off season was a very mixed bag. The NHL Entry Draft saw the Devil’s select blueliner Steven Santini with their second round pick, and forwards Ryan Kujawinski, Miles Wood and Myles Bell in the middle rounds. Draft day was highlighted in the hockey sense by Lou Lamoriello stunning NHL observes by uprooting Cory Schneider for a single first round pick (which the Canucks used on Bo Horvat). The emotional highlight was Lou Lamoriello acquiring a 7th round pick and passing off the microphone so that Martin Brodeur could make the call to draft his son Anthony into the Devil’s family.

With the ‘retirement’ of Ilya Kovalchuk, and Henrik Talinder, Johan Hedberg among others exiting the organization as well, there will certainly be some new jersey numbers on display this season. Continuing his tour of the old Atlantic division is Jaromir Jagr who enters on a one year deal, Michael Ryder, and Ryane Clowe join the squad. If the roster currently on the Devils site is any indication they intend to make camp very competitive. Twenty-six forwards, sixteen defensemen and five goaltenders grace the roster.

The opening five games will be challenging. They contain two different back to backs, four road games and three teams who were in the playoffs last year. The New Jersey Devils challenge the Pittsburgh Penguins on the road to open the season, then travel home the next night for the Brooklyn New York Islanders. Then they set out for an extended road trip that starts with the Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks back to back before a pair of off days and a date with the Calgary Flames.

Number of days 1-5: 8

Number of cities: 4

Best opponent: Pittsburgh Penguins

Weakest opponent: Calgary Flames

Home games: 1

Projected points: 4+

The opening fistful of games will likely be rough. The schedule is as tight as last years compressed schedule, there are a lot of new players, and two back to back sets. If the Devils  win two of three against the Penguins, Islanders, and Canucks they are likely bound for the playoffs. On the other hand if there’s one thing decades of October hockey has taught us it is that the standings don’t much matter until late November.

The lockout shortened season was another year of almost realized playoff hopes. Another year of almost succeeding, another year almost being memorable. February 17th with fifteen games in the record books saw the team glowing atop 7th place. By March 2nd they’d slide beneath the horizon into 10th place. Jamie Benn forced to center, a position he hadn’t played in the NHL struggled and missed 7 games. Ray Whitney missed 16, and the two still led the team in points. Jaromir Jagr would be gone at the trade deadline. Derek Roy was gone on April 2 despite piling up 22 points in 30 games. Michael Ryder who had 35 goals the year before was traded before the season was half over. Brendan Morrow, and Joe Morrow would both exit as well.

Overall, the confusion on ice would spell an 11th place finish for the team. Was it a “bridge year”? Was it a “rebuild on the fly”? Was it just someone wanting to be seen doing something? We may never know. What we do know is that two of the teams that finished ahead of them last year won’t be vying for any of the eight playoff billets in the west this year. In the off season the front office continued to spin the personnel kaleidoscope. They sent Loui Eriksson shooting off to Boston, and in return brought back Rich Peverley an experienced NHL center good in all three zones, and a demon in the faceoff circle, and Tyler Seguin a highly regarded talent who’s off ice life and maturity came into question in a system he never fit into. Shawn Horcoff was brought in from Edmonton as well.  The first five games feature an interesting mix with the Panthers and Avalanche book-ending games against the Capitals, Jets and Wild.

Number of days 1-5: 12

Number of cities: 4

Best opponent: Washington Capitals

Weakest Opponent: Colorado Avalanche

Home games: 2

Projected points: 4+

With the turnover in roster talent the team could either come out of the gate energized and ready to fight or tentative and feeling themselves out. Lindy Ruff will still be getting to know most of the players and the questions about if he can coach a team with high end talent is still unanswered. Kari Lehtonen’s health will be forever in question, multiple back and groin injuries make it difficult for him to get and stay in any sort of groove. On the plus side, youth has arrived. Tyler Seguin has speed, a fantastic shot release, and Valeri Nichushkin, and Alex Chiasson. The team isn’t remarkably better or worse than it was last season, it is just different. How well all the moving parts pull together will be the difference between this being a playoff team, an afterthought or a basement dweller.

With the diverse origins of the teams former divisions, the central division might as well be the called “the melting pot”. Two former Northwest teams, a former pacific team, three of the former central division’s teams and an alumni of the southeast division just for good measure. While some teams know each other pretty darn well, the intensity of long time rivalries might just be lacking.

Chicago: We know the Blackhawks didn’t have a fire-sale this time. Who knows, they might escape a cup hangover too. Not likely, not as late as the season ran and as many people as they retained. On the plus side, there were no injuries to key players that will shorten the returning roster going into training camp. We know that with cross conference play, the BlackHawks will have to play more good teams next season than last season.

Colorado: We know Patrick Roy has a new job with the Avalanche. We know this is the longest predicted hiring in the history of the NHL. We know they still have nothing that resembles an NHL defense. We know the franchise has yet to put into evidence a viable plan for a return to relevance. We know Cory Sarich and Alex Tanguay are the biggest additions to this team. We know its gonna be another ugly season.

Dallas Stars: We know the team believes they’ve addressed their needs at center. We know the team dumped a first round pick defenseman, an All Star quality forward and some b prospects to get a guy who was playing third line wing, and a guy with epic scoring droughts. We know Jamie Benn is still the best player on the team, and that Alex Goligoski is still the most underrated player on the team. We know that Rich Peverley is likely to improve the penalty kill 2-3% all by himself. We know that Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley are a remarkable uptick in foot speed over Jaromir Jagr and Michael Ryder.

Minnesota: We know that after a run to the playoffs last year with a very, very young and inexperienced crew the team should be better this year. We know that with little in the way of real losses in players team chemistry should be good. We know the team needs to hit the playoffs and win a round to be financially viable. We know they really, really need to find a goalie who can be healthy for a whole season. We know the team is just about a shoe in for a playoff spot in a bottom heavy conference.

Nashville: We know the teams defensive top four is set well into the next collective bargaining agreement. We know Pekka Rinne will play close to seventy games. We know they still need a backup goalie. We know they haven’t done a thing to improve their forward core group in years. We know they will make the playoffs in Rinne, Weber, and Ellis are healthy and productive. We know that without upgrades to complete a viable top six they will eventually be beaten by a playoff team that can score consistently.  We know most people would be shocked to know the Predators were the prey on the penalty kill last year ending up 29th with a 75.5% effectiveness.

St Louis: We know the Blues traded out odd duck David Perron for Magnus Paajarvi who they still haven’t signed. We know they have 14 forwards signed. We know that despite it being as close to the end of their last season as it is to the beginning of the new one, their franchise corner stone Alex Pietrangelo is still not signed. We know they will return two goaltenders to the crease whose inconsistency is the one thing you can count on.

Winnipeg: We know that with their first season playing as a western conference team many of the teams players will have to get used to a different traveling and playing schedule. We know that with eight defenseman signed, UFA’s Mark Stuart and Paul Potsma may not want to renew their magazine subscriptions too soon. We know that Devin Setogouchi isn’t a big enough offensive upgrade, but that Michael Frolik might be the perfect solution to their penalty kill woes. We know Olli Jokinen will continue to baffle and befuddle people across the hockey world.

The new Metropolitan division combines all five of the teams from the old Atlantic Division, two teams from the thoroughly shattered Southeast division, and one former central division team. After last season this will hands down be the hardest division to predict.

Carolina:We know that with a healthy backup the team is already better than it was last year. We know that adding Mike Komisarek (assuming he can stick to the NHL) will add a touch of belligerence. We know that the defense as a whole is suspect. We know it will be a lot of fun to watch a full season of Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Jiri Tlusty, Jeff Skinner, and Alex Semin as the teams nucleus.

Columbus: We know that they decided to take their move into the eastern conference seriously. With the addition of Nathan Horton and Marion Gaborik in the last several months, the team added to a solid defensive foundation. We know teams that underestimate them are in for a rough night. We know that even with the two year contract he signed that there is no certainty Bobrovsky will finish the deal in Columbus. We know if Ryan Murray makes the squad he’ll be in the perfect position to garner Calder consideration.

New Jersey:We know The Devils had the sort of negative off season attention that can sink the sales of a team. We know that the additions of Clowe, Jagr, and Ryder will give the team a different look than it had last season. We know that since Kovalchuk and Clarkson couldn’t drag the team into the playoffs this might not be a bad thing. We know someone has their head up their backside because Adam Henrique is still unsigned.

New York Islanders: We know this team made the playoffs last year, kept all its major components and added the physicality of one Cal Clutterbuck. We know that with defensive prospects like Griffin Reinhart, Calvin De Hann, and Scott Mayfield waiting in the wings the guys currently on the roster should keep one eye on the puck and the other looking over their shoulder. We know the team really needs to figure out a long term solution in net.

New York Rangers: We know the Rangers will have new coach this year. We know the new coach has an entirely different persona than the last coach. We Brad Richards needs to have a banner year while there is still time. We know sooner or later someone will figure out you don’t go deep in the playoffs playing your starting goalie 65+ games a season.

Philadelphia: We know that with the injection of Lecavalier and possibly Laughton into the lineup fans might be excused an excess of hope. We know the defense is still without an impact player. We know Ray Emery will battle his heart out between the pipes. We know no one knows what to expect out of Steve Mason. We know the Flyers will likely miss the playoffs.

Pittsburgh: We know the team didn’t do anything to correct its playoff attitude issues; same coach, same captain, same mix of ‘leaders’. We know that having the goalie see a sports psychologist is a step, but we also know complete rebuilds of a persons psyche can take years if they occur at all.

Washington: We know the Capitals have a limited window to win with the current core of Ovechkin,  Backstrom, Laich, Greene, Alzner, and Carlson, We know some of them might not be in D.C. if/when the Cup is hoisted by the local boys. We know Adam Oates is still on a short leash because in any sane universe George McFee is on an even shorter one. We know that the Capitals (probably don’t operate in a sane universe.