St. Louis Blues 2014- 2015 Season Preview

Connor Keith returns to the Down the Frozen River scene with this season preview of the St. Louis Blues. This was written before final roster cuts were made, but the season came along quickly and I kind of failed as an editor when it came to posting things in a timely manner. But that shouldn’t make any of Connor’s analysis any less valuable! Enjoy.

St. Louis Blues (52-23-7, second in division, third in conference)

After yet another early exit from the playoffs (fourth time exiting the playoffs in the first or second round since 2008-‘09), the Blues look to do more than reclaim the division title taken from them by Colorado last season. Although GM Doug Armstrong resigned Head Coach Ken Hitchcock, Associate Coach Brad Shaw, & Assistant Coach Ray Bennett, he pulled the plug on Assistant Coach Gary Shaw & Goaltending Coach Corey Hirsch. In their place, he hired Kirk Muller (ex-head coach of the Carolina Hurricanes, amassing a record of 80-80-27) as Assistant Coach & Jim Corsi as Goaltending Coach.

One of the major turnovers from last year for the Blues is between the pipes. Last season’s leading goalie in games played & wins was Jaroslav Halak, who was traded to Buffalo with Chris Stewart, William Carrier, & two draft picks for Steve Ott & goalie Ryan Miller. Miller was acquired on the last season of his contract & has since signed with Vancouver, leaving the Blues with only Brian Elliot within their system with playing time last season. The Blues have called up Jake Allen from Chicago to be a second goalie for the Blues. Based on last season’s stats, I believe that this preseason could be a major factor in the decision for who is defending the crease against the Rangers on October 9.

Brian Elliot has the experience, playing 31 games last season (double Jake Allen’s career NHL appearances). He amassed a record of 18-6-2 last season. Of those 18 wins, four were shutouts (over 22% of wins were as a result of a shutout). He blocked 92.2% of all shots last season, allowing an average of 1.96 goals per game, .07 better than Allen’s 2013-’14 campaign.

On the other hand, Jake Allen played in 52 regular season games last season for the Chicago Wolves for a 33-16-3 record. Of those 33 wins, seven were shutouts (over 21% of wins were shutouts). He blocked 92.8% of all the shots he faced last season, .6% better than Elliot, allowing 2.03 goals per game. A main thing Allen has over Elliot is recent playoff experience. Although it was not for the Stanley Cup, Allen played nine games for Chicago, amassing a 3-6 record & allowing 3.29 goals against per game. His save percentage also dipped in the Wolves’ quest for the Calder to 87.9%, dropping almost 5%.

The Blues come into the season having lost some big names, most notably Vladimir Sobotka (signed with Avangard), Brenden Morrow (signed with Tampa Bay), & Derek Roy (signed with Nashville).

They lost two of the top 10 players with most regular season games with the Blues last season in Derek Roy & Roman Polak (traded to Toronto) both playing over 70 regular season games last year. Additionally, they lost five of the top 20 players with the most playoff games with the Blues last season in Vladimir Sobotka & Roman Polak (both played in all six playoff games), Adam Cracknell (five, signed with Los Angeles), Derek Roy (four), & Brenden Morrow (two). The Blues are adding players that can play most of a regular season, though, in Chris Butler (Calgary) & Carl Gunnarsson (traded from Toronto), who both played 80+ games last season.

The Notes are not bringing back three of their top 14 shot takers this year as Derek Roy (114), Vladimir Sobotka (102), & Roman Polak (83) are not returning. These three players accounted for over 12% of the Blues’ shots last regular season. Looking at only postseason numbers, five of last playoff’s shot-takers are not returning, as Vladimir Sobotka (13), Derek Roy (nine), Adam Cracknell (six), Roman Polak (five), & Brenden Morrow (one) are not returning. These shooters accounted for almost 16% of the shots taken in the postseason.

Over 5% of last season’s goals will not show up to training camp this season as Brenden Morrow (13) is with the Bolts. The Blues have added Paul Stastny (25, signed from Colorado) & Joakim Lindstrom (23, signed from Skellefteå) to almost quadruple his goal production.

Two of the leading 11 assisters will not be with the Blues this season as Derek Roy (28), & Vladimir Sobotka (24) are not returning. The Blues have profited by signing Joakim Lindstrom (40), Paul Stastny (35), & Jori Lehtera (32, signed from Sibir Novosibirsk). These new additions double the totals of Roy & Sobotka, hopefully providing even more opportunities for Alexander Steen (33 goals), David Backes (27 goals), Paul Stastny (25 goals), & Jaden Schwartz (25 goals).

Vladimir Sobotka (14), one of the top nine +/- guys in the 2013-’14 regular season, will not return for this one. Included in that, the Blues also lost three of the top seven +/- players during the playoffs. Without Vladimir Sobotka (two), Brenden Morrow (zero), & Adam Cracknell (zero), the Blues would have scored a lowly -27. To try to improve upon these numbers, St. Louis has signed Carl Gunnarsson (12), & Paul Stastny (nine). The two additions provide decent improvements that will hopefully continue their success in St. Louis.

The Blues lost one of the top six penalty minute earners in Brenden Morrow (76). Sadly, the Blues picked up Joakim Lindstrom, who had minutes (72) almost equal to Morrow’s, so no major improvements have been made in that regard. New hires Paul Stastny & Jori Lehtera only served 22 minutes in the sin bin last season each, which averaged out to a little less than 19 seconds per game for Stastny & 27.5 seconds per game for Lehtera.

Present roster consists of 32 forwards, 16 defensemen, & four goalies (52 men).

Pittsburgh Penguins 2014- 2015 Season Preview

Connor Keith returns to the Down the Frozen River scene with this season preview of the Pittsburgh Penguins. This was written before final roster cuts were made, but the season came along quickly and I kind of failed as an editor when it came to posting things in a timely manner. But that shouldn’t make any of Connor’s analysis any less valuable! Enjoy.

Pittsburgh Penguins (51-24-7, won division, second in conference)

After yet another early exit from the playoffs (fourth time kicked out of playoffs in first or second round of playoffs since winning the Cup in the 2008-’09 season), Mario Lemieux & Ronald Burkle have pulled the plug on the entire coaching staff & GM Ray Shero (2006-’14). Since then, the Penguins have hired Jim Rutherford to replace Shero, Mike Johnston to replace Dan Bylsma, & Rick Tocchet to replace Tony Granato & Tood Reirden.

Mike Johnston has yet to record a game in the NHL as a head coach, but he does have experience in head coaching. His first head coaching position was in the college ranks when he coached New Brunswick for five seasons (1989-’94). After being hired by the Canadian men’s team in 1994 as an associate coach, he took the head coaching job in 1998 for a season. He departed Team Canada for an assistant position with the Vancouver Canucks, followed by being an associate coach of the Los Angeles Kings. His most recent position is with the Portland Winterhawks (WHL), from 2008 until last season as coach & GM.

His first season witnessed the Winterhawks going 19-48-3-2, second to last in the league. The following season, Johnston’s Winterhawks (44-25-2-1) finished fourth in a competitive division for fifth in the conference, losing in the second round of the playoffs. In his third season, his team led the conference at 50-19-0-3 for third in the league. The Hawks made it all the way to the finals before losing to Kootenay. In 2011-’12, his team again made it to the finals, losing a deciding game seven.

Of course, the year the Winterhawks finally won their championship, Johnston was suspended for recruiting violations. As his violations were more connected to his GM position in a junior league, I don’t predict that he will have similar problems in Pittsburgh. He has proven that he can make rapid growth in only the course of one season, which may be exactly what the Pens need to cross the bridge between strong & elite.

Jim Rutherford is an ex-goalie (potential influence on future goalie signings, either this season or the near future?), playing for Pittsburgh from 1971 until traded to Detroit in the middle of January 1974. For the past 20 years, he has been the General Manager of the Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes franchise, winning a division championship in 1998-’99, 2001-’02, & 2005-’06, a conference championship in 2001-’02 & 2005-’06, & winning the franchise’s only Stanley Cup in the 2005-’06 season. So far with the Penguins, he has signed six free agents & traded James Neal to the Nashville Predators for Patric Hornqvist & Nick Spaling.

Of course, the biggest question Penguins have is their goaltending. Based on moves made so far, Marc-Andre Fleury is still Pittsburgh’s starting goalie. He had a save percentage of 91.5% for the regular season, averaging 2.47 goals against per game. As much as everyone likes to get on Fleury during the playoffs, he didn’t have the meltdown people like to associate with him. In fact, in his 13 playoff games, he matched his regular season save percentage exactly, as well as giving up .07 less goals in those playoff games. He also had two shutouts over the postseason (almost 29% of playoff wins were shutouts), in addition to the five he had in the regular season (13% of his wins were shutouts), tied for fourth in the league.

The Pens also retained Jeff Zatkoff, who played in 20 regular season games last year for a 20-12-6, including a shutout. His save percentage in those games was 91.2% & he allowed 2.29 goals per game.

In addition, the Penguins also signed Arizona’s backup of a season ago in Thomas Greiss. In 25 games last season, he amassed a record of 10-8-5 (two shutouts, equaling Fleury’s eight percent of games played where the opponent was held scoreless) with a save percentage of 92% (better than both Penguin goalies, but with a smaller sample than Fleury), allowing only 2.29 goals per game (lower than both Pittsburgh goalies). Based on last year’s stats alone, he may take the backup position from Zatkoff.

The Pens come into the season having lost some big names, most notably Jussi Jokinen (signed with Florida), James Neal (traded to Nashville), & Matt Niskanen (signed with Washington).

They lost two of the top four players with most regular season games with the Penguins last season in Matt Niskanen & Jussi Jokinen both playing 81 regular season games last year. Additionally, they lost seven of the top 19 players with the most playoff games with the Penguins last season in James Neal, Jussi Jokinen, Matt Niskanen, Lee Stempniak (signed with the Rangers), Joe Vitale (signed with Arizona) (all played in all 13 games), Brian Gibbons (signed with Columbus), & Tanner Glass (signed with the Rangers) (both played eight games). The Penguins are adding players that can play most of a regular season, though, in Christian Erhoff (Buffalo) & Patric Hornqvist (Nashville), who both played 75 games last season.

The Penguins are not bringing back half of their top six shot takers this year as James Neal (238), Jussi Jokinen (172), & Matt Niskanen (162, led defensemen) are not returning. These three players accounted for over 23% of the Penguins’ shots last regular season. Looking at only postseason numbers, eight of the top 19 shot-takers are not returning, as James Neal (49, led team), Jussi Jokinen (31), Matt Niskanen (24), Lee Stempniak (22), Joe Vitale (13), Brian Gibbons (11), Tanner Glass (10), & Brooks Orpik (eight, signed with Washington) are not returning. These shooters accounted for over 38% of the shots taken in the postseason.

Almost 20% of last season’s goals will not show up to training camp this season as James Neal (27) & Jussi Jokinen (21) are with other teams. The Penguins have added Patric Hornqvist (22) to try to make up for the missing goals, but he only makes up for Jokinen’s, meaning other players including new addition Nick Spaling (13 last season, acquired from Nashville) & returner Brandon Sutter (13) will need to step up their goal scoring.

Three of the leading five assisters will not be with the Penguins this season as Jussi Jokinen (36), Matt Niskanen (36, led defensemen), & James Neal (34) are not returning. To make up for this, the Pens have signed Patric Hornqvist (31), Christian Erhoff (27), & Steve Downie (20, signed from Philadelphia). These new additions don’t match the talent lost in this stat column, but they also didn’t have Sidney Crosby (36 goals), Chris Kunitz (35 goals), James Neal (27 goals), & Evgeni Malkin (23 goals) on their team.

Six of the top 11 +/- guys in the regular season have been lost, including Matt Niskanen (33, led team), James Neal (15), Jussi Jokinen (12), Brian Gibbons (five), & Lee Stempniak (five). Included in that, the Penguins also lost eight of the top 17 +/- players during the playoffs. Combined, Brooks Orpik (six), Jussi Jokinen (five), James Neal (two), Brian Gibbons (two), Tanner Glass (zero), Joe Vitale (zero), & Matt Niskanen (negative two) all total to 13, greater than the rest of the remaining team’s score of 12. To make up for these lost numbers, Pittsburgh has signed Nick Spaling (two), Patric Hornqvist (one), & Steve Downie (one). The three of them, though, only rival Jussi Jokinen’s contributions last season, so they will need to improve in that aspect.

The Penguins lost five of the top nine penalty minute earners in Tanner Glass (90, “led” the Penguins last season), Deryk Engelland (58, signed with Calgary), James Neal (55), Matt Niskanen (51), & Brooks Orpik (46). Sadly, the Pens picked up Steve Downie, who had minutes (106) equal to Neal & Niskanen combined. New hire Nick Spaling only served 14 minutes in the sin bin last season, which averaged out to almost 12 seconds per game. This will be a huge asset to keep the Penguins from defending the power play.

Present roster consists of 12 forwards, six defensemen, & three goalies (21 men).

Los Angeles Kings 2014- 2015 Season Preview

Connor Keith returns to the Down the Frozen River scene with this season preview of the Los Angeles Kings. This was written before final roster cuts were made, but the season came along quickly and I kind of failed as an editor when it came to posting things in a timely manner. But that shouldn’t make any of Connor’s analysis any less valuable! Enjoy.

Los Angeles Kings (46-28-8, third in division, sixth in conference, Stanley Cup champions)

After winning their second Stanley Cup in three seasons, GM Dean Lombardi & Head Coach Darryl Sutter are ready to make it three for four. Based on the roster changes made over summer, or lack thereof, the Kings are no doubt in a position to do just that. All of the players that played every game in the playoffs are still wearing black this season, which should strike fear into anyone in the Western Conference come April.

The goaltending situation remains as it did to close last season in Los Angeles, with Jonathan Quick & Martin Jones returning. Quick, who played in 49 games last season posted a 27-17-4 record, allowing only 100 goals last season for a save percentage of 91.5% & only 2.07 goals against. He posted six shutouts over the course of the regular season, making over 22% of his wins a result of keeping the opposition off the board. In the playoffs, he played in all 26 games for a save percentage of 91.1%, but saw an inflation in his goals against average (2.58, an extra half-goal per game). Two of his playoff wins were shutouts (12.5%).

Martin Jones played 19 games last season for a 12-6-0 record. He only allowed 33 goals for a save percentage of 93.4% & 1.81 goals against (both numbers stronger than Quick’s, but with a much smaller sample). Four of his wins were shutouts, meaning that greater than 33% of his wins were a result of the other team being held scoreless.
The Kings come into the season having lost very few big names, but the most notable is Willie Mitchell (signed with Florida).

They lost only one of the top 11 players with most regular season games with the Kings last season in Willie Mitchell (76) playing 76 regular season games last year. Additionally, they lost two of the top 20 players with the most playoff games with the Kings last season in Willie Mitchell (18) & Jeff Schultz (seven, has been sent back to Manchester). The Kings are adding players that can play most of a regular season, though, in Derek Forbort (74, 2010 draft pick), Vincent LoVerde (70, undrafted) & Scott Sabourin (69, undrafted).

The Kings are not bringing back only one of their top 16 shot takers this year as Willie Mitchell (73) is not returning. Mitchell accounted for fewer than three percent of the Kings’ shots last regular season, so his numbers will not be desperately missed in that perspective. More important than regular season numbers, Willie Mitchell is taking 23 shots from the post season to Florida. In the Kings’ quest for the Stanley Cup, he provided fewer than three percent of the Kings’ shots.

The top goal scorer from last season not returning to the Staples Center? Matt Frattin (traded to Columbus), who provided a whopping two goals (a little over one percent of all goals scored last season). The Kings have added Brian O’Neill (26, undrafted), Nick Ebert (13), Scott Sabourin (12), Colin Miller (5, 2012 draft pick), & Maxim Kitsyn (3, 2010 draft pick) to more than to make up for the missing goals.

One of the leading 14 assisters will not be with the Kings this season as Willie Mitchell (11) isn’t returning. To make up for this, the Kings have signed Nick Ebert (41), Brian O’Neill (21), Vincent LoVerde (18), Derek Forbort (16), Scott Sabourin (14), & Colin Miller (12). These new additions will spend most of this season in Manchester to further develop their skills.

Two of the top eight +/- guys in the regular season have been lost, including Willie Mitchell (14) & Jeff Schultz (10). Included in that, the Kings also lost Willie Mitchell’s 10 in the postseason, which led defensemen. To make up for these lost numbers, Los Angeles has signed Nick Ebert (53), Vincent Loverde (37), Brian O’Neill (31), & Derek Forbort (19).

The Kings lost two of the top six penalty minute earners in Willie Mitchell (58) & Daniel Carcillo (57). Sadly, the Kings picked up Scott Sabourin, who had minutes (115) equal to Mitchell & Carcillo combined. New hire Maxim Kitsyn only served two minutes in the sin bin last season (20 games), which averaged out to almost six seconds per game. This will be a huge asset to keep the Kings from defending the power play.

Present roster consists of 14 forwards, seven defensemen, & two goalies (23 men).

Florida Panthers 2014- 2015 Season Preview

Connor Keith returns to the Down the Frozen River scene with this season preview of the Florida Panthers. This was written before final roster cuts were made, but the season came along quickly and I kind of failed as an editor when it came to posting things in a timely manner. But that shouldn’t make any of Connor’s analysis any less valuable! Enjoy.

Florida Panthers (29-45-8, seventh in division & second to last in conference)

After the second straight year of missing the postseason since winning the division in 2011-‘12, Dale Tallon pulled the plug on almost the entire coaching staff. Since then, the Panthers have hired Gerard Gallant to replace Peter Horachek (who was on interim basis after the firing of Kevin Dineen). Mike Kelly, John Madden, & Mark Morris will serve as assistant coaches in addition to Robb Tallas as the Goaltending Coach & Paul Vincent coaching skating & skills.

Gerard Gallant’s only NHL head coaching experience came with Columbus from 2004-‘06. He was promoted from his position as assistant coach following Doug MacLean stepping down due to a miserable record of 9-21-4-3. Under Gallant’s leadership, the Jackets finished 25-45-8-4 (Gallant responsible for the Jackets going 16-24-4-1), failing to make the playoffs. The following seasons offered no new results, as Columbus went 35-43-4 in 2005-’06, again missing the playoffs. The straw that broke the camel’s back was a terrible opening 15 games for Gallant & the Jackets. They went 5-9-1 before MacLean pulled the plug on Gallant.

In the 2007-’08 season, Gallant joined the Islanders in an assistant coaching position before becoming the head coach of Saint John. In every season of his three year tenure at Saint John, the Sea Dogs made the playoffs, winning the President’s Cup twice & the Memorial Cup once. Following the 2011-’12 season, he was hired by Montreal as an assistant coach, a position he held until this summer.

The Panthers’ goaltending situation looks to be already in place. Although the goalie with the most games played & wins from last season, Tim Thomas (16-20-3), was traded to Dallas on March 5th, the Panthers had received Roberto Luongo in a trade with Vancouver the day before. Moving forward with Luongo (6-7-2), the Panthers found their goalie with the best save percentage (92.4%) & fewest goals against average (2.46) over the course of 14 games. I would be very surprised to see Luongo lose his starting position.

In addition to retaining Dan Ellis (0-5-0), who played six games with the Panthers last season, Florida also has Sam Brittain, Michael Houser, & Al Montoya within their organization. Brittain was drafted by Florida in 2010 & last played at the University of Denver, where he posted a 19-14-6 record in 39 games. A particularly striking stat he has to his name coming into this season is posting five shutouts & only allowing 2.22 goals per game last season in the NCHC. Al Montoya posted a 13-8-3 record last season in Winnipeg, saving 92% of all shots on his goal (leads new acquisitions) & only allowing an average of 2.3 goals per game. I expect him to take the backup role from Ellis with Sam Brittain getting the opportunity to develop in the AHL this season.

The Panthers come into the season having lost some important players, most notably Tom Gilbert (signed with Montreal) & Marcel Goc (traded to Pittsburgh).

They lost one of the top seven players with most regular season games with the Panthers last season in Tom Gilbert, who played 73 games last year. The Panthers are adding players that can play most of a regular season, though, in Jussi Jokinen (81, signed from Pittsburgh), Willie Mitchell (76, signed from Los Angeles), & Brett Olson (75, signed from Abbotsford).

Florida is not bringing back two of their top 10 shot takers this year as Marcel Goc (105) & Jesse Winchester (100, signed with Colorado) are not returning. These two players accounted for over eight percent of the Panthers’ shots last regular season. They’ve added Mackenzie Weegar (173, 2013 draft pick), Jussi Jokinen (172), & Brett Olson (150) to the present roster, who should produce more offensive opportunities.

Almost six percent of last season’s goals will not show up to training camp this season as Marcel Goc (11) is with the Penguins. The Panthers have added Aaron Ekblad (23, 2014 draft pick), Jussi Jokinen (21), Steven Hodges (21, 2012 draft pick), Brett Olson (17), Rocco Grimaldi (17, 2011 draft pick), & Mackenzie Weegar (12) to more than make up for the missing goals, provided they can acclimate to the NHL when they join the team.

One of the leading two assisters will not be with the Panthers this season as Tom Gilbert (25) is not returning. Florida has more than made up for this, as they have signed Mackenzie Weegar (47), Jussi Jokinen (36), Aaron Ekblad (30), Brett Olson (27), & Steven Hodges (26). These new additions will hopefully provide for more options on offense when the players get acclimated to the NHL.

One of the three positive +/- guys for the Panthers has been lost in Bobby Butler (one). Florida has made many excellent additions to build on a miserable season in this regard by adding Mackenzie Weegar (56), Steven Hodges (20), Willie Mitchell (14), Jussi Jokinen (12), Aaron Ekblad (nine), Brett Olson (eight), John McFarland (three, 2010 draft pick), Shawn Thornton (three, signed from Boston), & Connor Brickley (one, 2010 draft pick). The Panthers hope that these players can continue to be as efficient as they progress through the organization.
The Panthers lost one of their top two penalty minute earners in Krys Barch (99). Sadly, Florida picked up Mackenzie Weegar (97), Aaron Ekblad (97), Shawn Thornton (74), Steven Hodges (65), Willie Mitchell (58), Rocco Grimaldi (48), & Derek Mackenzie (47, signed from Columbus). New hire Jussi Jokinen only served 18 minutes in the sin bin last season, which averaged out to 13 1/3 seconds per game. This will be a huge asset to keep the Panthers from defending the power play.

Present roster consists of 26 forwards, 13 defensemen, & five goalies (44 men).

Minnesota Wild 2014- 2015 Season Preview

Colby Kephart joins Down the Frozen River as a contributing writer with his season preview for the Minnesota Wild. His short, but direct, writing style is sure to please those readers looking for something quick to cover all the bases. This was written before final roster cuts were made, but the season came along quickly and I kind of failed as an editor when it came to posting things in a timely manner. But that shouldn’t make any of Colby’s analysis any less valuable! Enjoy.

Additions: LW Thomas Vanek, C Ryan Carter, D Stu Bickel.

Subtractions: LW Matt Moulson, C Cody McCormick, D Clayton Stonner, LW Mike Rupp, LW Dany Heatley, G Ilya Bryzgalov.

Expectation: After a good Playoff performance last year, I expect a similar season from the Wild. This year, however, one issue could be goaltending. Josh Harding’s suspended, Niklas Backstrom’s injury prone so that puts a lot of pressure on Darcy Kuemper. I would say defense could be an issue, but how can anyone say that when they have the almighty Ryan Suter. The offense should be really fun to watch this year. With the possible thought of reuniting old friends with Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville on the same line equals goals on goals. If this team can stay healthy, I’m thinking a 4 or 5 seed in West and maybe eliminating a top contender for the Cup.

Buffalo Sabres 2014- 2015 Season Preview

Colby Kephart joins Down the Frozen River as a contributing writer with his season preview for the Buffalo Sabres. His short, but direct, writing style is sure to please those readers looking for something quick to cover all the bases. This was written before final roster cuts were made, but the season came along quickly and I kind of failed as an editor when it came to posting things in a timely manner. But that shouldn’t make any of Colby’s analysis any less valuable! Enjoy.

Additions: D Josh Gorges, D Andrej Meszaros, D Andre Benoit, D Tyson Strachan, RW Brian Gionta, LW *Matt Moulson, C *Cody McCormick, C Sam Reinhart. *=Returned

Subtractions: D Henrik Tallinder, D Jamie McBain, D Christian Ehrhoff, D Alex Sulzer, LW Ville Leino , LW Linus Omark, RW Matt D’Agostini.

Expectation: The Sabres are very hopeful this season, the players are excited to start and I truly believe that they will try and push for the playoffs. This is contradictory to popular belief, because most people think they will tank again to have a chance for Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. The New additions of veteran leadership to a very young team could make them a contender for playoffs. I’m not suggesting “Look for the Cup”, but getting a 6th-8th seed could be possible. There’s only two options for the Sabres Playoffs or tank anywhere in between and this season was a failure.

Carolina Hurricanes 2014- 2015 Season Preview

Connor Keith continues to display his hockey sense and analytic insight with his preview of the Carolina Hurricanes. This was written before final roster cuts were made, but the season kind of came along quickly and I kind of failed as an editor, posting things. But that shouldn’t make any of Connor’s analysis any less valuable! Enjoy.

Carolina Hurricanes (36-35-11, seventh in division, 13th in conference)

After missing the playoffs for the seventh time since hoisting the Stanley Cup in 2005-‘06, Peter Karmanos and new GM Ron Francis, promoted by virtue of Jim Rutherford leaving the Hurricanes organization & being hired by Pittsburgh, pulled the plug on almost the entire coaching staff. Since then, the Canes have hired Bill Peters to replace Kirk Muller. Steve Smith has been signed as an assistant coach & David Marcoux as a goaltending coach, replacing assistant coaches John MacLean & Dave Lewis.

Bill Peters has yet to record a game in the NHL as a head coach, but he does have experience in head coaching. His first head coaching position was in the college ranks when he coached Lethbridge for three seasons (2002-’05). Spokane provided him his first professional head coaching job the following season, which he held for three seasons (2005-’08). In his first season with the Chiefs, he posted a 25-39-8 record, followed next season by a 36-28-8 record, worthy of a playoff spot in the WHL. The Chiefs fell in the first round to Everett, two games to four. His best season in Spokane was his last, as the Chiefs recorded a 50-15-7 record, a franchise record for wins in a season. This season witnessed the Chiefs hoisting both the Ed Chynoweth & Memorial Cups.

Following the 2007-’08 season, Peters joined Rockford, where he found immediate success. In his first two seasons, the IceHogs qualified for the playoffs twice, but were swept in the first round each time (Milwaukee & Texas, respectively). His final season in Rockford was a disappointment as his team amassed a record of 38-33-9 for last place in the division, t-12 in conference.

In 2011, Peters was hired by Detroit as an assistant coach, where he served for three seasons before being hired by Carolina.

Luckily for the maturing Canes, the goalie with the most starts last season is returning in Anton Khudobin (36). Cam Ward, who had the second-most games played last season (30), may also return pending his preseason success. The Canes have also acquired Daniel Altshuller and Drew MacIntyre, bringing their goalie count to four. Based on moves made so far, Khudobin & Ward are still Carolina’s lead pair. Khudobin had a save percentage of 92.6% for the regular season (led Carolina goalies last season), averaging 2.3 goals against per game (also led team). Last season, Ward saved 89.8% of all shots (worst on team), averaging 3.06 goals against (worst on team). He may have strong competition for the backup spot from the two new acquisitions, especially from Macintyre.

The Canes signed Drew Macintyre from the Toronto organization. He played in only two regular season games last year in the NHL for a 0-1-0 record. His save percentage in those games was 92.2% & he allowed 2.53 goals per game. He spent most of last season with the Marlies, who made it to the AHL playoffs. In the Marlies’ 14-game quest for the Calder Cup, he posted a 10-4 record, allowing only 2.08 goals a game with a save percentage of 94.1%. One-fifth (20%) of his playoff wins were shutouts.

In addition, the Canes also signed 2012 draft pick Daniel Altshuller. He spent the entire season with the Oshawa Generals of the OHL, where he posted a 31-13-3 record in 52 games played. He recorded two shutouts (over 6% of wins were a result of a shutout) with a save percentage of 91.7%, allowing 2.56 goals per game. Oshawa made it to the playoffs, where Altshuller played 11 games for an 8-3 record. He only allowed 1.89 goals per playoff game for a save percentage of 93.1%, both greatly higher than his regular season numbers. This is the second time in three playoff seasons that he has been able to accomplish this feat, suggesting that he may perform well in the future under pressure.

The Canes come into the season having lost some big names, most notably Drayson Bowman (signed with Montreal), Manny Malhotra (signed with Montreal), Tuomo Ruutu (traded to New Jersey in March).

They lost two of the top 11 players with most regular season games with the Hurricanes last season in Drayson Bowman (70) & Manny Malhotra (69). The Canes are adding other players that can play most of a regular season, though, in Jay McClement (81, signed from Toronto), Victor Rask (76, 2011 draft pick), Justin Shugg (75, 2010 draft pick), Ben Holmstrom (75, signed from Philadelphia), Trevor Carrick (70, 2012 draft pick), Haydn Fleury (70, rookie), Michal Jordan (70, 2008 draft pick), & Brody Sutter (69, 2011 draft pick). These durable bodies should be able to create efficiency through consistent playing time together to continue to grow.

The Canes are not bringing back two of their top 14 shot takers this year as Drayson Bowman (80) & Tuomo Ruutu (79) are not returning. These two players accounted for over 6% of the Hurricanes’ shots last regular season. They have added many players who more than make up for these lost numbers in Ben Holmstrom (168), Victor Rask (160), Justin Shugg (160), Danny Biega (114, 2010 draft pick), Michal Jordan (94), & Brody Sutter (89).

Only 7% of last season’s goals will not show up to training camp this season as Manny Malhotra (seven) & Tuomo Ruutu (five) are with other teams. The Hurricanes have made a strong push for offense as they have hired multiple 10+ goal scorers from last season, including Brock McGinn (43, 2012 draft pick), Carter Sandlak (24, signed from Plymouth), Trevor Carrick (22), Victor Rask (16), Justin Shugg (16), Patrick Brown (15, undrafted free agent from Boston College), & Ben Holmstrom (13).

The 12th leading assister from last season, Tuomo Ruutu (11) will not be with the Hurricanes this season. To more than make up for this, the Canes have signed Brock McGinn (42), Haydn Fleury (38), Trevor Carrick (29), Carter Sandlak (24), Victor Rask (23), Justin Shugg (22), Michal Jordan (21), Brody Sutter (20), Ben Holmstrom (19), Patrick Brown (15), Danny Biega (15), and Greg Nemisz (12, signed from Calgary).

The only positive +/- player from last season not returning is Radek Dvorak (three, led defensemen, unsigned free agent). To improve upon both the loss and the fact that the Canes only had one player with a number greater than five, Carolina has acquired Brock McGinn (46), Haydn Fleury (15), & Greg Nemisz (nine).

The Hurricanes lost one of the top six penalty minute earners in Radek Dvorak (41). Sadly, the Canes picked up Ben Holmstrom (146), Trevor Carrick (117), Carter Sandlak (95), Rasmus Rissanen (91, 2009 draft pick), Keegan Lowe (86, 2011 draft pick), Haydn Fleury (46), & Brock McGinn (45). These players will need to continue to grow in their discipline to have a truly positive effect in Raleigh. New hire Greg Nemisz only served 13 minutes in the sin bin last season, which averaged out to almost 17 seconds per game. This will be a huge asset to keep the Canes from defending the power play.

Present roster consists of 24 forwards, 15 defensemen, & four goalies (42 men).

Anaheim Ducks 2014- 2015 Season Preview

The wonderful, Connor Keith, has joined the Down the Frozen River family, and shares his talented writing, insight, and analysis for everyone to enjoy. This was written before final roster cuts were made, but the season kind of came along quickly and I kind of failed as an editor, posting things. But that shouldn’t make any of Connor’s analysis any less valuable! Enjoy.

Anaheim Ducks (54-20-8, won conference)

After yet another early exit from the playoffs (fifth time kicked out in first or second round of playoffs since winning the Cup in the 2006-’07 season), Henry Samueli & reigning NHL General Manager of the Year Bob Murray intend to build on last year’s strong regular season & once again be the team to beat in Los Angeles. Although they’ve made many additions to stake this claim, the Ducks will need to circumvent the retirement of Saku Koivu & Teemu Selanne & find new leadership in the locker room.

The only front office news to come out of Anaheim this season was the four-year contract extension signed by Murray in May. He made quick work of the expressed confidence from Samueli by signing two trades. On June 27, he agreed to terms with the Vancouver Canucks that Nick Bonino, Luca Sbisa, & two draft picks were to be sent up I-5 in return for Ryan Kesler & a pick in next year’s draft. Three days later, he sent two picks in next year’s draft to Tampa Bay in return for Nate Thompson.

One of the major question marks for the Ducks is their goaltending. Jonas Hiller (29-13-7), who played in 50 regular season games last season (22 more than Frederik Andersen) between the pipes, is now playing for Calgary. Andersen (20-5-0) played in 28 games for the Ducks last, the most of the remaining goalies on the Anaheim staff (also lost Viktor Fasth to a trade in March with the Edmonton Oilers). The Ducks have since signed Ryan Faragher (20-9-4-1, played at St. Cloud State) to an entry-level contract, who played seven more games than Andersen last season, but in college. Based on all of this, I would assume that Andersen will be starting in the crease.

The Ducks come into the season having lost two big names in Nick Bonino & Daniel Winnik (signed with Toronto).

They lost only two of the top seven players with most regular season games with the Ducks last season in Nick Bonino (77) & Daniel Winnik (76) both playing 75+ regular season games last year. Additionally, they lost only two of the top 10 players with the most playoff games with the Ducks last season in Nick Bonino & Saku Koivu both playing in all 13 games. The Ducks are adding players that can play most of a regular season, though, in Nate Thompson (81), Louis Leblanc (78, signed from Montreal), & Ryan Kesler (77) who all played 77+ games last season.

The Ducks are only losing one of their top four shot takers this year as Nick Bonino (159) joins Vancouver. He alone accounted for over 6% of the Ducks’ shots last regular season. Looking at only postseason numbers, two of the top five shot-takers are not returning, as Teemu Selanne (24) & Nick Bonino (22) are not returning. These shooters accounted for over 13% of the shots taken in the postseason.

Over 15% of last season’s goals will not show up to training camp this season as Nick Bonino (22) & Mathieu Perrault (18) are with other teams. The Ducks have added Nick Ritchie (39), Ryan Kesler (25), & Shea Theodore (22) to more than make up for the missing goals.

Three of the leading six assisters will not be with the Ducks this season as Nick Bonino (27), Mathieu Perrault (25, signed with Winnipeg), & Daniel Winnik (24) are not returning. To take their vacant spots, the Ducks have signed Shea Theodore (57, drafted last season), Kenton Helgesen (41, drafted last season), & Nick Ritchie (35, drafted this season). These new additions have the potential to greatly exceed the numbers of the players they are replacing based on their stats from last season in lower leagues & could have a strong influence on the already potent Anaheim offense.

Only one of the top five +/- guys in the regular season have been lost in Dustin Penner (22, traded to Washington in March). With him, the Ducks also lost two of the positive +/- players during the playoffs. Nick Bonino (3) & Daniel Winnik (1) were two of only five Ducks to post a number higher than zero for the 13 playoff games. To make up for these lost numbers, Anaheim has signed Kenton Helgesen (31). His regular season statistics greatly exceed Penner’s, albeit in a lower league, & Anaheim hopes that he continues his growth in the Honda Center.

The Ducks lost two of their top seven penalty minute earners in Saku Koivu (46) & Luca Sbisa (43). Sadly, the Ducks picked up Nick Ritchie (136), John Kurtz (112, played in Norfolk last two seasons), Clayton Stoner (84, signed from Minnesota), Ryan Kesler (81), Andrew O’Brien (74, drafted in 2012), Christopher Wagner (68, drafted in 2010), Louis Leblanc (67), Kenton Helgesen (67), Joseph Cramarossa (59, drafted in 2011), & Max Friberg (55, drafted in 2011). This is one of the main spots where Anaheim lost a lot of ground. The new players, especially the young guys, will need to refine their discipline from taking so many penalty minutes, or Anaheim’s defense will be too exhausted to get back to the dressing rooms between periods.

Present roster consists of 27 forwards, 15 defensemen, & six goalies (48 men).

Colorado Avalanche 2014- 2015 Season Preview

2014 Offseason
Losses: (Free Agency) D Andre Benoit, F Bryan Lerg, D Matt Hunwick, F David Van Der Gulik, F Brad Malone, F Paul Stastny (Trades) F PA Parenteau (Retirement) G J.S. Giguere

Additions: (Free Agency) F Jesse Winchester, D Zach Redmond, F Ben Street, D Bruno Gervais F Jarome Iginla, D Brad Stuart (Trades) F Daniel Briere

The Colorado Avalanche certainly had a busy offseason, leaving some with mixed feelings. While the addition of Jarome Iginla seems great, it comes with the price of the subtraction of Paul Stastny- who had helped play a key role in the Av’s ultimate defeat to Minnesota in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Nathan MacKinnon is ready to lead the second line as a center and the Calder Trophy winner is capable of putting up plenty of points this coming season, but how will he perform as the number two center alongside guys like Alex Tanguay, Iginla, Ryan O’Reilly, or Gabriel Landeskog? Head coach, Patrick Roy, has the flexibility to play around with his top six forwards for the first couple of months.Iggy is back in the Western Conference, something he may prefer, however, how must his game evolve given that a lot has changed in the Western Conference during his short time in the East with Pittsburgh and Boston- that and being on a younger team in general. The Daniel Briere for PA Parenteau trade with Montreal looks like it will be a solid in retrospect, however, Briere is nowhere near the scoring capability that he once was. Strength down the middle might concern the Av’s fourth line, but can be resolved with the addition of Jesse Winchester. Perhaps a bigger question of the Avalanche prospects regards Joey Hishon- is he finally ready for the NHL? If he is, is he the one that fits the missing piece to the puzzle on the third or fourth line? The only thing that concerns Av’s fans with regards to Iginla is whether or not they will be able to realistically make a deep Cup run within his three year contract. Let’s face it, Iginla is nearing the end of his career, and as of right now, Colorado appears to be at least three years out of a potential Stanley Cup.

On the blue line, the Av’s have a solidified defense in Erik Johnson, Tyson Barrie, Brad Stuart, and Jan Hejda, but whether Nick Holden and Nate Guenin can successfully complete the top six defensemen remains to be seen. Despite the success of last season, there are plenty of question marks for the Colorado Avalanche in the 2014- 2015 season. The Av’s have a little flexibility with excess defenseman that could be utilized from Lake Erie, but their depth at the blue line remains shallow in comparison to other teams. However, given the fact that the Avalanche have rid themselves of the Matt Hunwick atrocity, significant gains have been made. A lot of questions will be asked of the Avalanche this season, but with good intentions. Nobody doubts Roy’s- Jack Adams winning- ability to coach, however some may recall the last time the Av’s made the playoffs and the subsequent years in between playoff runs. To get to the top of the league, this young, relatively inexperienced playoff roster must remain a consistent force in both making the playoffs and lasting for longer than a round or two. Failure to make it back into the playoffs this season and the Avalanche organization suddenly looks like the Toronto Maple Leafs (sorry Leafs fans). Consistent final bows in the first round and the Av’s will look like the San Jose Sharks (sorry Sharks fans). To win a Cup, a team has to go through a few losses first, but it cannot take forever to do so.

Semyon Varlamov looks to improve on his Vezina Trophy finalist season and will take on more minutes with Reto Berra as his new backup. Quick question, whatever happened to all of that hype about Calvin Pickard? Is he still just a few years off? Varlamov is a clear starter in Colorado, potentially erasing all recent memories of the roulette of goalies and struggles in the crease in the forms of Peter Budaj, Andrew Raycroft (interesting fact, I still have his rookie card somewhere), Brian Elliott (before he was good in St. Louis), Craig Anderson (not that he really struggled, just the team that was in front of him), and whatnot. No matter what anyone says, Berra is a weak backup until proven otherwise. Sure he had that impressive save last year in Calgary, but sometimes it just happens. Regardless, the Avalanche need another year or two of making it into the playoffs and getting to the second round. First of all, they have to avoid the Minnesota Wild; something tells me the playoffs are not kind to the Av’s when they play the Wild. Secondly, the have to see how they can pit themselves up against perennial powerhouses such as Chicago or Los Angeles. Only then will they be ready to take on a Western Conference Final battle and perhaps even a Stanley Cup Finals run. Their number one goal for 2014- 2015 season, though, must be to continue to improve and aim for the second round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Boston Bruins 2014- 2015 Season Preview

2014 Offseason
Losses: (Free Agency) F Jarome Iginla, F Shawn Thornton, G Chad Johnson, D Andrej Meszaros (Trades) D Johnny Boychuk

Additions: (Free Agency) G Jeremy Smith (Trades) No one

While the Boston Bruins knew they would lose Chad Johnson, Andrej Meszaros, and Shawn Thornton heading into free agency, the Bruins treaded uncharted waters on the Jarome Iginla front. Within hours of free agency opening, Iginla decided to jettison Boston for Colorado and thus opened a hole on Boston’s first line. GM Peter Chiarelli did not have that much to deal with given the relatively weak RW free agents available and looked around the trade market, to the dismay of Bruins fans, nothing was gained on the right side in the offseason. Iginla’s thirty goals will instead have to be split among several players in the Bruins 2014- 2015 lineup, which is likely to see its core (when healthy) perform on a regular basis.

The questions remain as to who will be the replacement on the third and fourth line right wings, with Loui Eriksson moving up to the first line centered by David Krejci and anchored on the left side by Milan Lucic, and the other first line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and Reilly Smith still in tact (finally, after the lengthy holdout on resigning Smith and Torey Krug). Both Matt Fraser and Ryan Spooner have made their cases for a roster spot, given their time in Providence last year and this preseason, however, with the plethora of centers in Boston, it is likely that someone like Spooner will end up playing a role on the wing, similar to what Carl Soderberg is doing already. With Jordan Caron appearing to be on his way to Providence, the only wild card from within the Bruins organization is this year’s first round selection, David Pastrnak. Pastrnak has the option of playing in Providence or back in Sweden should he not make the team- where he plays would be a collaborative decision between him and the Bruins front office staff. Simon Gagne was signed to a professional tryout agreement and remains as the only wild card, outside of the organization, pertaining to the 2014- 2015 Bruins roster.

On defense, the Bruins remain to look solid, despite the heavy loss of Johnny Boychuk in a trade with the New York Islanders. A healthy Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid will ease the roles and implementation of young defensemen such as Matt Bartkowski, Kevan Miller, Krug, and in the event of injuries, David Warsofsky and Zach Trotman. Notice, I’m not saying the Bruins defense is perfect. Without Boychuk the Bruins are much weaker in that they now do not have a solid group of top four defensemen. In time, however, Chiarelli might prove otherwise and be able to pull off a move for a defenseman Bruins fans have been waiting to see every year on their team, Keith Yandle. The rest of the outlook for the Bruins defense yields caution for Bartkowski, who is likely to be under heavy scrutiny (like he isn’t already) with Miller and Warsofsky ready to take the sixth and seventh defensemen spots. Zdeno Chara and Dougie Hamilton continue to look like the strong defensive pair that they are.

In goal, defending Vezina Trophy winner, Tuukka Rask looks to continue his stellar career and strong numbers, with Niklas Svedberg the expected backup goaltender. The overall season outlook for the Boston Bruins carries high expectations that demand none other than at least an Eastern Conference Finals journey. Anything short of that is reason enough to be pulling hair out of your head in Boston, with the Bruins looking to be the only successful team in the Hub for at least the next couple of seasons (we won’t talk about the Red Sox, Celtics, or Patriots, okay?)- and given last year’s frustrating series loss to the Montreal Canadiens. Although, it’s not so much about losing to their rivals that ruined the Bruins, it was a lack of compete level and complete amnesic short-term memory loss about how to play hockey in the 2014 Eastern Conference Semifinals. So with regards to Chiarelli’s moves (and lack thereof) this offseason, I will reference NHL 14’s Be a GM mode, where my owner once told me “[w]elcome back to the regular season. I’m surprised by your moves- or lack thereof- this offseason. I hope you know what you are doing…”