Tag Archives: Mike Babcock

December 6 – Day 63 – This one might get ugly

Another Wednesday, another day to sell any random matchup as a rivalry when it almost certainly isn’t worthy of such designation.

Such is life in the world of sports broadcasting, I suppose.

Today’s slate of action features four games, starting with Calgary at Toronto (SN/TVAS) at 7:30 p.m. and Chicago at Washington (NBCSN) at 8 p.m. In a similar setup, Philadelphia at Edmonton (SN1) is scheduled to drop the puck at 9:30 p.m., with tonight’s nightcap – Ottawa at Anaheim (RDS) – following suit half an hour later. All times Eastern.

Though C Nate Thompson is making his first return to The Pond after calling it home for three seasons, I’m much more attracted to the contest involving the other team from Ontario.

 

 

 

 

 

No, it’s no rivalry like the one between Chicago and Washington (I mean, they are obviously warring over who wears red better), but this could be a good game nonetheless.

If nothing else, it should be the most entertaining, as the 17-10-1 Maple Leafs are always capable of putting on a good show with their third-ranked offense that averages 3.5 goals-per-game.

It’s no surprise who spearheads the Leafs’ attack, as all C Auston Matthews has done this season is improve on his Calder Trophy-winning 40-29-69 effort from a year ago. Having already earned team-leading 13-13-26 marks through 24 games played this year, he’s on pace for an incredible 84 points this season.

For those wondering, F Patrick Kane followed up his Calder-winning season with 25-45-70 totals in 80 games played. If you that think Kane is a solid player (hint: that should be all of us), Matthews has a chance to make Showtime simply an opening act.

While Matthews’ increased goal production certainly merits praise (his goals-per-game is up to .54 this season from last year’s .49), I’m actually most impressed with how he’s settled into his role as a top-line center. I often got the impression from Matthews that he felt he was the only one on Toronto’s roster capable of scoring goals (which, assuming he’d been watching the Leafs while he was in Switzerland, wasn’t exactly a misguided conclusion), which has made apparent by his four-goal NHL debut.

In a real test for Matthews, Head Coach Mike Babcock took the training wheels off Saturday by moving F William Nylander – himself a tremendous talent with 5-15-20 totals – to the third line to fill in for C Tyler Bozak while he was sick. As a result, Matthews and linemates RW Connor Brown (8-5-13) and F Zach Hyman (5-9-14) did not find the scorecard in Toronto’s 2-1 loss in Vancouver.

Word on the street is Bozak will be ready to go this evening, but I wouldn’t put it past Babcock to continue to play with his lines while the Leafs are in no danger of falling out of playoff position.

Tonight’s game might be a tough one for the 14-12-1 Flames, because even though they’re currently only one point outside of the Western Conference playoffs, they’ve made a bad habit of allowing 3.25 goals-per-game, the eighth-most in the NHL.

Considering last campaign’s starter G Brian Elliott has managed only a .908 save percentage this season in Philadelphia, I suppose Flames General Manager Brad Treliving did make an upgrade by trading for 12-9-1 G Mike Smith. Unfortunately, Smith’s .916 season save percentage and 2.79 GAA, which rank seventh- and fifth-worst, respectively, among goalies with at least 20 starts, has not been enough to keep the Flames in the playoff position they earned last year.

Of course, goaltending is a tough job when you’re being pelted with 31.71 shots-per-start like Smith has. Overall, the Flames defense has allowed the 10th-most shots to reach their goaltender, averaging 32.37 per game.

To put it simply, this team is not committed to playing defensive hockey. Not only are their 354 blocks the fewest in the Western Conference and third-fewest in the league, but they’ve also thrown the fewest blocks at 437, 27 less than Carolina’s second-worst effort. It is fortunate that C Mikael Backlund has managed a league-leading 34 takeaways, or things might be even worse for Calgary.

Oh wait, it can get worse. Backlund was sick yesterday and missed practice. Unless D Mark Giordano can assume his ultimate form and block more than his already team-leading 2.2 shots-per-game, this game has a really good chance of getting ugly for the Flames.


The New Jersey Devils are now the top team in the Metropolitan Division after beating the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1 at Nationwide Arena in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day.

Jersey never trailed in this game, due in large part to C Travis Zajac‘s (RW Stefan Noesen and F Marcus Johansson) first goal of the season, a backhanded shot 4:24 into the contest. The first period was also when the Blue Jackets got on the board, courtesy of a F Nick Foligno (RW Oliver Bjorkstrand and D Seth Jones) wrist shot with 6:14 remaining in the frame.

After that, this game belonged to the Devils, starting with Third Star of the Game F Taylor Hall‘s (Second Star C Nico Hischier and W Jesper Bratt) game-winning tip-in 4:47 into the second period. He was the benefactor of his own hard work, as it was Hall that won the scrum in his own defensive zone to get the puck to Hischier, who was off to the races after corralling the play. Once the rookie reached the right face-off dot, he pulled up and drew an additional defender before centering a pass to Hall, who tapped a one-timer past G Sergei Bobrovsky‘s blocker.

Noesen (LW Miles Wood and Hischier) also made sure to end the period with a bang, burying a wrister with 46 seconds remaining before the second intermission.

Bratt (Hall) tacked on the final insurance goal with 8:54 remaining in regulation with a tip-in.

First Star Cory Schneider earned the victory after saving 41-of-42 shots faced (.976 save percentage), leaving the loss to Bobrovsky, who saved 32-of-36 (.889).

December’s pattern of giving in the DtFR Game of the Day series continues, as hosts and visitors continue to exchange victories every other day. With last night being the road teams’ turn, they’ve now pulled back within 14 points of the home sides.

Down the Frozen River Podcast #76- A Coach’s Stance (feat. Craig Custance)

NHL Insider for The Athletic and Editor-In-Chief for The Athletic Detroit, Craig Custance joined the show this week to discuss his new book Behind the Bench: Inside the Minds of Hockey’s Greatest Coaches available on Amazon or wherever books are still sold. Custance and the Original Trio discussed his book, the Detroit Red Wings and who they’d pick as head coach of Team USA.

Listen to this week’s podcast on our Libsyn page (and/or on your favorite podcast listening app that snags our RSS Feed).

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

Down the Frozen River Podcast #74- Participation Trophies After One Game (Part II)

Jaromir Jagr signed with the Calgary Flames this week, the regular season started (though the Pittsburgh Penguins might not have been told yet that the games matter now) and former players tend to be GMs in the NHL, the Original Trio confirms. Also, we gave participation trophies without even watching the rest of the season for the second year in a row.

Listen to this week’s podcast on our Libsyn page (and/or on your favorite podcast listening app that snags our RSS Feed).

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

Toronto Maple Leafs 2017-2018 Season Preview

UnknownToronto Maple Leafs

40-27-15, 95 points, 4th in the Atlantic Division

Eliminated in the First Round by Washington

Additions: D Ron Hainsey, D Vincent LoVerde, F Patrick Marleau, F Dominic Moore, F Chris Mueller

Subtractions: G Antoine Bibeau (signed with SJ), F Brian Boyle (signed with NJ), D Andrew Campbell (signed with ARI), F Seth Griffith (signed with BUF), F Teemu Hartikainen (signed with Salavat Yulaev Ufa, KHL), D Matt Hunwick (signed with PIT), F Sergey Kalinin (signed with SKA St. Petersburg, KHL), F Brooks Laich (signed a PTO with LA), D Steve Oleksy (signed with ANA), D Stephane Robidas (retired)

Still Unsigned: F Milan Michalek, D Roman Polak

Offseason Analysis: The Kids Revival Era in Toronto led to a Stanley Cup Playoffs appearance for the first time since 2013 and sooner than anyone could have ever expected last October. Unfortunately, all good runs must come to an end and the youthful Leafs were unable to defeat the Second Round pros (the Washington Capitals) in a back-and-forth six-game battle in the First Round.

Fear not, Toronto, your team will be just fine.

Maple Leafs general manager, Lou Lamoriello, hasn’t had much to do this offseason. Lamoriello’s additions of Ron Hainsey, Patrick Marleau and Dominic Moore bring veteran leadership of the highest quality to the locker room full of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander‘s scoring capabilities (and that’s ignoring the fact that James van Riemsdyk exists altogether).

Hainsey, 36, is in search of his second Stanley Cup after finally appearing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with the 2017 champion Pittsburgh Penguins. As Connor Carrick, Morgan Rielly and Nikita Zaitsev delve into the prime of their careers, Hainsey’s guidance on the blue line will balance the workload and make it easier for Toronto’s head coach, Mike Babcock, to make crucial decisions regarding defensive pairings and special teams.

While Lamoriello landed star playmaker, Patrick Marleau, to transform the rest of the top-9 forwards into a shot attempts for, offense generating machine, the skilled forward comes in past the plateau of his prime at 37-years-old and down significantly from his consistent 70-plus point seasons in scoring.

Although his 27-19-46 totals in all 82 games last season with the San Jose Sharks were impressive for his age, he’s likely to see less goal scoring and more emphasis than ever before on passing the puck to linemates far faster than him on the ice.

If Toronto wins the Cup in the next year or two, there’s a good chance his 3-year, $18.750 million contract ($6.250 million cap hit) will be forgiven given his age and the cap overage that the Maple Leafs are currently facing (they’re about $4.600 million over the $75 million salary cap ceiling).

In perhaps the best signing of adding a more veteran punch to the roster, Dominic Moore’s 1-year, $1.000 million contract should pay off in spades for the Maple Leafs.

Moore bounced back from a 15-point season (six goals, nine assists) in 80 games with the New York Rangers in 2015-2016 with a 25-point year (11 goals, 14 assists) in all 82 games with the Boston Bruins last season. His power play specialty alone bolster’s Toronto’s firing power on the man advantage, let alone the fact that he’s a top-notch bottom-six center as a 37-year-old in search for his first Stanley Cup.

A Cup win would cap off a happy homecoming for the native of Thornhill, Ontario.

Any other team that adds three players over the age of 35 in one offseason would be considered insane, yet here we are praising Toronto for finding the right guys, making the right deals (well, two out of three ain’t bad) and improving their team while only losing NHL caliber talents such in Seth Griffith (okay, maybe a fourth liner/top-6 AHLer), Matt Hunwick (signed with Pittsburgh, which, good for him) and Brooks Laich (had been buried in the AHL with the Toronto Marlies and currently looking for a revival on a PTO with Los Angeles).

Okay, fine, not to overlook the loss of Brian Boyle to New Jersey via free agency, but Boyle’s 25 points in scoring last season, split between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto in 76 games combined was the same offensive output as Moore, minus the face-off winning abilities and special teams impact.

In fact, Boyle notched 22 of his 25 points on the season with Tampa in 48 games prior to being traded to Toronto two days before the trade deadline. Chemistry and sample size aside, Moore is a better replacement for Boyle’s inept scoring prowess (three points in 21 games with Toronto).

To summarize, Lamoriello didn’t have to do anything to an already stacked team, but he added without subtracting anyway. Oh yeah, and the Leafs will totally finish 2nd or 3rd in the Atlantic this season. Maybe 1st.

Offseason Grade: B+

Patrick Marleau shouldn’t be getting more than a two-year contract at this point, but the Maple Leafs will own up to paying more than they’d probably like to because of the over-35-years-old compliance with the CBA. Speaking of the CBA, the league still needs to figure out that whole “over the salary cap limit, while also probably going to utilize the LTIR on at least one player (namely Joffrey Lupul and Nathan Horton) a la the Leafs and Chicago Blackhawks situation with Marian Hossa before the season begins” thing.

2017 NHL Awards Ceremony & 2017 NHL Expansion Draft Live Blog

Tonight is a special night for the National Hockey League as it presents it’s 2016-2017 season awards to its players and continues to welcome the league’s 31st team, the Vegas Golden Knights, with their very own 2017 NHL Expansion Draft reveal.

If you can’t tune in to the action tonight at 8 PM ET on NBCSN (in the U.S.) and Sportsnet (in Canada), then follow along with us as we track the action!

Ted Lindsay Award winner- Connor McDavid (EDM)

Other finalists- Brent Burns (SJ) & Sidney Crosby (PIT)

Frank J. Selke Trophy- Patrice Bergeron (BOS)

Other finalists- Ryan Kesler (ANA) & Mikko Koivu (MIN)

James Norris Memorial Trophy- Brent Burns (SJ)

Other finalists- Victor Hedman (TB) & Erik Karlsson (OTT)

EA Sports NHL 18 Cover Athlete- Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

Other finalist- none announced

Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award winner- Nick Foligno, Columbus Blue Jackets

Other finalists- Ryan Getzlaf (ANA) and Mark Giordano (CGY)

King Clancy Memorial Trophy winner- Nick Foligno, Columbus Blue Jackets

Other finalists- none announced

NHL Foundation Player Award- Travis Hamonic, New York Islanders

Other finalists- Wayne Simmonds (PHI)

Calder Memorial Trophy winner- Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs

Other finalists- Patrik Laine (WPG) & Zach Werenski (CBJ)

NHL General Manager of the Year- David Poile, Nashville Predators

Other finalists- Peter Chiarelli (EDM) & Pierre Dorion (OTT)

Jack Adams Award- John Tortorella, Columbus Blue Jackets

Other finalists- Mike Babcock (TOR) & Todd McLellan (EDM)

Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy winner- Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators

Other finalists- Andrew Cogliano (ANA) & Derek Ryan (CAR)

Lady Byng Memorial Trophy- Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames

Other finalists- Mikael Granlund (MIN) & Vladimir Tarasenko (STL)

Vezina Trophy- Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets

Other finalists- Braden Holtby (WSH) & Carey Price (MTL)

Hart Memorial Trophy- Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

Other finalists- Sergei Bobrovsky (CBJ) & Sidney Crosby (PIT)

Maurice “The Rocket” Richard Trophy- Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins

(presented to the goal scorer who scored the most goals in the season, so this one was already technically awarded before Wednesday night)

William M. Jennings Trophy- Braden Holtby and Philipp Grubauer, Washington Capitals

(presented to the goaltender(s) who allowed the fewest total goals against in the season, awarded prior to Wednesday night)

Art Ross Trophy- Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers

(presented to the player that led the league in scoring at the end of the regular season, awarded prior to Wednesday night)

 


2017 NHL EXPANSION DRAFT– VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS 2017-2018 ROSTER (pending trades and free agency)

Vegas Selects:

G Calvin Pickard (Colorado Avalanche)

D Luca Sbisa (Vancouver Canucks)

F Teemu Pulkkinen (Arizona Coyotes)

D Jon Merrill (New Jersey Devils)

F William Carrier (Buffalo Sabres)

F Tomas Nosek (Detroit Red Wings)

F Cody Eakin (Dallas Stars)

F Jonathan Marchessault (Florida Panthers)

D Brayden McNabb (Los Angeles Kings)

F Connor Brickley (Carolina Hurricanes)

F Chris Thorburn (Winnipeg Jets)

F Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (Philadelphia Flyers)

D Jason Garrison (Tampa Bay Lightning)

G Jean-Francois Berube (New York Islanders)

F James Neal (Nashville Predators)

D Deryk Engelland (Calgary Flames)

F Brendan Leipsic (Toronto Maple Leafs)

D Colin Miller (Boston Bruins)

D Marc Methot (Ottawa Senators)

D David Schlemko (San Jose Sharks)

F David Perron (St. Louis Blues)

F Oscar Lindberg (New York Rangers)

D Griffin Reinhart (Edmonton Oilers)

D Alexei Emelin (Montreal Canadiens)

D Clayton Stoner (Anaheim Ducks)

F Erik Haula (Minnesota Wild)

F William Karlsson (Columbus Blue Jackets)

D Trevor van Riemsdyk (Chicago Blackhawks)

G Marc-Andre Fleury (Pittsburgh Penguins)

D Nate Schmidt (Washington Capitals)

Vegas Trades:

Vegas Golden Knights acquire a 2017 6th round pick from the Buffalo Sabres (tied to the F William Carrier selection).

Vegas Golden Knights acquire F Reilly Smith from the Florida Panthers in exchange for a 2018 4th round pick (in addition to the F Jonathan Marchessault selection).

Vegas Golden Knights acquire a 2017 5th round pick from the Carolina Hurricanes (tied to the F Connor Brickley selection).

The Vegas Golden Knights traded a 2017 1st round pick to the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for a 2017 1st round pick and a 2019 3rd round pick.

Vegas Golden Knights acquire F Nikita Gusev, 2017 2nd round pick and a 2018 4th round pick from the Tampa Bay Lightning (in addition to the D Jason Garrison selection).

Vegas Golden Knights acquire F Mikhail Grabovski, D Jake Bischoff, a 2017 1st round pick and a 2019 2nd round pick from the New York Islanders (in addition to G Jean-Francois Berube).

Vegas Golden Knights acquired D Shea Theodore from the Anaheim Ducks (as part of the D Clayton Stoner selection).

Vegas Golden Knights acquire F Alex Tuch from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for a conditional 2017/2018 3rd round pick (as part of the F Erik Haula selection).

Vegas Golden Knights acquire F David Clarkson, 2017 1st round pick and a 2019 2nd round pick from the Columbus Blue Jackets. The 2017 1st round pick was then traded from VGK to the Winnipeg Jets.

Vegas Golden Knights acquires a 2020 2nd round pick from PIT (as part of selecting G Marc-Andre Fleury).

Tweets of the night that made viewing the Awards Ceremony watchable:

Stanley Cup Playoffs: First Round – April 13

For at least the first round of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the authors at Down the Frozen River present a rapid recap of all of the night’s action. Tonight’s featured writer is Connor Keith.

 

Toronto Maple Leafs at Washington Capitals – Game 1

Though it was an uphill battle, Washington managed to maintain home-ice advantage by beating the visiting Maple Leafs 3-2 in overtime at the Verizon Center.

Though the final score may not be indicative of a true goalie battle, that’s exactly what this game was. It’s well known how good both Washington’s and Toronto’s offenses are, but both Third Star of the Game Braden Holtby and Frederik Andersen were up to the task of keeping the opposition neutralized. The netminders combined for 76 saves on 81 shots faced, including 44 rejections by Holtby.

For anyone wondering if the Leafs were going to be content with simply qualifying for the playoffs this year, rookie Mitch Marner (James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak) proved otherwise. He buried a wrist shot only 95 seconds into the game, beating Holtby’s left skate.

Near the midway point of the first, the Caps were originally the beneficiary of a questionable goaltender interference call. Though Nazem Kadri was certainly in Holtby’s crease, the left wing’s skate barely restricted the netminder’s stick. Fortunately for Jake Gardiner, the NHL’s new review system for the playoffs ruled in his favor to give the youngsters an impressive two-goal lead on his unassisted strike.

Andersen played well all game, but his play and the Leafs’ two goals were not enough to daunt Second Star Justin Williams. The three-time Stanley Cup champion provided both goals to pull the Caps even, starting with his first (T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom) with 7:36 remaining in the opening frame. He scored his power play wrister two seconds after Brian Boyle returned to the ice from his interference penalty to end Washington’s five-on-three advantage.

Williams’ second tally was struck with exactly four minutes remaining in the second frame. Assisted by Matt Niskanen and Evgeny Kuznetsov, Williams collected the rebound, which was sitting right between Andersen’s legs, of the defenseman’s initial shot and buried it to level the game at two-all.

Though they needed overtime, the Capitals were able to complete their comeback. But instead of Williams being the goalscorer, it was First Star Tom Wilson, who managed to knock down Martin Marincin‘s attempted clear and rip his wrister from the near face-off circle top-shelf over Andersen’s glove for his first NHL playoff goal.

Win, lose or draw, the most impressive thing about Toronto’s play is it was not afraid of anything the Capitals threw at it. Washington tried early and often – made evident by Lars Eller‘s cross-check against Marincin early in the first – to get under the young Leafs’ skins, but Mike Babcock’s well-coached club would not be drawn into a dumb reactionary penalty. Do not count the Maple Leafs out simply because of their youth.

 

Nashville Predators at Chicago Blackhawks – Game 1

When First Star of the Game Pekka Rinne reaches peak performance, he’s tough to beat. Chicago learned that the hard way, as it fell 1-0 to the Predators at the United Center.

Though Chicago then led the shot count 5-3, Nashville took the opening – and only –  score in the ninth minute of play, courtesy of a quick tip-in from Second Star Viktor Arvidsson (Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen).

That proved to be the last tally of the game, though a total of 41 more shots were fired between the two offenses. Rinne was outstanding, as he saved all 29 shots he faced.

Though he gave up a tally, Third Star Corey Crawford was also solid, saving 19-of-20. But the real reason Chicago gave up only one score is found within Crawford’s stat line. His defense was exemplary, and allowed the second-fewest among all the first playoff games. Brent Seabrook was the brightest star, blocking four shots on the night.

 

Calgary Flames at Anaheim Ducks – Game 1

Though the Flames fired a dozen shots at John Gibson in the third period, Anaheim defended home ice with a 3-2 victory at the Honda Center.

The Ducks’ win is a result of one thing: their power play. Special team action was expected in this matchup, as these clubs were numbers one and two in times shorthanded during the regular season. This series already looks like it will be decided by the club that takes better advantage, as 24 total penalty minutes were assessed in only the first game.

Anaheim converted two of its seven extra-man opportunities, and Second Star of the Game Jacob Silfverberg played a role in both of them. The wing assisted First Star Ryan Getzlaf to the opening goal of the game, a wrister only 52 seconds into the contest, and buried the game-winning marker (Patrick Eaves and Shea Theodore) with 2:13 remaining in the second.

If Calgary can’t convert any more than one extra-man situation into a goal, their playoff run may see an untimely end. Sean Monahan (Kris Versteeg and T.J. Brodie) did manage one at the 8:43 of the first period to level the game, but the Flames couldn’t take advantage of their other four opportunities, including two in the third period (technically three, though the final power play lasted only a second before the end of regulation).

Another issue for the Calgary is Anaheim’s unrelenting offense, regardless of the number of players on the ice. Led by 17 attempts in the first period, the Ducks fired the puck on Brian Elliott‘s net 41 times. Not only will that wear out the 32-year-old goaltender, but it also means that the Flames do not have the puck in their offensive zone very often. Both those variables add up to early playoff exits.

2017 NHL Trade Deadline Preview: Atlantic Division

Unknown-11. Montreal Canadiens– 30-16-8 (68 points- 54 GP)

The Montreal Canadiens are quietly dominating and that’s concerning for the rest of the league. Of course, dominating is a relative term, considering some of their counterparts in the Eastern Conference (namely the Washington Capitals, Columbus Blue Jackets and Pittsburgh Penguins who are ahead of Montreal in the East standings by 10 points, three points and three points respectively). The Habs have been in first place in the Atlantic Division for quite some time now, despite only holding an eight point lead over the 2nd place Ottawa Senators.

For all intents and purposes, the Canadiens don’t have to do that much by March 1st. They shouldn’t sit back, especially if the right deal presents itself, but they don’t have to go out and do extremely necessary shopping at the deadline. Their forwards are in their prime and their defense got a little younger with the addition of Nikita Nesterov from a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning. And obviously goaltending is not something to worry about, because hello, Carey Price exists.

If anything, Montreal could move someone expendable, like Tomas Plekanec, in advance of the looming expansion draft in June and at least try to get something in return now as opposed to nothing later. Maybe they’ll add a rental for depth.

Potential assets to trade: F Tomas Plekanec, F David Desharnais

Potential targets to acquire: F Shane Doan (ARI), F Martin Hanzal (ARI), F Radim Vrbata (ARI), F Patrick Sharp (DAL), F Tomas Jurco (DET), F Patrik Berglund (STL)

Unknown-62. Ottawa Senators– 27-17-6 (60 points, 50 GP)

In a similar sense, the Ottawa Senators are like the Montreal Canadiens in that nobody expected them to be where they are for this long into the season, given how normally injuries occur. Then again, no one really knows how long the Senators can pull off this divisional standing given 1) how tight standings are in the current divisional alignment and parity of the league and 2) they’re a young team.

If anything, the Sens need to add without subtracting. There’s just one problem. Look at their roster. Who would you trade to add something substantial? Putting chemistry aside, who would you choose? Ottawa seems set on their defense that’s built as though every defenseman is really just a rover in disguise (you know, the position that doesn’t exist anymore). By some miracle the Senators could bolster their goaltending, but the reality of any transactions resides in their forwards.

Potential assets to trade: F Curtis Lazar, F Jean-Gabriel Pageau, F Zack Smith, G Andrew Hammond, G Mike Condon

Potential targets to acquire: F Radim Vrbata (ARI), D Michael Stone (ARI), F Tomas Jurco (DET), F Thomas Vanek (DET), G Petr Mrazek (DET), F Ryan Strome (NYI), G Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT), F Patrik Berglund (STL), D Kevin Shattenkirk (STL), G Ben Bishop (TB), G Michael Hutchinson (WPG)

Unknown3. Toronto Maple Leafs– 24-17-10 (58 points, 51 GP)

The Toronto Maple Leafs are a scary good team at times. Sure they’ve experienced growing pains here and there this season, but they’ve been biggest (and best) surprise of the season in terms of an organization that has really emerged as a solidified playoff contender. Head coach, Mike Babcock, provides a tremendous foundation of experience on the bench that he is somehow able to transfer into the playing styles of his players and their performances night after night.

Like every team on the cusp of the playoffs, the Maple Leafs need to add without subtracting. They could avoid making any moves and live with the results and still prosper from the experience gained in the long run, but the Leafs do have a few pieces to offer, should they look to float any trade ideas to other teams. Center, Nazem Kadri is 26, and has six years left on his current contract with a cap hit of $4.500 million.

Toronto has tried to move Kadri before, but remained committed to his on-the-edge playing style. Given the plethora of youths in Toronto, the Leafs could explore their package options including Kadri and more and/or just what it might take to land a solidified top-4 defenseman that won’t have to be exposed to the Vegas Golden Knights come June.

Potential assets to trade: F Nazem Kadri, D Matt Hunwick, D Martin Marincin, D Roman Polak, G Curtis McElhinney

Potential targets to acquire: D Cam Fowler (ANA), F Martin Hanzal (ARI), F Radim Vrbata (ARI), D Michael Stone (ARI), F Matt Duchene (COL), F Jarome Iginla (COL), F Gabriel Landeskog (COL), D Tyson Barrie (COL), F Tomas Jurco (DET), F Thomas Vanek (DET), F Ryan Strome (NYI), G Mike Condon (OTT), G Andrew Hammond (OTT), F Patrik Berglund (STL), D Kevin Shattenkirk (STL), G Michael Hutchinson (WPG)

Unknown-74. Boston Bruins– 26-23-6 (58 points, 55 GP) – one point behind Philadelphia in the Wild Card hunt

According to some website somewhere on the Internet the Boston Bruins do/don’t have a chance at making the playoffs this season. The answer to the question “will they be buyers or sellers at this year’s trade deadline?” seems obvious. The Bruins will more than likely be buyers, but at what cost and for how much? The organization would be wise to invest in something, but one question remains– how committed are the Bruins to making the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs?

Boston could benefit from a playoff run to give their young players some playoff atmosphere experience, but bouncing out in the first round and obtaining a mid-first round draft pick might be unwise if there’s a chance the Bruins could really benefit from another season of ho-hum hockey and no playoffs. Boston could bolster holes in their roster now (at the deadline) or later (at the draft or through free agency) and still be better off for the 2017-2018 season. The ball, as they say, is in general manager, Don Sweeney’s court.

As for potential trade targets, well, depending on what direction Sweeney intends to bring the team, the Bruins have plenty of options for rental players and/or potential long time stands in Boston.

Potential assets to trade: F Ryan Spooner, F Jimmy Hayes, D Kevan Miller, D Joe Morrow, G Anton Khudobin, G Malcolm Subban, draft picks

Potential targets to acquire: D Cam Fowler (ANA), F Martin Hanzal (ARI), F Radim Vrbata (ARI), D Michael Stone (ARI), F Jarome Iginla (COL), F Gabriel Landeskog (COL), F Matt Duchene (COL), D Tyson Barrie (COL), F Tomas Jurco (DET), F Thomas Vanek (DET), F Ryan Strome (NYI), F Curtis Lazar (OTT), D Kevin Shattenkirk (STL)

Florida_Panthers_logo_20165. Florida Panthers– 23-19-10 (56 points, 52 GP)

Despite a dismal start to the season, the Florida Panthers are still technically in the hunt for the playoffs with a few games in hand on the team directly above them in the standings (the Boston Bruins, for those of you that might have skimmed over everything I just wrote a couple of paragraphs ago).

Aside from several key injuries, a coaching change and a rogue GM some changes that were made in the offseason that have, well, yet to pan out, the Panthers don’t appear to be major sellers at the deadline on the grounds that they’re looking to add and further develop their youth. Could they move a defenseman? Certainly. Should they move a forward for anyone? Probably not. Could they acquire something with a draft pick or two? Absolutely.

It’s hit or miss for Florida at this point. They’ve got some resting up to do and if they’re smart this offseason, they’ll be right back in the hunt next year.

Potential assets to trade: D Jakub Kindl, G Reto Berra

Potential targets to acquire: D Cam Fowler (ANA), F Martin Hanzal (ARI), F Matt Duchene (COL), D Tyson Barrie (COL), F Tomas Jurco (DET), F Ryan Strome (NYI)

Unknown6. Detroit Red Wings– 22-21-9 (53 points, 52 GP)

It doesn’t appear to be the year for the Detroit Red Wings, but still 25 consecutive years of making the playoffs is something to be proud of, Detroit fans. This is more than a transition year, for sure, for the Red Wings. Why? Take a look at the roster. Gone are the days of Pavel Datsyuk, Tomas Holmstrom and friends– actually those days have been gone for quite some time now. Henrik Zetterberg is leading Detroit’s forwards into the future, while the organization is left playing catch up on the blue line.

Their youngest defenseman is 23 while their oldest defenseman is 36. Additionally, three defensemen are 31 or older. While all of this plays out, there’s the looming question of who will be the Red Wings goaltender next season and beyond? Jimmy Howard, Petr Mrazek or Jared Coreau could be on the move or staying put, but then again the Vegas Golden Knights could have a say otherwise, regardless of the trade deadline on March 1st at the expansion draft in June.

If things are going to get worse before they get better, then maybe it’s time to think of some big moves too. Like dumping large contracts (in term or salary).

Potential assets to trade: F Darren Helm, F Steve Ott, F Tomas Jurco, F Thomas Vanek, D Mike Green, D Nick Jensen, D Brendan Smith, G Jimmy Howard (if he’s healthy in time), G Petr Mrazek

Potential targets to acquire: D Cam Fowler (ANA), D Michael Stone (ARI), D Kevan Miller (BOS), D Joe Morrow (BOS), F Matt Duchene (COL), F Gabriel Landeskog (COL), F Ryan Strome (NYI), G Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT), F Patrik Berglund (STL), G Ben Bishop (TB), G Michael Hutchinson (WPG)

Unknown-27. Buffalo Sabres– 21-21-10 (52 points, 52 GP)

While their current standing in the Atlantic Division might seem disappointing, the Buffalo Sabres have made tremendous strides with their core group of skaters and could legitimately compete for a playoff spot next season in the highly competitive– though not always high quality– Atlantic Division. If they truly are about a year behind the Toronto Maple Leafs in this whole “rebuild” thing, then there’s a good chance they should seriously consider selling their expendables and buying in on a tank for Nolan Patrick.

Though it’s pretty hard to beat the Colorado Avalanche at this point. Looks like the luck of the lottery may be all yours, Colorado (and/or the Vegas Golden Knights, if you’re into conspiracy theories *ahem Colby*).

Buy low, sell high on the expendables, then work your magic in the offseason, Tim Murray.

Potential assets to trade: F Hudson Fasching, F Brian Gionta, D Taylor Fedun, D Cody Franson, D Dmitry Kulikov, G Jason Kasdorf, G Linus Ullmark, G Anders Nilsson

Potential targets to acquire: F Matt Duchene (COL), F Gabriel Landeskog (COL), D Tyson Barrie (COL), G Jimmy Howard (DET), G Petr Mrazek (DET), G Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT), D Kevin Shattenkirk (STL), G Michael Hutchinson (WPG)

Unknown-38. Tampa Bay Lightning– 23-24-6 (52 points, 53 GP)

Despite their injuries and current standing in the Atlantic Division, the Tampa Bay Lightning are actually in the best place they could be. One way or another, Tampa could lose a valuable young player to the Vegas Golden Knights in June. There is no better opportunity to sell some of the guys you fear you won’t be able to keep this offseason at a premium on March 1st. Are you listening, Steve Yzerman?

The Lightning did not expect to be where they are two years removed from a Stanley Cup Final run and one season after an Eastern Conference Finals loss to the defending Stanley Cup champion, Pittsburgh Penguins. But here they are. Two key players are still out of their lineup (Ryan Callahan and Steven Stamkos) and they could not be in a better spot to have a chance at saving their own future. Seriously, if they falter any more, they’ll line themselves up with a decent draft pick and they’ll move interchangeable parts like it’s nothing.

But there’s a catch and that’s the tremendous pressure that will be felt on the young guys left on the roster to perform (or else) next season.

Potential assets to trade: F Brian Boyle, F Erik Condra, F Gabriel Dumont, F Valtteri Filppula, F Tyler Johnson, F Ondrej Palat, D Braydon Coburn, D Jason Garrison, G Ben Bishop

Potential targets to acquire: F Cam Fowler (ANA), F Radim Vrbata (ARI), G Anders Nilsson (BUF), G Kari Lehtonen (DAL), G Antti Niemi (DAL), F Thomas Vanek (DET), G Mike Condon (OTT), G Andrew Hammond (OTT), D Kevin Shattenkirk (STL), G Michael Hutchinson (WPG), G Ondrej Pavelec (WPG)

TRADE: Phaneuf sent to Sens in nine player deal

By: Nick Lanciani

With the trade deadline approaching on February 29th, I figured it’d be a good idea to recap the deals that are made before then and give you my two cents. So to start, thank you to the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs for giving me the first major trade before the deadline to write about while I’m in between classes.

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On Tuesday, the Toronto Maple Leafs sent captain Dion Phaneuf to the Ottawa Senators in a large nine-player trade. Toronto also sent forwards Matt Frattin, Casey Bailey and Ryan Rupert, as well as defenseman Cody Donaghey to the Senators in exchange for defenseman Jared Cowen and forwards Milan Michalek, Colin Greening and Tobias Lindberg. The division rival Sens also included their 2nd round pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft as part of the deal.

This trade seemed inevitable, but comes as a bit of a surprise in its quick occurrence. The Senators have been known to have inquired about Phaneuf’s availability in the past, however given how the Phaneuf trade rumor mill had been relatively quiet in the public eye this season, it’s not surprising to be surprised.

That all might sound like a bunch of nonsense, and in a way it was supposed to not make sense, but listen folks, the Maple Leafs don’t have much hope for the rest of this season. They’ve got room to wheel and deal and have plenty of pieces to offer this season approaching the trade deadline.

While Toronto shipped Phil Kessel to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the offseason, many were left wondering when the next domino to fall would come in a potential Phaneuf trade, given how Kessel and Phaneuf were high priority assets to move.

Now the time has come.

Dion Phaneuf joins the 25-23-6 overall (56 points) Ottawa Senators who are currently sixth in the Atlantic Division, trailing the New York Islanders by four points in the race for the second wild card position for the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Phaneuf is expected to be paired alongside Cody Ceci on Wednesday night as the Senators take on the Detroit Red Wings.

Phaneuf, 30, has a lengthy term left on his contract at $7 million AAV through the 2020-2021 season. He’s had 3-21-24 totals so far in 51 games with Toronto this season. Given the youth movement in Ottawa over the last few seasons, he should start picking up more assists and see plenty of time on ice, easing the pressure on the Senators largely young presence on the blue line.

It’s not that the Senators are inexperienced on the back end of the game, with captain Erik Karlsson leading the charge as the Sens best defenseman (even if he is an offensive defenseman). Plus Ottawa has strength in Ceci, Marc Methot, and Patrick Wiercioch (notice, I didn’t say skill, I just said strength- as in these guys can push around the opposing team, but might not be superstars on their own or when they’re caught on a rush).

Ottawa has a developing presence on the blue line that’s seen some impressive performance at times from Mark Borowiecki, Chris Wideman, Erik Claesson and company and Phaneuf is only going to bring in more experience to help mold the youth movement into a force to be reckon with.

Phaneuf was a finalist for the Norris Trophy in the 2007-2008 season, a member of the NHL All-Star Rookie Team in 2006, an NHL First All-Star Team member in 2008, and has been part of three All-Star Game appearances in 2007, 2008 and 2012. He was a ninth overall pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft by the Calgary Flames where he scored a career high 20 goals as a rookie in the 2005-2006 season.

On January 31, 2010, Phaneuf was traded to Toronto in a seven-player trade. He had 120 goals and 424 points in 801 regular season games in his career split between Toronto and Calgary.

Frattin is a 28-year old forward who has spent the entire 2015-2016 regular season with the Toronto Marlies in the American Hockey League, scoring nine goals, 13 assists and 22 points in 47 games. He had 22-26-48 totals in 59 AHL games last season. In 135 career NHL games, Frattin has 17-18-35 totals split between the Maple Leafs, Los Angeles Kings and Columbus Blue Jackets.

If a change of scenery can help him now, then what went wrong before?

Bailey is a 24-year old forward who has 4-14-18 totals in 38 games for the Marlies this season. He has one career NHL goal in six games with the Maple Leafs last season.

Rupert is a 21-year old forward who has split the year between the Marlies and the Orlando Solar Bears of the ECHL, combing for 9-8-17 totals in 36 games.

Donaghey is a 19-year old defenseman who has spent the year with the Halifax Mooseheads and the Moncton Wildcats in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He has 5-17-22 totals in 36 games this season in the Q.

Perhaps the more surprising elements of the deal were what the Senators gave up in Cowen, Michalek and Greening. Cowen is yet to enter his prime as a defenseman, however had a chance to become the leader of the younger blue liners in Canada’s capital. Cohen’s 6’5″, 238 pound build could prove to be a crucial part to Toronto’s defense if they can find a way to better utilize his size than the Senators did.

He’s 25-years old and has just four assists in 37 games this season, but could see time with Morgan Rielly or other younger defenseman and turn out to be a puck moving, shut-down, pair. It seems as though the Senators tried to rush his development too quickly before fully understanding what they had before them.

With Mike Babcock as Toronto’s head coach and his plethora of knowledge from the way he ran Detroit’s brick wall defense over the years, Cowen might finally get his chance to come into his own and shine.

Cowen was the ninth pick overall in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft for Ottawa and had 15-31-46 totals in 249 career games with the Senators.

Michalek is a 31-year old forward who can contribute both directly on the scoresheet and indirectly with his presence and puck movement on the ice. His 6-4-10 totals in 32 games this season mirror those of a typical glue guy on any NHL roster.

Michalek had a career high 35 goals for Ottawa in the 2011-2012 season and was a 20+ goal scorer in four consecutive seasons for the San Jose Sharks and Senators from 2006-2010. He was the sixth overall pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft and had 206-232-438 totals in 729 regular season games for San Jose and Ottawa.

Greening, 29, is another glue guy that had been buried in the AHL this season, having scored seven goals and 13 points in 41 games for the Binghamton Senators. He had 38-49-87 totals in 256 games for Ottawa over appearances in the last six seasons.

Lindberg is a 20-year old forward who has 5-17-22 totals in 34 games for the baby Senators his first professional season in the AHL. He was the 102nd overall pick of the Ottawa Senators in the fourth round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. He had 32-46-78 totals in 67 games last season for the Oshawa Generals in the Ontario Hockey League.

Again, the Senators face the Red Wings on Wednesday in what will be Phaneuf’s debut with his new team. Meanwhile, the Maple Leafs play the Flames on Tuesday night.

 

1st Annual Colby’s Corner Awards

2015 is coming to an end and it’s time for all the awards for this early 2015-2016 season. This Colby’s Corner will be different, as Nick and I will tag team these awards, sharing who we think should win and why.

The Wayne Gretzky Award– Given to the best offensive player

Colby Kephart– Jamie Benn. I choose Jamie Benn because the answer is in the numbers. Mr. Benn is 1st in goals scored with 19 goals, and 2nd in points with 39. Benn is also 5th in assists, but this doesn’t explain what he truly means to this Dallas team. Jamie Benn is the best offensive player of the year.

Nick Lanciani– You’ve got to go with Jamie Benn here, quite simply because he was last year’s Art Ross Trophy winner and is still maintaining a consistent scoring pace. While his counterpart, Tyler Seguin, might have showed signs of slowing down over the last week or so, Benn’s game elevates the level of everyone around him and Seguin will quickly get back into the same rhythm.

Goaltender of the year (sorry Bryz, it’s not you)

CK– Henrik Lundqvist. King Henrik is the best goalie in this early season. He is 1st in save percentage and 3rd in both goals-against-average and wins. Lundqvist’s numbers are similar to Carey Price’s MVP season from last year.

NL– Washington’s Braden Holtby has continued to stake his claim in the short list of elite goaltenders in the world. This season he’s got a 1.95 GAA, .928 SV%, and a 17-4-1 record to boot in 22 games played. We said in our season previews that Washington would be a dominant team and Holtby is a dominant force in front of the net. Speaking of the Force, I’m excited for Star Wars…

If Carey Price wasn’t injured, I’m sure he’d be making a strong case for himself this season as he did last season when he took home the Vezina Trophy and Hart Trophy.

The Bobby Orr Award– Given to the best defensemen of the year

CK– John Klingberg. This young defenseman has proven himself in this season with 30 points thus far, which is crazy. I understand he is on one of the best teams in the league, and plays alongside stars like Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. But he has 5 goals and 25 assists in just 28 games played, which is more than a point a game.

NL– There’s a reason why I picked up Klingberg on my fantasy team, if we’re talking specific aspects of the game. Otherwise, Erik Karlsson is leading defensemen in points with 6-26-32 totals through 29 games played, so really if you want to split this one into “best two-way/offensive defenseman” and “best defenseman” I’d be able to give both of them an award.

Coach of the Year (so far) Award

CK– Lindy Ruff. At this point, you are seeing a trend that I believe Dallas is a top team this year, and this man is a big reason why. He has made many lucrative moves, like deciding who to play with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. It was once Patrick Sharp on the wing, but in recent games it has been Valeri Nichushkin. This kid only had one assist last season but this season has 12 points, proving himself to Mr. Ruff.

NL– Umm, can we talk about what they’re doing in Vancouver, Los Angeles, San Jose, and Ottawa, or should I just go with a cop out and pick Lindy Ruff as well? I’ll tell you who’s not my coach of the year, but I wouldn’t want a stanchion sent my way between the benches… John Tortorella gets a pass for now with regards to “worst” coach of the year.

But if you want me to say who I’d pick as coach of the year right now (again) it’s got to be Ruff. Actually, just make Dallas earn all the front office of the year awards. Well, maybe almost all of them. Washington would definitely be their main competition. Hmm, actually, would Ruff mind sharing our award with Barry Trotz? Asking for a friend.

Best Team of 2015

CJhyiLmKCK– Dallas Stars. No surprise here as I am saying that the Dallas Stars are the best team in the league thus far. They lead the NHL with 44 points and their offense is the best with 98 goals for this season. They also have the most wins the league, with 21 wins in 28 games (that’s only 7 losses!).

 

NL– Well, if the Ottawa Senators get any hotter, I might be picking them soon, but yeah, Dallas or Washington again. No surprise here. Maybe even Montreal, if they can avoid losing nine straight to match their winning streak to start the season. I don’t just want to go with this season’s eventual President’s Trophy winner, so really I’m just trying to add a few more teams to the conversation.

 

Rookie of the year (until Nick jinx’s him)

CK– Artemi Panarin. 9 goals, 19 assists—this kid has to be considered one of the biggest surprises of the season. I may not know how to pronounce his name, but I know he has been great for the Blackhawks this season and will be competing for the NHL rookie of the year award.

NL– I hate picking a “rookie of the year” halfway through, because usually I end up jinxing them, so I guess I’ll have to be careful with this one. Artemi Panarin, bud, I don’t want to ruin your chances, but if I had to pick who I think will take home the Calder Trophy in June, well, I’ve got to go with Max Domi. I just think that in the long run Domi will be able to overcome the 5 points in scoring separation between himself and Panarin as it stands right now.

With that said, if I’m picking one for right now it’s definitely Panarin. No questions asked. Actually, did anybody think of a defenseman? Oh well.

Patrik Stefan’s Team of the Year– Worst team of the year

CK– Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto fans were excited to win the Mike Babcock sweepstakes and had high hopes for this season. They knew the offense would be affected with the Phil Kessel trade, but no one knew it would be this bad. Toronto is struggling, and I feel they will finish near the bottom of the league this season.giphy

 

NL– Any team that’s near the bottom of the standings that starts with a “C” is splitting this award. So Columbus, Carolina and Colorado, congrats! You’re losers! But winners in our hearts.

*Disclaimer: I’m fully aware that things are still dismal in Toronto and possibly Calgary, so we’ll see which one of those Canadian teams is in contention for this award at the end of the regular season. They’ll probably have to do worse than one of the “C” teams mentioned above though.

Biggest surprise of year

CK– Arizona Coyotes. The Arizona Coyotes are the biggest surprise of this season as they are making an interesting push to playoffs. They have been bouncing between being the 3rd division spot or out of the playoffs. Max Domi and Anthony Duclair are having strong rookie seasons, and have surprised both the league and me personally.

NL– Remember how I mentioned Max Domi before, yeah, well that was intentional. I was leading you to the obvious. The Vancouver Canucks and the Tampa Bay Lightning are big surprises this year, with the Canucks currently 2nd in the Pacific Division and well, not in last like I thought they would be after their inactivity in the offseason. I mean, Matt Bartkowski? Really? Then again, it looks like he’s found a home on the blue line defending Johnny Canuck from the opposition.

And Tampa’s currently 6th in the Atlantic Division, albeit a close spread in points, only ten points out of first and two points from a wild card spot, but one would think they would be flexing their muscle this season as they did in their Stanley Cup Final run last spring. If they fall further, they’re definitely the biggest surprise, in my eyes, for all the wrong reasons. Likewise, Jon Cooper would probably deserve some heavy scrutiny, with the whole hysteria surrounding Steven Stamkos’s pending unrestricted free agency possibility.

But if I have to be nice and pick a pleasant surprise, I’m going with either Vancouver- as I already discussed- or Arizona- as Colby already pointed out (and I’m totally hopping on that Domi-Duclair bandwagon by the way).

Colby’s Corner: Bold Predictions Part 2

Bold Predictions will be a two-part series where I, Colby, will discuss who I think will and won’t make the playoffs this season and why. The second part will be the teams who will not make the playoffs and why not. Now remember, these are my opinions. If you disagree, feel free to leave a comment; we always appreciate feedback.

Eastern Conference

Atlantic                                    Metropolitan                                     Wild Cards

  1. Tampa Bay Lightning           1. Washington Capitals                 1. Columbus Blue Jackets (M)
  2. Montreal Canadiens             2. Pittsburgh Penguins                 2. New York Islanders (M)
  3. Ottawa Senators                    3. New York Rangers

The two teams people will be surprised to see missing from the playoffs are the Detroit Red Wings and the Boston Bruins.

Boston Bruins: Aging core with weak blue line equals no playoffs for the city of Boston for the 2nd year in a row. Zdeno Chara is by far the best defenseman on the Bruins’ team this year. The 38-year-old is just coming off an injury, and because he is getting up there in age he has people in Boston questioning when he will hang up his skates. It’s not surprising that the older he gets, the number of injuries he has and the time he misses increase also. As he gets older, though, the Bruins seem to be leaning on him more as they get rid of their other defenseman like Johnny Boychuk and Dougie Hamilton. Dennis Seidenberg and Patrice Bergeron grow another year older as they remain part of this Bruins core. Injuries have already plagued the Bruins on the defensive end and will likely result in them playing three young men in the back: Zach Trotman, Colin Miller and Joe Morrow. The three of them together only have 44 games played in the NHL. I don’t even see the Bruins being close to the wildcard spot, as some Bruins fans have been joking about. #AustintoBoston

Detroit Red Wings: New coach, different results. The Detroit Red Wings hired Jeff Blashill when Mike Babcock left during this offseason. I was a big fan of hiring from within the organization, as Blashill was the coach for the Red Wings affiliate last season. The Jump from AHL to NHL is big, you can ask all the players who never transition. Some coaches have been successful in this jump, like John Tortorella. However, I feel like Wings fans will truly see how much Babcock did for their organization and the core they have there. The Wings are also dealing with a goaltender battle between Petr Mrazek and Jimmy Howard. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg will have to have wide shoulders if the Wings want a chance at making the playoffs, along with help from Tomas Tatar and Mike Green. The Wings will compete for the wildcard at the end of the season, but will fall short.

Western Conference

Pacific                                     Central                                    Wild Cards

  1. Anaheim Ducks                1. Dallas Stars                   1. Chicago Blackhawks (C)
  2. Calgary Flames                 2. St Louis Blues               2. Colorado Avalanche (C)
  3. Los Angeles Kings            3. Minnesota Wild

The two teams people will be surprised to see missing from my playoffs are two teams that made it last season, the Nashville Predators and the Winnipeg Jets.

Nashville Predators: Same tricks don’t work twice Nashville was a top team in the west last season due to big performance from James Neal, Filip Forsberg, Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne. I am calling that Forsberg will have the crucial sophomore slump. I also don’t see Rinne having the same numbers as last season. He and Weber got help this off-season from Barrett Jackman, however I don’t think this will be enough. The Preds will have a bad year because that division is just so good now and teams like Dallas added a lot of talent.

Winnipeg Jets: Off ice causes issues on it Winnipeg is dealing with a lot, what with all the trade rumors surround

RALEIGH, NC - NOVEMBER 13: Dustin Byfuglien #33 of the Winnipeg Jets reacts for the camera during their NHL game against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena on November 13, 2014 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)

ing star defenseman/winger Dustin Byfuglien. It seems like reports are linking him to just about any team out there. Byfuglien had some issues with Evander Kane, back when Kane was in Winnipeg. There seems to always be tension inside that locker room. Another reason I feel Winnipeg doesn’t make the playoffs is in between the pipes. Michael Hutchinson and Onderj Pavelec are not number one goalies in the NHL. The reason they made the playoffs last season was because of Hutchinson’s amazing play down the final stretch of the season. I don’t see him doing this again this year. I actually have Winnipeg last in this division. I would say they finish about 10th in the conference, however, because the Pacific is so weak.