Archive for September, 2013

2013-14 Pacific Division Preview

This is the final part of my 2013-2014 NHL season preview. Here’s what I think will happen in the Pacific Division:

Anaheim Ducks

Key Additions: Dustin Penner, Jakob Silfverberg, Mathieu Perreault

Key Loss: Bobby Ryan

After surprising everyone by winning the Pacific Division last season, the Ducks looked primed and ready to do it again. This franchise’s 20th year marks 1) A potential breakout year for Jakob Silfverberg, who was traded from Ottawa for Bobby Ryan. 2) The return of the Eggplant jerseys on Throwback Night.  And 3) the last ride in Anaheim for Teemu Selanne.

Prediction: Fourth

Calgary Flames

Key Additions: TJ Galiardi, Kris Russell, David Jones, Shane O’Brien

Key Losses: Miikka Kiprusoff, Alex Tanguay, Cory Sarich, Roman Cervenka

It’s the first year of a new era in Calgary Flames hockey. No Iggy. No Kipper. Like Canadian-born rapper Drake, this team is starting from the bottom, but like any other rebuilding team, it will take some time to get to where they should be.

Prediction: Seventh

Edmonton Oilers

Key Additions: Andrew Ference, David Perron, Boyd Gordon, Jesse Joensuu, Philip Larsen

Key Losses: Ryan Whitney, Mark Fistric, Andy Sutton

If you’ve watched the award-winning documentary series “Oil Change”, you know far and well the story of the rebuilding process of the Edmonton Oilers. Hopefully, this team is ready for the next step: removing the “upstart” label and replacing it with “contender.” The Oilers got a veteran boost in the back-end when they signed Andrew Ference, and their offense was boosted when they traded Magnus Paajarvi to St. Louis for David Perron. And most importantly, the Oilers have a new head coach. Dallas Eakins, a former defenseman who has spent the last four seasons as the head coach of the AHL’s Toronto Marlies and led those Marlies to a Calder Cup Final appearance in 2012, will have to prove himself worthy of being an NHL-caliber head coach. This team CAN contend, but I don’t see it coming this season.

Prediction: Sixth

Los Angeles Kings

Key Additions: Matt Frattin, Daniel Carcillo, Jeff Schultz, Ben Scrivens

Key Losses: Dustin Penner, Brad Richardson, Jonathan Bernier

The Kings defense of the Cup last season began and ended with losses at the hands of the Chicago Blackhawks. But this team is WAY too good to rest on their laurels. This team still has most of the core intact from the 2012 Cup championship season, and they will still be the team to beat in the Pacific Division.

Prediction: Pacific Division Champions

Phoenix Coyotes

Key Addition: Mike Ribeiro

Key Loss: Boyd Gordon

The Coyotes last season didn’t get it going from the beginning. Mike Smith had a injury-riddled season, and the Desert Dogs missed the playoffs. However, the Coyotes do have a new owner, re-signed Smith and head coach Dave Tippett, and they brought in Mike Ribeiro. Overall, the ‘Yotes will be in the playoff picture and prove themselves that they’re not a one-trick pony team.

Prediction: Fifth

San Jose Sharks

Key Addition: Tyler Kennedy

Key Loss: TJ Galiardi

After starting the season with seven straight wins, the Sharks struggled to score. Eventually they finished sixth in the Western Conference last season, but pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the playoffs, sweeping the Vancouver Canucks in four games. This team is still a division favorite, but as of right now, I believe this team will be a middle-of-the-division team.

Prediction: Third

Vancouver Canucks

Key Additions: Benn Ferriero, Brad Richardson

Key Losses: Mason Raymond, Max Lapierre, Derek Roy, Cory Schneider

Much like the New York Jets in the NFL and the Miami Heat in the NBA, this team has a very polarizing public view. After back-to-back first round exits, Alain Vigneault was replaced by John Tortorella. You’ve probably heard about Torts: he won a Stanley Cup in Tampa Bay in 2004; he used to work for TSN as a studio analyst, and for the last five seasons, was the head coach for the New York Rangers. In his tenure on Broadway, the Rangers have missed the playoffs once. But during his tumultuous time in New York, his relationship with the New York media was YouTube fodder. Now he goes to a team where, just like in New York, the success of the team is essential to life in the city. Will it be deja vu or will it be something different, like in Tampa Bay? This team has the talent, but can they play at their absolute full potential when it matters the most? That’s what you’re gonna be looking at all season long.

Prediction: Second

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2013-14 Central Division Preview

Here’s my predictions on the Central Division for this season:

Chicago Blackhawks

Key Addition: Nikolai Khabibulin

Key Losses: Dave Bolland, Michael Frolik, Viktor Stalberg, Ray Emery, Daniel Carcillo

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s exactly what you’re getting from the defending Stanley Cup champions this season. The team that put hockey back on the map after the lockout have the most difficult task of defending the Cup…and they’re gonna do it with most of the team intact from the previous season. It may seem like their offseason went by that fast, because it did go by that fast. And with the experience that this team has, they will be a dominant force to be reckoned with for years to come.

Prediction: Central Division Champions

Colorado Avalanche

Key Additions: Alex Tanguay, Cory Sarich

Key Losses: David Jones, Shane O’Brien, Greg Zanon

It really is a new era for the Avalanche. Patrick Roy is now head coach and 2013 No. 1 pick Nathan MacKinnon will be a contender to win the Calder Trophy this season. But when you take a look at the short-term picture, this team has a long way to go before they look like the team that won eight straight division titles in the mid-90s-early-2000s.

Prediction: Seventh

Dallas Stars

Key Additions: Tyler Seguin, Shawn Horcoff, Rich Peverley, Sergei Gonchar, Dan Ellis

Key Losses: Loui Eriksson, Eric Nystrom, Philip Larsen

Sometimes, a quality trade will help the team be better. When the Stars traded Loui Eriksson to Boston for Tyler Seguin, this was a quality trade that will work both ways for both teams. Also, it’s nice to bring in more veteran experience in. That’s what Shawn Horcoff brings to the table in the Big D.

Prediction: Sixth

Minnesota Wild

Key Additions: Nino Niederreiter, Keith Ballard, Matt Cooke, Jonathon Blum

Key Losses: Cal Clutterbuck, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Matt Cullen, Devin Setoguchi, Tom Gilbert

The Minnesota Wild are looking to build on a season where they made it to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. With the addition of players like Nino Niederreiter, Keith Ballard, and Matt Cooke, this team could potentially be in contention to steal the division.

Prediction: Third

Nashville Predators

Key Additions: Viktor Stalberg, Matt Cullen, Eric Nystrom, Matt Hendricks

Key Losses: Sergei Kostitsyn, Brandon Yip, Matt Halischuk, Hal Gill, Bobby Butler, Jonathan Blum

The Predators are retooled for this new season. 2013 first-round pick Seth Jones will have the chance to play with Shea Weber, and Viktor Stalberg could potentially be a top-six forward. All in all, the Preds have all the tools they need to make a return trip to the playoffs.

Prediction: Fourth

St. Louis Blues

Key Additions: Derek Roy, Brenden Morrow, Max Lapierre, Keith Aucoin, Alex Bolduc, Magnus Paajarvi

Key Losses: David Perron, Kris Russell

Much like last season, I honestly believe the St. Louis Blues are the only team that has a chance to legitimately unseat the Blackhawks atop the Central Division. For one thing, Alex Pietrangelo is gonna wear the Blue Note for a long time. Second, the addition of Derek Roy is a big improvement from David Perron, And third, this may be the time that the Blues have a deep playoff run: one that hasn’t been seen since Joel Quenneville took the Blues to the Western Conference Finals in 2001.

Prediction: Second

Winnipeg Jets

Key Additions: Devin Setoguchi, Michael Frolik, Matt Halischuk, Adam Pardy

Key Losses: Nik Antropov, Alex Burmistrov, Antti Miettinen

It’s the third season of the reincarnated Winnipeg Jets, and it’s about time they want the Whiteout to return. The Whiteout could return with the additions of forwards Devin Setoguchi and Michael Frolik. Unfortunately, keeping pucks out of their own net might be the primary reason that is preventing the Jets from making a return trip to the playoffs.

Prediction: Fifth

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2013-14 Metropolitan Division Preview

Here’s my predictions on the new Metropolitan Division this season.

Carolina Hurricanes

Key Additions: Mike Komisarek, Andrej Sekera, Nathan Gerbe, Anton Khudobin

Key Losses: Jamie McBain, Joe Corvo, Dan Ellis

The Carolina Hurricanes started strong last season, and then their season snowballed after their top goalie Cam Ward suffered a severe MCL sprain. Besides the health of Cam Ward, another question that needs to be answered for the ‘Canes is can their defense be better this year? Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford signed veteran defensemen Mike Komisarek and Andrej Sekera to try to solve their problem in the back-end this year. However, with the team being in a new division, it’s gonna be tough.

Prediction: Eighth

Columbus Blue Jackets

Key Additions: Nathan Horton

Key Losses: None

The transition of the Blue Jackets from a Western Conference team to an Eastern Conference team is now complete. The addition of Nathan Horton will bolster the Jackets’ top-6 forwards, and 2013 Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky will try to help his team to a playoff spot after putting the entire team on his back and nearly making the playoffs last season. This team will contend, but I don’t know if they will make the playoffs.

Prediction: Sixth

New Jersey Devils

Key Additions: Cory Schneider, Jaromir Jagr, Michael Ryder, Ryane Clowe, Damien Brunner

Key Losses: Ilya Kovalchuk, David Clarkson, Henrik Tallinder, Johan Hedberg

Just imagine if your best player from last season wanted to void his contract to go back home. That’s what happened to Ilya Kovalchuk in the offseason. He voided the big contract he signed a few years ago to go back home and play in the KHL. Jersey’s Team is in the second year of rebuilding, and to help with the long-term future of this team, Devils GM Lou Lamoriello traded their first-round draft pick to Vancouver to get goalie Cory Schneider, who is now the heir apparent to the 41-year-old living legend, Marty Brodeur. And to replace David Clarkson, the Devils signed Ryane Clowe to a five-year deal. And to join Brodeur on the “elder skatesman” list, Jaromir Jagr signed a one-year deal in what could be the last contract he’ll ever sign as a player. This upcoming season could be a last hurrah for both Brodeur and Jagr.

Prediction: Seventh

New York Islanders

Key Additions: Cal Clutterbuck, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Peter Regin

Key Losses: Mark Streit, Nino Niederreiter, Keith Aucoin

The New York Islanders made some big strides last season, qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 2007. The Isles have not selected a new team captain yet, but if it is indeed John Tavares, this team could have a chance to return to the playoffs this year.

Prediction: Fifth

New York Rangers

Key Addition: Dominic Moore

Key Loss: Ryane Clowe

The Rangers were a really good team last season. However, the wear and tear from high expectations and the media circus that is John Tortorella cost him his job. This year, Alain Vigneault now takes the helm for the Broadway Blueshirts, and like in Vancouver, will lead the Rangers to success. The Rangers have all the pieces in place, but can they get over the hump to make another deep playoff run?

Prediction: Second

Philadelphia Flyers

Key Additions: Ray Emery, Vincent Lecavalier, Mark Streit

Key Losses: Ruslan Fedotenko, Brian Boucher, Danny Briere, Ilya Bryzgalov

There was only one word to describe the 2013 Flyers season: UGLY. Much like the New York Jets quarterback dilemma, the biggest distraction for the Flyers was who was the number-one goaltender? Ilya Bryzgalov absolutely did not live up to the expectations of his contract, and since the Flyers couldn’t afford to keep Sergei Bobrovsky in Philadelphia, GM Paul Holmgren traded him to Columbus in exchange for former Calder Trophy winner Steve Mason. Maybe a change of venue was needed to give Mason another shot of being a premier NHL goaltender after struggling in Columbus the last 3 1/2 seasons. He’ll get some competition for the number one spot in net from Ray Emery. Emery, who won the Stanley Cup last season with the Chicago Blackhawks, spent the 2010 season with the Black and Orange before a battle with Avascular Necrosis placed his entire playing career in jeopardy. Also, the addition of veteran forward Vinny Lecavalier and veteran defenseman Mark Streit will hopefully give the Flyers a desperately needed rebound this season.

Prediction: Fourth

Pittsburgh Penguins

Key Additions: Matt D’Agostini, Rob Scuderi

Key Losses: Douglas Murray, Jarome Iginla,  Matt Cooke, Brenden Morrow, Tyler Kennedy

The Penguins were the best team in the Eastern Conference last season. However, they ran into a big black-and-yellow brick wall called the Boston Bruins in the Conference Final and got swept in four straight games, scoring only two goals in that playoff series. Despite the struggles of Marc-Andre Fleury in net during the playoffs last season, I still believe that the Pens not only win the Atlantic Division, but I see them come out representing the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Final.

Prediction: Metropolitan Division Champions

Washington Capitals

Key Addition: Mikhail Grabovski

Key Losses: Mike Ribeiro, Jeff Schultz, Matt Hendricks, Mathieu Perreault

Beware, you’ve awaken a sleeping giant. That sleeping giant last season was Alex Ovechkin. He carried himself to a third Hart Trophy and the Capitals to another Southeast Division title. The Caps may be in a new division this season, but they, along with the New York Rangers, could potentially give the Penguins a run for their money at the Atlantic Division title.

Prediction: Third

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2013-14 Atlantic Division Preview

After my summer hiatus, it’s time I bring you my previews gor the upcoming 2013-14 NHL season. I will do this every Monday for the next four weeks. This week, I preview the new Atlantic Division.

Boston Bruins

Key Additions: Loui Eriksson, Jarome Iginla

Key Losses: Tyler Seguin, Nathan Horton, Jaromir Jagr, Andrew Ference, Rich Peverley

The Bruins made an unbelievable run to the Stanley Cup Final last season, but what turned out to be a Game 6 win on TD Garden ice was shockingly crushed by two goals in the span of seventeen seconds. However, this veteran team had the summer to stew in their juices, and now, they’re coming back swinging, trading former first-round pick Tyler Seguin to Dallas for former All-star winger Loui Eriksson. And after “the trade that never happened”, the Bruins finally get veteran winger Jarome Iginla to wear the Black and Gold.

Prediction: Atlantic Division Champions

Buffalo Sabres

Key Additions: Henrik Tallinder, Jamie McBain

Key Losses: Nathan Gerbe, Adam Pardy, Andrej Sekera

The Sabres have not changed a lot this offseason, but this will be the first full season under head coach Ron Rolston, and this will be a year of rebuilding.

Prediction: Eighth

Detroit Red Wings

Key Additions: Stephen Weiss, Daniel Alfredsson

Key Losses: Valtteri Filppula, Carlo Colaiacovo, Damien Brunner

The Red Wings made the transition to becoming an Eastern Conference team by adding veteran forwards Stephen Weiss and Daniel Alfredsson. However, this season is gonna be very tough, because this puck-possession team has to adjust and adapt with the physically demanding teams from the Eastern Conference, let alone teams from their own division. They will contend, but it’s not gonna be easy.

Prediction: Fourth

Florida Panthers

Key Additions: Tim Thomas, Ryan Whitney, Bobby Butler,  Scott Gomez, Matt Gilroy

Key Losses: Jack Skille, Stephen Weiss, Nolan Yonkman, George Parros

The Florida Panthers were riddled with injuries last season, and ended up with the worst record in the NHL. They did not win the Draft Lottery, but they did get the second pick, for which they drafted rugged center Aleksander Barkov. Barkov will most likely center the second line. 2013 Calder Trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau will center the first line. Unfortunately, like Detroit, the season is gonna be very tough because the Panthers are still in the middle of growing pains, and it’s gonna take a while to get used to playing in a new division. But when you sign Tim Thomas, at least you’ll give yourself a chance.

Prediction: Seventh

Montréal Canadiens

Key Additions: Danny Briere, George Parros, Douglas Murray

Key Losses: Colby Armstrong, Tomas Kaberle, Michael Ryder, Yannick Weber

The first season under the Marc Bergevin era proved to be very successful, as the Habs made it back to the playoffs. Now it’s up to the young core,  led by 2013 Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban and 2013 Calder Trophy runner-up Brendan Gallagher, to build off of the momentum from last year.

Prediction: Third

Ottawa Senators

Key Additions: Bobby Ryan, Joe Corvo, Clarke MacArthur

Key Losses: Daniel Alfredsson, Sergei Gonchar

Though it was a year of trying for Ottawa last year, they survived the storm and made it to the playoffs. It could be de ja vu for the Senators, because this season is the first in the post-Daniel Alfredsson era. But like Friedrich Nietzsche said, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” as the Sens bolstered their offense by trading for Bobby Ryan.

Prediction: Fifth

Tampa Bay Lightning

Key Addition: Valtteri Filppula

Key Losses: Vincent Lecavalier, Benoit Pouliot

Last season, defense and goaltending were question marks for Tampa Bay. The goaltending situation may be solved by acquiring Ben Bishop from Ottawa last season, but defense is still a question mark. The addition of Valtteri Filppula will counter the loss of Vincent Lecavalier.

Prediction: Sixth

Toronto Maple Leafs

Key Additions: David Clarkson, Dave Bolland, Jonathan Bernier, Mason Raymond

Key Losses: Ben Scrivens, Mikhail Grabovski, Matt Frattin, Clarke MacArthur, Mike Komisarek

Last season, the Leafs finally made it back to the Playoffs for the first time since 2004. Now they have expectations, and I believe after the painful Game 7 loss to the Bruins, they’ll be hungrier as ever. They signed premier power forward David Clarkson, two-time Stanley Cup champion grinder Dave Bolland, and acquired 1-A goaltender Jonathan Bernier from the LA Kings in a trade. The Leafs are a team to watch for this season.

Prediction: Second

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