Tag Archives: Michael Ryder

Down the Frozen River Podcast #114- Mark Speed: The Mark Recchi Episode

Nick, Cap’n and Pete announce their top-10 right wingers of their lifetimes while Connor mails it in and Nick reads his list (somebody has to do work around here). Keeping with tradition, all of Thursday’s big news was announced during or shortly after recording.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) and/or on Stitcher.

Down the Frozen River Podcast #98- Do Or Donato, There Is No Try

Nick and Connor rambled about the remaining weeks of the regular season, who will finish last in the NHL, if Boston can catch Tampa, Columbus’s hot streak and more. They also previewed and predicted eight of the NHL’s annual awards. Anze Kopitar has 86 points on the season– get it right, Nick.

Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts (iTunes) and/or on Stitcher.

DTFR Overtime: Just Killing Prime

On the most recent episode of the Down the Frozen River Podcast, @connorzkeith expressed the sentiment that the Boston Bruins have been wasting the prime of their core group of players– not including David Pastrnak, or really anyone since the 2014 NHL Entry Draft currently on the roster.

Rather, Connor suggested that the Bruins were once a dominant team of the early 2010s with a core group of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Krejci, Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask that’s still very much left intact from their 2011 Stanley Cup championship, but that they’ve been wasting the arc of the aforementioned players’s prime.

Luckily, Down the Frozen River has an in-house Boston historian and I am here to set the record straight. This is DTFR Overtime and what I’ve thought about after recording the last podcast.


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Hockey is a game of inches and odd puck bounces. It’s a collective game of skill with an over-reliance on luck. Whatever you believe, you better believe in the Hockey Gods. It’s only fate, destiny and just a game at the end of the day, right?

Wrong.

The business of hockey has played a huge part in impacting the game of hockey as we know it– impacting teams and how rosters are constructed, directly through the introduction of a salary cap as of the last full-season lockout in 2004-2005 and indirectly, through many other external factors (family, injuries, et cetera).

It was because of league expansion in the 1970s and because of the rival World Hockey Association (WHA) that Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Derek Sanderson and the Bruins didn’t nail down a dynasty. Of course, the Montreal Canadiens also played a part in it in 1971, 1977 and 1978, but the B’s lost star goaltender, Gerry Cheevers, to the Cleveland Crusaders of WHA from 1972 through 1976– right after winning the Cup in 1972 and during Boston’s appearance and subsequent loss to the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1974 Stanley Cup Final.

Cheevers alone wasn’t the only difference maker in a Bruins uniform that left the black and gold for the higher paying WHA.

Sanderson jettisoned Boston for the Philadelphia Blazers in the summer of ’72 for a $2.600 million contract that made him the highest paid athlete in the world at the time, though he went on to only play in eight games with the Blazers due to injury and returned to Boston after the WHA’s 1972-1973 season on a $1 million deal. From 1972 through 1974 with the Bruins, Sanderson only played 54 out of 156 games and was sent down to the Boston Braves of the American Hockey League before being traded to the New York Rangers in June 1974.

John “Pie” McKenzie, a gifted point scorer known by his unconventional nickname left the Bruins for the WHA’s Blazers as a player-coach after the 1972 Stanley Cup Final and never returned to the NHL. McKenzie finished his playing days with the New England Whalers in 1979.

In the 1980s and early 90s, injuries and the emergence of the Edmonton Oilers as a top team in the National Hockey League plagued the primes of Ray Bourque, Brad Park, Cam Neely and the Big Bad Bruins.

Boston lost the 1988 and 1990 Stanley Cup Finals to the Oilers. Boston lost the 1991 and 1992 Eastern Conference Finals to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Boston Garden itself was closed in 1995– and then Boston missed the playoffs in 1997 for the first time in 30 years.

Good teams aren’t meant to remain on top forever.

There’s a reason why the Stanley Cup is the hardest trophy to win in all professional sports.

Claude Julien, the winningest coach (419 wins) in Bruins franchise history– having surpassed Art Ross‘s 387 wins mark with the team during his tenure in Boston– led the black and gold to two appearances in the Stanley Cup Final and one President’s Trophy (just the second in franchise history during the 2013-2014 campaign).

In 2011, the Bruins rode the backs of Nathan Horton, Marchand and Tim Thomas‘s insanity in goal. In 2013, a more experienced Boston team rallied from a 4-1 deficit in a Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round and charged all the way to a six game series battle with the Chicago Blackhawks that ultimately ended in defeat.

Thomas was no longer part of the story after 2012. Rask took over the reigns and never looked back. Jaromir Jagr came and went in a largely forgettable time in the spoked-B.

But the Bruins could skate with the best. Until they missed the playoffs in 2015 and 2016.

In the Salary Cap Era, teams are built up and ripped to shreds by massive longterm contracts and dollars being improperly allocated throughout the roster.

Peter Chiarelli got the Bruins in a salary cap hell, what with their fourth line center, Chris Kelly, making $3.000 million in his final years as a Bruin. In the broad scope of things, that was the least of Chiarelli’s mismanagement that ultimately ended his time in Boston. Neither the Tyler Seguin trade nor the Johnny Boychuk trade alone could be what led to the Bruins going from a top team deep in every roster spot to a team outside the playoff picture looking in with some mediocre placeholders.

Brett Connolly and Max Talbot didn’t yield the same results in Chiarelli’s last season with the Bruins– tangible or intangible– than any of the bottom-six forwards (Gregory Campbell, Shawn Thornton, Daniel Paille, Rich Peverley, Kelly and Michael Ryder) provided for the 2011.

Just one year removed from a President’s Trophy season that ended with an early First Round exit to Montreal, the Bruins found themselves on the verge of an uncomfortable position that they hadn’t been in since missing the playoffs in 2006 and 2007. They went on to miss the playoffs in 2015 and 2016.

So the Bruins did the only thing they’ve ever known. They reset themselves while still carrying a core group of players.

In the 70s, Boston rebuilt themselves around Orr, Esposito and friends when Sanderson left (then returned and left again via trade), Cheevers departed and McKenzie stormed off to the WHA. They drafted Terry O’Reilly in 1971, Stan Johnathan in 1975 and acquired Peter McNab from the Buffalo Sabres after the 1975 Stanley Cup Final.

The new identity Bruins flipped Esposito along with Carol Vadnais during the 1975-76 season to the New York Rangers for Brad Park, Jean Ratelle and Joe Zanussi and still had Orr until his departure via free agency in 1976.

Boston still had Johnny Bucyk, Wayne Cashman, Ken Hodge and Don Marcotte as key aspects of their 70s rosters.

They could have dismantled a team that won two Stanley Cups (and should have won more, if it weren’t for the WHA) after the franchise’s slow start in 1975. They didn’t.

Hockey has never been kind to good teams with the right players at what seems like it’s the right time (just ask last year’s Washington Capitals). But that’s the nature of the sport. No matter how much of a powerhouse you build– with or without a salary cap, with or without expansion or injuries– you can’t control the way the puck bounces.

Some players stick around in the league for long enough to become seasoned veterans of the NHL and never sniff a Stanley Cup Final appearance, let alone the postseason. It took Ron Hainsey until just last year with the Penguins to make his Stanley Cup Playoff debut and it took Bourque and Dave Andreychuk at least a couple of decades each to win it all.

Just because Bergeron, Marchand, Krejci, Chara and Rask only have a 2011 Stanley Cup championship together doesn’t mean they’ve been wasting their time, killing the prime of their careers.

For Boston, they ended a 39-year Stanley Cup-less drought.

They’ve already won once more than thousands of others who were lucky enough to make it to the NHL.

And they’ve forever cemented themselves in the history of the franchise, as well as the City of Boston as adopted sons and representatives of the Hub everywhere they go and in everything they do related to the sport or not.

Fans want rings and that’s one thing, but to say they’ve wasted their primes is another. They’ve contributed so much on and off the ice for the youth movement once again creeping up on the Bruins. Pastrnak is destined for stardom. Charlie McAvoy is an apprentice to Chara as Bourque was to Park in 1979.

Even Kevan Miller‘s found a bit of a resurgence in his offensive game, going end-to-end to throw the puck in front of the net to find Danton Heinen like Orr did with anyone.

The torch gets passed on. We’re all in for the ride.

And you pray to the Hockey Gods that they’ll let you win at least once.

March 31 – Day 163 – Keeping it in Alberta

Welcome to the penultimate Friday in the NHL’s regular season. Unless you’re a fan of one of the 16 teams heading for the playoffs, there’s not much hockey left to be watched so make sure to catch the rest of this season’s games!

Tonight’s festivities start with Pittsburgh at the New York Rangers (SN) at 7 p.m., followed half an hour later by New Jersey at the New York Islanders. 8:30 p.m. marks the puck drop of Columbus at Chicago,  with two more (St. Louis at Colorado and San Jose at Calgary) getting underway at the top of the hour. Two contests – Los Angeles at Vancouver (SN360) and Washington at Arizona – share the role of nightcap and get started at 10 p.m. All times eastern.

Short list:

  • Pittsburgh at New York: Not only is it a rematch of last year’s Eastern Quarterfinals, but the Blueshirts could pull within four points of third place in the Metropolitan Division.
  • Columbus at Chicago: Two of the three best teams in the league? Yes please.
  • San Jose at Calgary: Thanks to the Sharks‘ loss last night, the Flames are only three points out of third place in the Pacific Division.

I’d love to watch the Hawks and Jackets square off, but it doesn’t have major playoff implications – and that’s what we’re all about this time of year. As much as I dislike repeating teams on back-to-back nights, it looks like we have to catch the Sharks‘ plane to Calgary for another important Pacific tilt.

 

If the Sharks can be happy about anything right now, it’s that today is the final day in what has been a dreadful March for them. Their 6-9-0 mark is tied with Arizona for the sixth-worst record in the month, and being compared to Coyotes in anything is usually a sign of trouble.

What makes the recent struggles an even harder pill to swallow is that it is spoiling an overall solid regular season. When the final game in February was played, San Jose was not only leading the Pacific Division by five points, but also trailed Minnesota by only seven points for the top seed in the Western Conference.

Thirty days later, the 43-27-7 Sharks sit alone in third place in the division, and four teams separate them from home ice throughout the conference playoffs. It leaves a club and fan base that entered the season on a quest to hoist its first Stanley Cup wondering if they can even escape what will be a very trying quarterfinals matchup against the Ducks, Flames, Oilers or possibly even the Blackhawks.

As I mentioned yesterday, it’s been an nearly all-inclusive collapse (defense notwithstanding) by the Sharks that has resulted in their horrendous run over the past 15 games.

Since 33-32-6 Martin Jones was in net last night, I’d assume 10-6-1 Aaron Dell will start in goal tonight (of course, I tabbed Dell to start yesterday and I was wrong, so who knows?). Dell has actually been a solid backup all season, as his .928 save percentage and 2.09 GAA are not only better than Jones’ effort, but also rank (t)third and fourth-best in the league among the 56 netminders with at least 16 appearances.

Whether we get that Dell or the Dell that has seen his save percentage drop to .915 in March remains to be seen, but you can plan on Justin Braun and San Jose‘s defense playing as strong as ever.

All season the goal has been to keep pucks off Dell and Jones’ crease as much as possible, and they’ve done an excellent job in achieving just that. All year, they’ve allowed only 27.5 shots-against per game – the third-best rate in the league – and they’ve actually been slightly better of late, allowing only 27.1 per game in March.

No Shark deserves more credit for that than Braun. He’s been the defensive stalwart of the club all year, and it shows in his team-leading 154 shot blocks. Another that has done well defensively is Joe Thornton, but he does his work before the opposition even thinks about firing at the net. He leads the squad in takeaways with 64 (tied for eighth-most in the league), including 13 this month.

The goaltending issues have proven to be especially detrimental to San Jose‘s penalty kill. Since it has been only an average effort on the season as a whole (80.8% kill rate is 15th-worst in the NHL), taking away the luxury of a usually-reliable backstop has dropped the Sharks to ninth-worst in March, neutralizing only 78% of their infractions. Dell has saved only 85% of the power play shots that have come his way this month, the 14th-worst effort among the 38 goalies with at least six March appearances.

Special teams seem to be a struggle for Peter DeBoer’s squad this year, as his power play has actually been worse than his penalty kill. The Sharks rank seventh-worst on the season with their 17.1% success rate with the man-advantage.

It’s surprising that San Jose has been so poor, mostly because they have one weapon few can match: Brent Burns. The offensive-minded blueliner has notched 24 points on the power play this campaign, which ties for 16th-most in the NHL.

Perhaps the Sharks‘ mojo has relocated itself to Cowtown. Currently in possession of a 43-30-4 record and the West’s first wild card, the Flames have earned a 15-4-1 record since February 15. That ties Columbus for the best mark in that time, though I’d argue the Flames have been better with one fewer game played.

I may actually be on to something regarding San Jose‘s mojo, as Brian Elliott has been fantastic during this run. After a rocky start to the season, he’s reclaimed the starting job in Calgary and made it his own. Since mid-February, he’s earned a .933 save percentage and a 1.97 GAA, the fourth and fifth-best marks in the league, respectively, among the 33 goalies with at least nine appearances in that time.

Tonight is the fourth of five games between these clubs this season, and the Flames have the opportunity to clinch the series victory with a win tonight. They’ve gone 2-1-0 so far against San Jose, including the last time they met on January 11. It was a closely contested affair, but Dougie Hamilton scored with 2:19 remaining in regulation to earn a 3-2 win for the Flames in the Saddledome.

Some players to keep an eye on this evening include Calgary‘s Johnny Gaudreau (42 assists for 59 points [both lead the team]) and Mark Giordano (176 blocks for a+22 [both lead the team]) & San Jose‘s Burns (73 points [eighth-most in the league]) and Jones (33 wins [seventh-most in the NHL]).

It’s hard to argue with recent success. Vegas has marked the Flames a -130 favorite to win tonight. Just like I said yesterday, the Sharks‘ rebound has to start in the crease. While Calgary certainly doesn’t pose the offensive threat the Oilers did a night ago, the Flames‘ confidence should be enough to get past whichever goaltender DeBoer decides to go with.

Hockey Birthday

  • Bud MacPherson (1927-1988) – For seven seasons MacPherson roamed along Montréal‘s blueline, and he was rewarded with one All-Star Game and the 1953 Stanley Cup.
  • Gordie Howe (1928-2016) – There’s no discussion: this right wing is one of the greatest players the world has ever seen. Named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1972 – seven years before his last season in the league – he played in 23 All-Star Games over 26 NHL seasons (all but one with Detroit) and won both the Hart Memorial and Art Ross Trophies six times apiece, not to mention his four Stanley Cups.
  • Bob Pulford (1936-) – Another Hall of Famer, this left wing played all but two seasons of his 16-year career in Toronto. He won four Stanley Cups in the process, including three-straight from 1962-’64.
  • Bill Hicke (1938-2005) – Spending most of his time in Montréal, this right wing played 13 seasons in the NHL. The three-time All-Star was good for almost as many penalty minutes as points contributed, but that didn’t stop him from being a two-time Stanley Cup champion.
  • Gilles Gilbert (1949-) – Selected by the North Stars 25th-overall in the 1969 NHL Amateur Draft, this goaltender played 416 games over his 14-year career. Spending most of his time in Boston, he earned a 192-143-60 record before hanging up his pads.
  • Tom Barrasso (1965-) – Buffalo selected this goaltender fifth-overall in the 1983 NHL Entry Draft, but he played a majority of his career for the Penguins. He played well for both clubs, as he earned the 1984 Calder Memorial and Vezina Trophies and the 1985 William M. Jennings Trophy with the Sabres and back-to-back Stanley Cups in Pittsburgh.
  • Pavel Bure (1971-) – Though only selected in the sixth round of the 1989 NHL Entry Draft by Vancouver (his longest-tenured club), this right wing had a highly successful career. In addition to six All-Star Game appearances, he won two Maurice Richard Trophies and the 1992 Calder. All of that added up to a Hall of Fame induction in 2012.
  • Michael Ryder (1980-) – Montréal selected this right wing in the eighth round of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft, and that’s where he played most of his 11 seasons. That being said, he was wearing the crest of the arch-rival Bruins when he hoisted his lone Stanley Cup.
  • David Clarkson (1984-) – A longtime right wing for the Devils, this Toronto-native played 10 seasons in the NHL. He could’ve been playing his 11th this year with Columbus, but he was denied the opportunity to practice with the club due to failing his physical.
  • Steve Bernier (1985-) – The 16th-overall selection in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft by San Jose, this right wing has played 633 games over 11 seasons in the league. His longest -tenured club is New Jersey, with whom he scored 28 goals for 65 points.
  • Jakob Chychrun (1998-) – This rookie defenseman was the 16th-overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft by Arizona. He shows promise on the offensive end of the ice, as he’s provided 19 points already this year, the third-most among Coyotes blueliners.

Thanks to Second Star of the Game Cam Talbot‘s 38-save effort, Edmonton was able to best the Sharks 3-2 in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day to improve into second place in the Pacific Division.

Though Talbot had a strong night, it didn’t start off the best way. He allowed Jannik Hansen (Paul Martin) to score only his eighth goal of the season 1:01 into play to allow the Sharks to take an early lead. Fortunately for him, Third Star Patrick Maroon (First Star Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl) provided a game-tying goal 9:21 later. Though Zack Kassian was sent off the ice for hooking birthday boy Marc-Edouard Vlasic with 3:24 remaining in the period, McDavid (Oscar Klefbom and Drake Caggiula) was able to score a shorthanded backhander only 52 seconds later to give the Oil a 2-1 lead it would not yield.

Maroon (Kris Russell) provided what proved to be the game-winning goal 7:51 into the third period with a tip-in. It became the winner with 6:01 remaining in regulation when Joe Pavelski (Vlasic and Hansen) scored a tip-in of his own, but the Sharks were unable to find another tally before the final horn.

Talbot earned the victory after saving 38-of-40 shots faced (95%), leaving the loss to Jones, who saved 19-of-22 (86.4%).

We’re all squared up once again in the DtFR Game of the Day series, as both home and away teams in the series have an identical 189 points. Road sides still have more wins with their 83-59-23 record.

Forget October, Bring on July

By: Nick Lanciani

Granted, I’m always excited to watch a game and for new seasons to begin, but am I not the only one who is excited for this offseason? The high quality playing talent might not be on the market, but just about everything else will be and this is great for people like me that like to talk about all aspects of hockey. Plus it gives me something to write about and things to consider discussing in future podcasts, but that’s beside the point.

Second Round Bore

Yes last second goals are exciting; no 2-0 and 3-0 series leads for everyone are not. (Okay fine, I know that Calgary finally decided to make things interesting, for now and technically the Rangers and Capitals series is now going to a Game 6, but for the lack of a better part, things have been one sided across the Second Round of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs).

Anaheim has been a dominant force in the Ducks versus Flames series. The Capitals and Rangers have had low scoring games that have shown puck possession domination and lots of zone time for Washington. Tampa Bay nearly blew Montreal out of the water and for God’s sake, Chicago went all Chicago on the Minnesota Wild and swept them.

Calgary’s quick methods of scoring in Game 4 proved to be something that they might be able to maintain in the series against the Ducks considering how they came back to win Game 3 as well, it’s not crazy to think that if they can respond to Anaheim’s strong roster and presence in the playoffs so far in Game 5- there will at least be a Game 6.

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Courtesy: Candice Ward, USA TODAY Sports

Then again, in keeping with the dominance trend of this round, the Ducks can’t be stopped on home ice. Thanks for trying Calgary, you were great to watch and will probably be making a long run in the playoffs within the next few seasons if you keep it up.

For a team that added so much talent around the trade deadline and went on a rampage to the top of the league standings, laying claim to this year’s President’s Trophy title, the New York Rangers have been pathetic in offensive production in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. They should know from last year, you can’t win the Cup if you can’t score goals. Or defend 2-0 leads, but at least Los Angeles isn’t in the playoffs this year to ruin New York’s hopes and dreams.

Instead, Braden Holtby, and the Washington Capitals look to do that. In somewhat anticlimactic fashion, given the oddities of every game in that series so far, might I add.

The Lightning have manhandled the Canadiens, with the exception of Game 4. But for all intents and purposes, the Bolts look like they will wrap this up before a Game 7 becomes necessary.

Front Office Changes, Peter Chiarelli, Ray Shero, and the Boston Bruins possibilities

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Courtesy: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

Peter Chiarelli instantly makes the Edmonton Oilers better. Drafting Connor McDavid makes them even better and actually provides a speck of hope for the future of that organization. Chiarelli’s familiarity with some of the guys on the Oilers roster, such as current Edmonton captain and former Bruin, Andrew Ference, as well as former Boston forwards, Matt Fraser and Benoit Pouliot, will at least provide Chiarelli an opportunity to ease into the organization with comfort.

Edmonton’s outlook is finally hopeful. While they might not make the playoffs again next season, there’s a good chance they’ll make it in 2017. McDavid will have had a little time in the league and the attractiveness of Chiarelli as a GM (and the front office he puts together) will bring talented players to the Oilers organization in free agency. Assuming Chiarelli keeps up his recent trend of drafting well, Edmonton will finally have a foundation to build on in their minor league affiliates.

As long as Chiarelli can operate his strategies and tactics that worked well in Boston with Edmonton in the Western Conference, where the style of hockey tends to be radically different from the Eastern Conference currently, then he will have great opportunities for freedom to do as he pleases with the Oilers reigns.

In New Jersey, Ray Shero brings quality expertise as a general manager for the New Jersey Devils. The architect of the Pittsburgh Penguins 2009 Stanley Cup Championship is poised to make a quicker than expected turnaround out of the rebuilding Devils organization.

Shero understands that a team needs a mix of youth and veterans on a roster and will clearly have enough cap space to work with to attract the best that he can from free agency. Shero also has assets to trade, unlike Chiarelli in Edmonton, where other teams might be weary of what they’re getting in return.

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Courtesy: devils.nhl.com

A team looking for a veteran to complete their third line in an effort to make a deep playoff run, and successful regular season, would easily poke around at New Jersey’s roster for options. While he might be a shell of his former self, Michael Ryder comes to mind as someone that could use a fresh start in an organization that doesn’t expect that much from him, but just enough, and is looking for a long run.

Last but not least, the Boston Bruins are narrowing down their selection for their next general manager. It is rumored that Jeff Gorton and Don Sweeney are leading candidates for the position, especially after New Jersey hired Shero.

Gorton was a former assistant GM for the Bruins and had a stint as the interim GM in between the firing of Mike O’Connell and the hiring of Peter Chiarelli, in 2006. And yes, technically it was Gorton’s genius in the execution of the Andrew Raycroft for the rights to Tuukka Rask trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs (sorry Toronto).

While a return for Gorton to Boston would be pleasing for everyone involved with the organization, the New York Rangers have not let him speak to the Bruins for the open general manager position. Gorton is for now and likely will continue to be, the assistant GM for the Rangers.

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Courtesy: bruins.nhl.com

So what’s realistically going to happen, unless an unnamed individual appears out of nowhere, is the promotion of current Bruins assistant GM Don Sweeney to the position. Sweeney already has an inside track of knowledge within the organization and is more than capable of taking control of the upper management decisions, having served as the assistant GM since July 2010.

It’s not a matter of who the Bruins hire to be their next general manager, but rather what do they do with their current roster that has clearly lost some of its touch. While the core of Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug, and David Pastrnak won’t be disturbed, questions remain around forwards Milan Lucic, Reilly Smith, Chris Kelly, and defensemen Dennis Seidenberg and Kevan Miller.

The Bruins look to resign Carl Soderberg and should definitely pass on resigning Matt Bartkowski, but as to whether they need to move Lucic, Smith, Kelly, Seidenberg, or Miller for some asset remains to be unsolved.

Coaching Roulette

Todd McLellan, Mike Babcock, Craig Berube, Dan Bylsma, Guy Boucher, and possibly Claude Julien all could be actively in the market for a new head-coaching gig. And hey, Paul MacLean and his glorious mustache is still out there too.

McLellan has been interviewing with the Edmonton Oilers, who have in fact, have even spoken with the coach they just fired. While Edmonton is a prime fit for McLellan if he is looking to remain in the Western Conference, he might be better suited for an Eastern Conference team in need of something to anchor the development of their players for even a few seasons, say the Buffalo Sabres or the Philadelphia Flyers for example.

Courtesy: thehockeywriters.com
Courtesy: thehockeywriters.com

Babcock is free to speak with anyone, given he’s at the end of his contract with the Detroit Red Wings. There is high speculation that he will end up in Toronto, and quite frankly, that might be the best fit for him. If the Maple Leafs can’t move Dion Phaneuf or Phil Kessel and continue to have disgruntled players on their roster, maybe Babcock can calm things down.

He can’t turn them into Cup winners in one season, but he can make a methodical procedure work for even the annual laughingstock of the NHL. If not, expect Edmonton, Buffalo, and other bottom feeders to be all over him. Realistically, he could deny them all and go to Philadelphia where things are just enough in shape to get better a lot sooner, if he doesn’t have the patience for Toronto.

The now ex-Flyers head coach, Craig Berube, is destined to end up with a team. San Jose, Buffalo, or Edmonton seem like he might make a good fit behind the bench and in the locker room. The Sharks could be Berube’s best fit, given their similarity to Philadelphia in that both teams have an array of youth and veterans that are capable of making the playoffs, but missed out this year.

Two coaches that might be making returns (and thereby playing spoiler this offseason) are Dan Bylsma and Guy Boucher. Bylsma has previously worked with Ray Shero in Pittsburgh and could end up back under his authority in New Jersey, however the Devils look to be set on keeping Adam Oates or Scott Stevens on board. Boucher on the other hand, is looking for a fresh start after having last been fired by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2013. He most recently served as the head coach of SC Bern of the Swiss National League A and is signed on through their 2015-2016 season- pending the terms of that deal, he could attempt to jump ship.

Courtesy: USA TODAY Sports
Courtesy: USA TODAY Sports

Finally, as the Bruins near a decision on their next GM, it looks as though Claude Julien’s job is safe. Although there are a few names floating around for Boston’s next general manager, all signs are pointing towards Don Sweeney landing a promotion and Julien remaining in charge on the bench. But to think, the Bruins could have participated in the roulette of talented coaches if they wanted to- not that Julien isn’t already highly talented at what he does.

When others were on the witch-hunt for Chiarelli and Julien after the Bruins missed the playoffs this year, I sat back with a realistic view on things. You can get rid of one and that’ll be okay. It’ll hurt, but it’s manageable. Again, what really needs a second look is Boston’s roster and I’m sure they know that.

And oh yeah, this year’s draft is still one of the most hyped up Entry Drafts in a long time, so there’s always that to look forward to.

IMAGE: “Stanley Cup Playoffs logo” via NHL.com

Viable Trade Options- Part Three- Metropolitan Division

By: Nick Lanciani

The Trade Deadline is fast approaching, is your team ready for this year’s fire sale? I take a look at some reasonable ideas for deals, as well as the overall consideration of buying or selling for each team in the league in this month long series. Buyer beware, all sales are final on March 2nd, 2015.

Current Metropolitan Division Standings

  1. NYI 79 pts. (39-19-1) 59 GP
  2. NYR 74 pts. (34-16-6) 56 GP
  3. WSH 74 pts. (32-17-10) 59 GP
  4. PIT 73 pts. (32-17-9) 58 GP
  5. PHI 59 pts. (24-23-11) 58 GP
  6. CBJ 55 pts. (26-27-3) 56 GP
  7. NJ 53 pts. (22-26-9) 57 GP
  8. CAR 47 pts. (20-29-7) 56 GP

New York Islanders LogoNew York Islanders (1st in the Metropolitan Division, 59 GP 39-19-1 record, 79 points)

The New York Islanders need not worry about adding assets at this year’s trade deadline. While they do need to maintain their focus and avoid peaking too early, the Islanders appear as thought they are serious playoff contenders.

Their early acquisitions of defensemen Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy have really paid off. Coupled with Jaroslav Halak’s stellar goaltending- the New York Islanders have been nothing short of fantastic this season in the Eastern Conference. It appears as though for once the Islanders have just the right combination of youth and experience in their entire roster.

So with all of that in mind- there’s really nothing that New York needs in the long run. Sure the Islanders could pick up a depth forward or defenseman. The Islanders could move Lubomir Visnovsky or Matt Donovan to pick up that missing piece that might get them completely over the hump that is the first round of the playoffs (in recent memory for the Islanders).

Again, however, the Islanders might as well be perfectly content if they don’t do anything at the deadline. After all, it’d be better for them to get the experience and fail than get no experience at all. Regardless, they are going to be a fun team to watch heading into the playoff run.

New York Rangers LogoNew York Rangers (2nd in the Metropolitan Division, 56 GP 34-16-6 record, 74 points)

The New York Rangers are shaping up to be a delightful team to watch heading into the playoff run. Provided a healthy Henrik Lundqvist is able to work his way back in the lineup- although, in all honesty, a little time off for Lundqvist might be the most dangerous wild card for the rest of the league.

Think about it. In a typical season, Lundqvist tends to play in upwards of 65 to 70 games before the playoffs begin. Both in 2012 and in 2014 the Rangers ran out of gas in deep playoff runs (including the 2014 Stanley Cup Finals). Regardless of how you feel the Rangers ran out of gas, a goalie that has played nearly 100 games at the end of the day probably doesn’t help your chances- no matter how elite the goalie is.

All I’m saying is, if the Rangers can keep up with momentum and Lundqvist gets right back in it, then New York becomes that much more of a serious contender. Aside from the fact that the Rangers have figured out a balance of youth and experience in their lineup and that Rick Nash is having a stellar season.

Both J.T. Miller and John Moore are really the only assets the Rangers could possibly move. Miller could be in play in the player from the Arizona Coyotes that every team is trying to land, Antoine Vermette. But it wouldn’t be an easy one-for-one swap between the Rangers and the Coyotes. New York would have to offer a draft pick or something to make the deal a little more worthwhile for Arizona.

New York has also been in the hunt at acquiring Carolina Hurricane’s defenseman, Andrej Sekera. Moore is one of New York’s expendable defensemen that they could use as part of a deal to land Sekera. In any case, any deal has to be just right for both sides engaged in negotiations.

If the Rangers can’t address all of their needs, then the least they should do is focus on their defensemen. They are a fast skating team with skilled forwards. Adding a depth defenseman or adding a player of Sekera’s caliber would complete New York’s lineup and become a force to be reckoned with.

Washington Capitals LogoWashington Capitals (3rd in the Metropolitan Division, 59 GP 32-17-10 record, 74 points)

The Washington Capitals are in a commanding spot having jumped from the first wild card position in the Eastern Conference to the last divisional spot currently in playoff position. While Washington has been keeping in contention this season, they’ve been doing so oddly quiet. The Capitals are keeping pace with their dominant division rivals and are comfortably in the option of buying and selling constructively.

Braden Holtby is having a great season as the Capitals starting goaltender, certainly providing a spark of hope for the victory each night that he takes to the net. Alex Ovechkin an the rest of the Capitals offense continues to produce and it turns out signing Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik is working out well for Washington (for now- Orpik’s contract is still a horrible claim to infamy from a general manager’s perspective).

Speaking of defense, however, it appears as though something is about to drop in Washington, as Mike Green appears to be the biggest asset the Capitals are looking to move at the trade deadline. The 29-year-old defenseman is exactly what any playoff lurking team with room for Green on their roster in the future is looking for. Conversely, any retooling team would gladly take him as well. But it’s going to take the right package for Washington to rid themselves of Mike Green without any regrets.

In terms of interchangeable parts that the Capitals are looking to use to improve, Joel Ward, Aaron Volpatti and Jay Beagle are striking options to move with the intent of picking up a much needed right wing scorer.

Alas, all of them are pending unrestricted forwards and Green would likely see the best return in the form of a winger, unless Washington is able to pull off a miracle package deal with Ward, Volapatti, and/or Beagle.

In terms of moving Mike Green, the Vancouver Canucks, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, and Detroit Red Wings are appealing options. Although if you’re going to mention two California teams, you might as well mention the Los Angeles Kings as dark horses that could add to their defensive strength with a Green acquisition.

Regardless, Washington has to keep gaining momentum at this part of the season in order to head into the playoffs at full strength and no mercy. Enough is enough from a talented organization that has only been able to get so far in the playoffs before faltering- it’s a deep playoff run or bust for the Washington Capitals given their current lineup and their quest for constant improvement.

Pittsburgh Penguins LogoPittsburgh Penguins (4th in the Metropolitan Division, 1st Eastern Conference Wild Card, 58 GP 32-17-9 record 73 points)

No surprise here, the Pittsburgh Penguins talented roster has kept them afloat after their offseason front office transition (this being their first year with new GM Jim Rutherford and new head coach, Mike Johnston).

Only Pascal Dupuis and Olli Maatta are on the inured reserve for the Penguins, who are a young team that is sprinkled with talent and experience. Marc-Andre Fleury looks to be reliable this season, but only time will tell if he can maintain throughout the playoffs. None of the offseason maneuvers have upset Pittsburgh’s defense and the Penguins have been able to build their roster throughout the season pretty well so far.

With that said, the Penguins have got plenty of free agents coming up at the end of the season in an already tight salary cap situation. Pittsburgh could try to lessen this problem at the deadline by moving pending restricted free agents Robert Bortuzzo and Brian Dumoulin. The two defensemen could be a decent package for either Edmonton Oilers defenseman Jeff Petry or Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Andrej Sekera.

Bortuzzo appears to be the more attractive defenseman the Penguins could offer and would fit any team looking to retool and rid themselves of a potential rental player defenseman, which makes teams like Edmonton, Carolina, New Jersey, or Buffalo viable trading partners, as Pittsburgh could look for Petry, Sekera, Marek Zidlicky, Bryce Salvador, or Tyson Stratchan in return. Dumoulin might take a little convincing for any team to acquire.

Needless to say, if the Penguins don’t make a move, they’re still readily prepared for a playoff run based on how the roster is currently shaped. They might not be the talk of the town right now, but they can skate with some of the better teams in the Western Conference, which certainly makes Pittsburgh one of the favorites as Eastern Conference Stanley Cup Finals representatives (at least on paper).

Philadelphia Flyers LogoPhiladelphia Flyers (5th in the Metropolitan Division, 58 GP 24-23-11 record, 59 points)

While the Philadelphia Flyers continue to cause frustration among their fan base, this season certainly has been better than the last few years. For once, it doesn’t appear as though the Flyers are having as much of a goaltender struggle that they usually have.

Instead, this year, the focus tends to be more on a lack of offense and a ho-hum defense. The best asset Philadelphia has to offer at the trade table on deadline day are their versatile defensemen. That’s right, I just went from calling their defensemen “ho-hum” to “versatile”.

That’s because the system doesn’t appear to be working very well for Michael Del Zotto and Carlo Colaiacovo in Philadelphia, however they are quality top four defensemen that are valuable to a team looking for a deep run. Pending the status of Kimmo Timonen, certainly the Flyers could feel offers out on the blood clot recovering defenseman. If not, then Del Zotto and Colaiacovo remain their main focus.

Del Zotto appears to be the more attractive defender, with the Anaheim Ducks, Detroit Red Wings, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Vancouver Canucks being a good fit as teams that are in solidified standings. Boston and Buffalo seem to be the only other teams that come to mind as organizations that are unsure of what the future holds, but could benefit from the services of Del Zotto as well.

Colaiacovo on the other hand, would be a great addition for any of the above-mentioned teams. He would likely do better with a Western Conference organization, given that Colaiacovo has spent time in St. Louis and Detroit (prior to realignment). In that case, would even St. Louis be willing to pass up on him, if Anaheim is close to acquiring his skillsets, or would there be a welcome back parade through the streets of St. Louis leading to the Scottrade Center.

In any case, the Flyers have some developing to do and retooling in free agency with their forwards (it might be next to impossible to move Vincent Lecavalier’s contract at the deadline, or ever, for that matter). But the overall outlook of the organization is getting better as they are finding a direction to head in.

Columbus Blue Jackets LogoColumbus Blue Jackets (6th in the Metropolitan Division, 56 GP 26-27-3 record, 55 points)

Sadly, one of the biggest surprises of last season, the Columbus Blue Jackets, have been unable to keep their Cinderella story momentum going this season with the injury bug plaguing most of their chances. It seems that when one player is ready to return to the Blue Jackets lineup, another player goes down (or a player returns to the injured reserve, because that has happened too).

Right now Boone Jenner, Jeremy Morin, Ryan Murray, and Sergei Bobrovsky are on the injured reserve for Columbus. Nick Foligno is having a career year, despite all of the negative detractors from the Blue Jackets this season.

But come March 2nd, the Columbus Blue Jackets should be looking to move Mark Letestu, Cam Atkinson, Matt Calvert, and Curtis McElhinney. Letestu, Atkinson, and Calvert are all attractive to playoff looming organizations- so the ones you’ve already heard about thousands of times by now, Boston, Montreal, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Detroit, Anaheim, and even St. Louis or Chicago.

McElhinney on the other hand, is not a solid backup goaltender and cannot hold the team over when Bobrovsky is out of the lineup.

If Columbus gets the chance to pull a move similar to how Buffalo brought in Anders Lindback for Jhonas Enroth, then nothing will be costly for the team that is not likely to make this year’s playoffs. Columbus could benefit from a rental backup goaltender that might bring some stability to the organization in the short term in effort to allow the front office to get things together and go after a solid backup in free agency.

With that in mind, maybe its worth exploring Eddie Lack’s availability. If injuries aren’t a problem next season and the Blue Jackets aren’t able to get going, then things are going to get worse before they get better from the looks of things.

New Jersey Devils LogoNew Jersey Devils (7th in the Metropolitan Division, 57 GP 22-26-9 record, 53 points)

The New Jersey Devils might be the new nursing home of the NHL (previously held by the Florida Panthers). With that in mind, the Devils should come as no surprise as one of those teams that needs to sell at all costs if they want to improve in any aspect.

Jaromir Jagr, the ageless wonder, is a pending unrestricted free agent that could be a top bargaining piece as a rental player for any team looking to make the playoffs. The Devils need look no further than their division rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Islanders as viable options to swap Jagr with. The Montreal Canadiens, Boston Bruins, and practically any other team should come as no surprise to be in on the Jagr sweepstakes as well.

But aside from Jagr, the Devils have a plethora of pending UFA forwards in Martin Havlat, Michael Ryder, Jordin Tootoo, Steve Bernier, and Scott Gomez. While some are nowhere near what they used to be, namely Tootoo, Bernier, and Gomez, others may be more attractive.

Havlat and Ryder are attractive options for teams looking for roleplaying forwards that can also bring a decent forechecking game and two-way aspect in their play on a second or third line. I get it, Ryder has really faltered at this stage of his career, but he still has a good wrist shot and a fresh change of scenery, combined with a little stability would be good for him.

New Jersey defensemen, Marek Zidlicky and Bryce Salvador could also be moved at the deadline. Zidlicky is a right-handed defenseman that could fill the hole in Anaheim or Detroit, given that neither the Ducks nor the Red Wings were able to land Tyler Myers last week. Zidlicky wouldn’t cost that much and is a pending UFA. Then again, Zidlicky might be what a team like the Boston Bruins are looking for, in terms of experience and stability for the short term.

Salvador is also a rental player defenseman that could fit in with practically any team on the outside looking in, such as Florida, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, or Minnesota, but then again, he could also work well on a team on the cusp on the playoffs or well on their way to a deep run. Boston, Pittsburgh, Washington, Montreal, and St. Louis all seem to be decent fits for Salvador’s play and cost.

In any case, it comes down to sell the players, or sell the team for New Jersey, because the ownership is clearly not expressing a commitment to winning in the team’s current state.

Carolina Hurricanes LogoCarolina Hurricanes (8th in the Metropolitan Division, 56 GP 20-29-7 record, 47 points)

Plain and simple, the Carolina Hurricanes have been bad. Defensemen are in demand at this year’s trade deadline, and Carolina has a couple to offer in Andrej Sekera and Tim Gleason. The Hurricanes could also move forwards Jiri Tlusty or Jay McClement at the deadline.

The obvious landing positions for the hot commodities- Sekera and Gleason- would likely be teams looking to make a successful playoff run, such as the Boston Bruins, Montreal Canadiens, Anaheim Ducks, Detroit Red Wings, Tampa Bay Lightning, and even the Pittsburgh Penguins, if it means they can get their hands on a package deal that would include either Tlusty or McClement.

Taking a look at Carolina’s roster, one can easily see that moving one of the Staal brothers really might not make sense after all. Nor would moving a player like Alexander Semin be a smart idea. The Hurricanes made an investment in Semin and they might as well get as much as they can out of him. Looking down the line, Patrick Dwyer is another forward over thirty that could certainly use a change of scenery for the better (not just for his own career, but Carolina’s future as well).

So if the Hurricanes are unable to move at least Tlusty, McClement, or Dwyer by the deadline, then all is not lost on the front end of their roster. Some definite retooling is in order for Carolina come July 1st. One of the things that the Hurricanes must explore is a better balance between youth and experience. Right now, they have an abundance of youth, but they have a stale group of experienced players that have spent too long in Carolina.

On the point, the Canes are looking to move Sekera and Gleason, but it would also do them service to look for a potential suitor for John-Michael Liles. It would be worthwhile for Carolina to move Liles for a player of equal status or experience, or perhaps a few years younger to help balance their blueliners.

The future in goal for Carolina is moving past Cam Ward, but Anton Khudobin is no long-term solution. Sure, Khudobin is projected to be a decent (backup) goalie, but the Canes must avoid too much of a similar situation as Buffalo was having with Jhonas Enrtoh and Michal Neuvirth. Who’s the starter? Who’s the backup? And why aren’t either of them clear cut starters or backups? At least Buffalo now has more hope in making Neuvirth their starter and Anders Lindback their backup, by definition.

For Carolina, though, neither Ward nor Khudobin are fitting any definition in goal. A trade involving Ward must be coming, albeit likely in the offseason. But if the Staal’s are hanging around, then certainly Ward’s got to go in the midst of a little roster shake up. Perhaps the Hurricanes have gotten too comfortable with the way things are, but that only makes actions need to happen more.

The outlook for Carolina is tough to envision, since not much direction has been or is being set presently for the organization.

Viable Trade Options- Part One- Atlantic Division

By: Nick Lanciani

The Trade Deadline is fast approaching, is your team ready for this year’s fire sale? I take a look at some reasonable ideas for deals, as well as the overall consideration of buying or selling for each team in the league in this month long series. Buyer beware, all sales are final on March 2nd, 2015.

Current Atlantic Division Standings

  1. TB 71 pts. (33-16-5)
  2. MTL 69 pts. (33-15-3)
  3. DET 69 pts. (30-12-9)
  4. BOS 63 pts. (28-17-7)
  5. FLA 56 pts. (23-17-10)
  6. TOR 50 pts. (23-27-4)
  7. OTT 49 pts. (20-22-9)
  8. BUF 35 pts. (16-34-3)

Unknown-1 Tampa Bay Lighting (1st in the Atlantic Division, 54 GP 33-16-5 record, 71   points) Not buying or selling.

Have you heard about the Tampa Bay Lighting recently? No? That’s okay, neither   have I- with the exception of some of the highlights from Steven Stamkos on any  given night. The Lightning are cruising along a successful season currently as the first place team in the Eastern Conference. Tampa’s putting up points consistently this season in one of the most inconsistent divisions (if not conference) in the league, yet they haven’t taken the talk of the town by storm.

Despite their young goaltending in Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevsky, the Lightning seem ready for a playoff run. I question their goaltending based on their youth alone. Bishop is a solid starter that can at least be good on any given night with shut down defense in front of him and blazing offense producing goals (two things Tampa Bay has nailed this year). Some might consider Vasilevsky too young to be a backup.

After being swept by the Montreal Canadiens in last year’s playoffs, this Lightning roster gained valuable playoff experience that can only help them approaching this time of the season. However, the Lightning are currently short a regular lineup defenseman, or two, due to injury.

Their best option this year at the trade deadline is to go out and acquire a veteran defenseman with rental player status. Their best asset in doing so would be to trade Brett Connolly for a defenseman. If we’re talking matching age for age, the other plausible option would be to trade Brenden Morrow for an older defenseman. Otherwise, a straight up defenseman for defenseman swap could hamper the integrity of the Lightning’s current roster.

Unknown Montreal Canadiens (2nd in the Atlantic Division, 51 GP 33-15-3 record, 69 points) Buying on sale.

The Montreal Canadiens are having themselves a decent run so far, currently  seated in the last divisional spot in the Atlantic Division for the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. They haven’t had any major bumps in the road in the injury department or in the any player severely lacking in performing their job.

With that said, the Canadiens look to improve upon their Eastern Conference Finals run in last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs. Yet the Habs don’t exactly have any players they’re looking to trade and they certainly don’t have that much that they are in dire need of acquiring. Their forwards are young for the most part, and their goalies are young as well- aside from being untouchable given that Carey Price is their starter and how Dustin Tokarski has lived up to his role as the Habs backup.

So what could Montreal do to better their team? For starters, there is always the age old saying “defense wins championships”. For a twenty-four-time Stanley Cup winning franchise that hasn’t seen hockey’s holy grail since 1993, one would think that the Canadiens would be pressing for some type of complete roster. Only three of Montreal’s defensemen are under the age of 32.

Mike Weaver and Andrei Markov are both 36 years old, Tom Gilbert is 32, and Sergei Gonchar is 40 years old. Only P.K. Subban (25), Alexei Emelin (28), and Nathan Beaulieu (22) are under the age of 32. The Habs could certainly use Weaver as trade bait for a younger rental defenseman that could help ease time on ice duties, relieving Markov and Gonchar on the blueline.

The Canadiens are also interested in the hunt that everyone seems to be in right now- the quest for landing Antoine Vermette. While the versatile center- that can also play wing- would fit in with the roster, the asking price might be a bit much for the Habs to cough up. Could it be possible that Montreal moves Manny Malhotra and another forward and/or a draft pick for Vermette, certainly, but Vermette seems a bit out of reach for the Canadiens, given their status and outlook heading into the playoff run.

Another highly touted player currently being shopped around is Jaromir Jagr, though it seems next to impossible to envision Jagr in bleu, blanc, and rouge. But it wouldn’t be the first time the Canadiens pulled off a surprising steal at the deadline, given how they acquired current Minnesota Wild forward, Thomas Vanek, last year from the New York Islanders. The New Jersey Devils would probably do better rebuilding with someone like Manny Malhotra, who is a bit younger than Jagr and has a few more years left in him (although the ageless wonder that is Jaromir Jagr does not appear to be slowing down anytime soon).

One thing is for sure; Michael Ryder probably isn’t going back for a third stint in Montreal.

Unknown-1 Detroit Red Wings (3rd in the Atlantic Division, 51 GP 30-12-9 record, 69 points) Buying on sale.

There’s not that much to worry about this season for the Detroit Red Wings. Their scorers are scoring, their checkers are checking, and their goaltenders are goaltending- which has pretty much been the Red Wings system for eternity it seems. Like the Lightning, the Red Wings are quietly producing.

None of this should come as a surprise really, with guys like Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Gustav Nyquist, Niklas Kronwall, and Jimmy Howard on the team. Thus none of it should come as a surprise to say that the Detroit Red Wings don’t really need anything.

The lack of a right handed shot on defense hasn’t shot the Red Wings in the foot this year, unlike preseason speculations feared. Could the Red Wings try to land a right-handed defenseman in a deadline deal? Yeah sure, but then again, anyone could if they wanted.

Despite their early playoff exit at the hands of the Boston Bruins last year, the Red Wings don’t need that much to stockpile for a playoff run this year. They’ve got plenty of playoff experience in the depth of their lineup and they’re on top of things (for the most part) right now. I’m not suggesting that Detroit should take the rest of the season lightly (and the playoffs, for that matter). I am merely stating that from a management perspective, they’ve got the team they want to go with for a successful outlook in terms of a playoff run.

Unknown Boston Bruins (4th in the Atlantic Division, currently 2nd Eastern Conference Wild Card, 52 GP 28-17-7 record, 63 points) Buying and selling.

Despite the recent turnaround, there is no doubt that the Boston Bruins so far this year have been a disappointment compared to recent years. After a dismal December, the Bruins found themselves on the brink of a drastic identity change. Now after the month of January, the Bruins, while still not perfect, are trending in the right direction, especially considering that they are in playoff contention.

Patrice Bergeron has been Boston’s most consistent player, as usual, and Tuukka Rask has kept them in games. During the opening months it appeared as though the Bruins were shooting themselves in the foot. They aren’t as much of a Jekyll and Hyde team currently, although some aspects are still lacking. It would be in Boston’s best interest to patch some holes in their roster- they still need a winger and could probably use a defenseman. Especially after some of the small holes in their game pestered them and ultimately plagued them in last year’s playoffs leading to their demise to their archrivals, the Montreal Canadiens.

Everyone wants Antoine Vermette. He could be the solid addition the Bruins are looking for in the short term, but they’d need a little more of a guarantee in the long term. However, could a rental player be enough to suffice for this season with Ryan Spooner and Seth Griffith about a year away from making the roster on a nightly basis? And what would it take to get Vermette?

Certainly if the Bruins wanted to work on a deal for Vermette and Keith Yandle, they’re going to have to offer the Arizona Coyotes something worthwhile. This is where Chris Kelly may be expendable for Vermette and Yandle if the Bruins throw in someone like Matt Bartkowski and a draft pick. As always, though, there’s the salary cap to consider.

In terms of other potential forwards the Bruins could chase after, there’s the whole Chris Stewart or Zack Kassian dilemma. Any deal for Kassian would make the Bruins worse (that’s all you need to know about my position on Kassian). Even if Boston offered the Vancouver Canucks Matt Bartkowski and something else that might sweeten the deal. The Buffalo Sabres have all the advantages in the world given their situation and trying to move the potentially useful Stewart.

They could be demanding and not budge from a high asking price, meaning that the Bruins would have to part with a piece from their core, which isn’t an ideal situation for Boston (yes, even if it were a one for one Milan Lucic for Chris Stewart trade. Take a look people, Lucic is a better player). Besides, Buffalo wouldn’t want someone they hate anyway, right?

But along the lines of Buffalo, I can only wonder how much a guy like Cody Hodgson runs for. Hodgson doesn’t solve the first or second line (depending on the night) right wing that the Bruins need, but he does carry some value as a third or fourth liner- which also an area the Bruins could use some retouching.

While it’s a stretch, Cody Franson would look like a good replacement for the months departed Johnny Boychuk, however Franson would be a next to impossible piece to land, especially if the Toronto Maple Leafs insist they only move him to a Western Conference team. But if the Bruins are looking for an extra, young, defenseman (and believe me, they are) Edmonton Oilers defenseman, Jeff Petry, might solve that problem.

Then again, general manager, Peter Chiarelli, might see adding another veteran blueliner as an easier option for the short term. Someone like Andrej Sekera or Marek Zidlicky. Sekera wouldn’t take much to pry from the Carolina Hurricanes and Zidlicky would probably require even less from the New Jersey Devils, who will no doubt be forced to sell like there’s no tomorrow, considering the dividends the race to the bottom will pay out in this year’s Entry Draft (Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel).

Given Chiarelli’s track record, the Bruins could very well go out and try to strike a deal with the Ottawa Senators for Marc Methot. Methot is a versatile defenseman that could bring an edge to Boston’s blueline without tampering with it too much.

Whatever the Bruins end up doing, they’re well aware they need to do it now (or by/on March 2nd).

Unknown-2 Florida Panthers (5th in the Atlantic Division, 50 GP 23-17-10 record, 56 points) Selling used parts.

The Florida Panthers are average. Now there’s a sentence I didn’t think I’d write this year (or ever). Last year’s deadline deal brought stability in net in the form of Roberto Luongo. Their youth is starting to come around and general manager, Dale Tallon, has made moves that have begun to payoff on defense.

Yet there is still a major overtone hampering the Panthers from getting any better. A friend once told me that a player only goes to Florida when they know their career is pretty much over. While the Panthers have done a decent job riding themselves of many 35+ club players, Florida has some moveable parts in that demographic.

In order for their youth movement on the blue line to improve, Brian Campbell has got to be swapped for a mid-aged defenseman that brings in the right amount of youth and experience- Cody Franson, perhaps? Again, the problem lies with mid-aged defenseman being a hot commodity and the Panthers being a less than ideal trading partner.

In terms of forwards, Brad Boyes, Sean Bergenheim, Tomas Fleischmann, Tomas Kopecky, and Derek MacKenzie are all available options for working out a decent trade. If the Panthers could pull off a move by trading any one of these players for a younger player or two, they could continue to build their roster from within (youth) and bring in young players from outside of the organization (experience, be it elsewhere or in the playoffs). No matter what, Florida has to keep chasing after the right combination of a youthful, energetic, and experienced roster if they want to crack the code to the playoffs.

If anything, for once they don’t have to worry about goaltending heading into the deadline, draft, free agency, off-season, and well pretty much for the next couple of seasons.

Unknown-3 Toronto Maple Leafs (6th in the Atlantic Division, 54 GP 23-27-4 record, 50 points) Sell, sell, sell.

The Toronto Maple Leafs need to commit once and for all to something. That something is the process of a rebuild. I’m not saying they dump their entire roster around the league, but moving players like Phil Kessel, Nazem Kadri, Daniel Winnik, Dion Phaneuf, Cody Franson, and James Reimer just might be part of the answer in the long run. Especially if it means that the Maple Leafs would have a chance at landing the next Connor McDavid, presuming that they don’t obtain the 1st overall pick in this year’s draft, but rather the 2016 draft.

Life without Phil Kessel in a Toronto Maple Leafs uniform seems to be getting all the more real as every minute passes. As the rumors swirl around Dion Phaneuf and Cody Franson, Phil Kessel’s name is bound to be tossed around in serious consideration as well.

I’m not saying that we’d be looking at a monster deal involving Kessel, Phaneuf, and Franson heading to the same team, but then again, I’d find it hard to imagine that it wouldn’t make sense if the right conditions were in place. If Toronto feels like dishing the trio to the same place and out of harm in the process of their rebuild, then the Edmonton Oilers must look like a golden opportunity for a seemingly farfetched deal.

The likes of Kessel, Phaneuf, and Franson being swapped for Taylor Hall, Nail Yakupov, and Jeff Petry might be exactly what Toronto is looking for, but just out of reach. Likewise, a trio deal to Dallas wouldn’t be able to attract the right return either. Or would it? Perhaps a trade with the Stars wouldn’t give the Maple Leafs immediate replacements for Kessel, Phaneuf, or Franson, but rather a defenseman, a forward, and a 2015 first or second round draft pick.

The options for the Maple Leafs run dry in trying to get Mike Richards from the Los Angeles Kings, considering how Richards is slumping and bringing in the another David Clarkson wouldn’t be optimal for Toronto at this time. While Phaneuf, or Franson alone, might be enough of an asset for the Kings to consider, they’d surely pass on any package that offered either defenseman and Phil Kessel.

What’s likely to happen for Toronto is three separate deals where they can disperse the talents of the players among Western Conference teams (after all, Toronto desires a deal with any Western Conference team).

Nazem Kadri and Daniel Winnik, on the other hand, would be the typical deadline trades to be made for any team looking to improve for a playoff run. Winnik isn’t as valuable in the long run as Kadri might be, but he might be the perfect fit for a playoff contender’s third line.

And one last thing, good luck trading James Reimer, Toronto. Unless they’re thinking a one for one swap with Vancouver for Eddie Lack seems like a good idea, although the Canucks seem intent on making Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom their go to netminders.

Unknown-2 Ottawa Senators (7th in the Atlantic Division, 51 GP 20-22-9 record, 49 points) Selling used, buying new.

As much as the Ottawa Senators could be sellers at this trade deadline, it is my belief that they won’t be selling out and cashing out on this season entirely. There isn’t that much hope for making the playoffs this season for the Sens who last made the playoffs in 2013. However, the pieces are in place for success with their roster, all they need is a little time.

That’s where taking advantage of the most they can get out of this season comes into play. Ottawa probably isn’t going to attract the best deal at the deadline this year, but they’ll more than likely be active in the offseason trying to figure out who’s worth signing and who isn’t.

It is plausible to see the Senators move Erik Condra, Colin Greening, Chris Phillips, or Marc Methot by March 2nd. Condra is one of those players that could be attractive to a team looking to make a run at the playoffs and needs to add some depth in forwards. The same goes for Greening. Both Condra and Greening have spent their time well in Canada’s capital, yet moving them could make room for a prospect or the right young player brought in a deal.

Marc Methot is an attractive option for any team that needs a defenseman. At 29 years old, he fits the mid-aged defenseman status with the right combination of experience in the league and hint of youth left. Chris Phillips, on the other hand, is 36 years old and would likely become a sixth or seventh defenseman on a team looking to make a deep run in the playoffs. But then again, that might just be what he wants and exactly what the team looking to get him needs.

The Dallas Stars are exactly the kind of team that could prosper from either Methot or Phillips (or both). Given their interest in Cody Franson and Dion Phaneuf, however, the possibilities of working a deal with Ottawa might be hampered. Then again, the Sens and Stars are trading buddies, having completed the Jason Spezza deal this offseason. Maybe it’s time both GM’s get on the phone with one another again.

Regardless, things aren’t as dire in Ottawa as other Canadian markets (Edmonton and Toronto, namely). An effective run to the end of the season that builds on learning and gaining experience should put the Senators on track for a possible playoff run next season or a 4th or 5th place finish in the Atlantic Division next year.

Unknown-3 Buffalo Sabres (8th in the Atlantic Division, 53 GP 15-34-3 record, 33 points) Selling unwanted parts.

The Buffalo Sabres are without a doubt likely to land Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. Pairing either player with any of their players in the fountain of youth is sure to make them a legitimate contender within one to three years as not only a productive team, but a destination for veterans looking to bring the right amount of experience to a youthful team longing for success.

The Sabres have been in serious talks recently with the Anaheim Ducks concerning a move that would involve Tyler Myers. Trading Myers while knowing the future outlook is a risky move. Myers is still one of Buffalo’s youngest defenseman and is one of their largest (1st in height, tied for 2nd in weight- 6’8”, 219 lbs).

If the Sabres are to move a defenseman, trading Andre Benoit, Mike Weber, or Tyson Stratchan would be better options. Benoit is by far, their worst defenseman. Weber could be a key asset for a playoff looming team and the right price for the Sabres to get something valuable in return. Stratchan, likewise, could bring back something of use for the Sabres- a draft pick if anything.

Chris Stewart is nowhere near the player that he “used to be” if that term can even loosely be used. However, he is drawing significantly enough interest for the Sabres to bargain effectively in both terms of trying to bring something in return and providing security for the future (a second round draft pick, for example).

While the Boston Bruins seem like a prime suitor for Stewart in that they have a plethora of forwards that they could swap and a second round draft pick from October’s Johnny Boychuk trade with the New York Islanders, the Buffalo Sabres could use that knowledge as enough of a factor to drive up Stewart’s selling price.

Among forwards that the Sabres could move, Matt Ellis, Torrey Mitchell, Cody Hodgson, and Drew Stafford seem like reasonable assets to offer to other teams. Ellis and Mitchell are getting in the way of potential roster developments. Likewise, Hodgson is slumping too much to hold onto for the future.

If the Sabres and Stafford think it would be a good idea to reunite former teammates Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville with Drew Stafford in Minnesota, then by all means, there is enough to pick and choose from the Wild organization.

Had Cody McCormmick not been on the injured reserve, then by all means, the Sabres might have been able to do something with him. Although, perhaps the fourth liner could stick around another year or two solidifying four lines in Buffalo.

The only other debate is between Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth in goal, with Matt Hackett and the long list of developing goaltenders in mind for the Sabres. Neuvirth could be worth dealing for the right goalie. Then again, he could be exactly what the Tampa Bay Lightning need for added security in net heading into this year’s playoffs.

The Sabres best bet at improving in goaltending is through free agency and the entry draft, despite the time required to develop the next best starter that they could go with. Finding a solid backup goalie in free agency shouldn’t be a hard thing to do for a team that has a bright future just on the verge of the horizon, despite what many say about the currently at the bottom of the standings organization. At the very least, Buffalo is not Edmonton, where surely the light of day isn’t showing for the next million years.

Buffalo has a tough road ahead, but fortunately it can be navigated properly with the development of either McDavid or Eichel in this year’s draft, coupled with young stars like Zemgus Girgensons, Mikhail Gregorenko, and Nikita Zadorov.