J.J. Guerrero

Founder and Executive Editor of Canucks Hockey Blog. Proud Canadian, hardcore Canucks fan. I would like nothing more than watching the Canucks win the Stanley Cup. Against the Leafs.

Oct 232013
 

Last night’s game between the Vancouver Canucks and the New York Islanders was an eventful, see-saw game; both teams took turns taking the lead, and then blowing it, before the Canucks eventually between the Islanders 5-4 in overtime.

David Booth was a scratch – in favor of Andrew Alberts, who played 1 shift and 37 seconds in the first 2 minutes of the game, no less. Ryan Kesler was elbowed in the head, though he didn’t miss a shift. Jannik Hansen was hurt, and missed the latter half of the game. And Kevin Bieksa – yes, Kevin Bieksa – continued his improved play, notching another assist, almost getting the game-winning goal in OT (Brad Richardson eventually got credited for it), and now 5 assists and an NHL-best (!) +10 rating.

Read more #TGATT goodness past the jump.

Oct 152013
 

Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks

Photo credit: canucks.com

We’re 6 games into the 2013/2014 regular season, and already, it seems like, on offense, not much has changed for the Vancouver Canucks. That is, the Canucks are still unable to generate much on offense. And what little offense they generate is usually generated by the Sedins.

Consider this: Henrik Sedin’s goal, which tied the game late in the second period against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, was only the Canucks’ 5th goal in 3 games.

Consider this as well: 4 of these 5 goals were scored or assisted by Henrik or brother Daniel.

In fact, of the Canucks’ 17 goals this season, 10 were scored while the Sedins were on the ice, and Henrik or Daniel scored or assisted on 9 of them.

This isn’t a new phenomenom either.

En route to being swept by the San Jose Sharks in the 2013 playoffs, the Canucks only managed to score 8 goals in 4 games and the twins had a hand in 4 – half – of those goals.

In the last month of last season, a span of 13 games, the Canucks scored 34 goals and the Sedins were involved in 17 of them.

Against the Los Angeles Kings in the 2012 playoffs, the Canucks scored 8 goals in 5 games and the twins either scored, assisted or were on the ice for 6 of those 8 goals.

I think you get the point by now.

There was some optimism at the start of this season that a healthy Ryan Kesler, an injection of youth, and a more aggressive approach would help. Except two weeks into the season, Kesler isn’t the highest scoring Ryan on the team (defenseman Ryan Stanton has 3 points to Kes’ lone point); and the youth, Bo Horvat, Brendan Gaunce and Hunter Shinkaruk, are piling on points back in junior and not in the NHL.

I realize it doesn’t help that Alex Burrows (injured), Jordan Schroeder (injured) and Zack Kassian (suspension) haven’t played much this season. And I know Kesler and David Booth missed most of last season as well. But these don’t change that this is a long-standing problem, and the fact is, the Canucks haven’t had much scoring depth, outside the Sedins, for almost 2 years now.

As it stands, it’s too easy to beat the Canucks these days: stop the Sedins, beat the Canucks.

Oct 152013
 

Vancouver Canucks vs. Philadelphia Flyers

Photo credit: canucks.com

On paper, the Philadelphia Flyers should be one of the league’s better teams. I mean, a team with Claude Giroux, Vinny Lecavalier and Sean Couturier down the middle, and Jakub Voracek, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds and Scott Hartnell on the wings seems like a pretty damn, deep team. But as we enter week 3 of the 2013/2014 NHL regular season, the Flyers have scored just 8 goals in 6 games (1.33 goals per game) and sit in 15th place in the Easter Conference – their 2 points in 6 games is only 1 point better than the last place Buffalo Sabres.

After losing back-to-back games for the first time this season, restlessness is again building in Canucks Nation. As impressive as the Vancouver Canucks were in 3 come-from-behind wins in the first week of the season, they looked just as lacklustre in back-to-back 4-1 home losses to the San Jose Sharks and Montreal Canadiens. Perhaps most alarmingly, they looked slow and tired against the deeper Sharks and younger Habs. They generated few, quality scoring chances and looked disorganized on defense. Much like how they looked at the end of last season.

What to watch

Tonight’s game marks the start of the Canucks’ 7-game road trip, which will see them play in Philadelphia, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Long Island, New Jersey and St. Louis over the next 11 nights. If they look tired now, I’d hate to think how tired they’ll be in a couple of weeks.

Who to watch

Despite the Flyers’ slow start, goaltender Steve Mason has a 0.935 save percentage (0.942 on even-strength). Surprisingly, he’s been decent – certainly more decent than he was in his last several seasons in Columbus.

Dan Hamhuis is going through what is easily his worst stretch of games in a Canucks jersey. And on Saturday against the Habs, he played possibly his worst game as a Vancouver Canuck, punctuated by his misplay of the puck that led to an Steve Smith-esque own goal – the eventual Habs’ game-winning goal. He’s been the Canucks’ best defenseman since signing with the team 3 seasons ago; it’s hard to imagine that he won’t eventually bounce back.

Who’s out

Alex Edler will be serving game 2 of his 3-game suspension. Alex Burrows and Jordan Schroeder remain injured, though Schroeder is travelling with the team and already took part in the Canucks’ morning skate last Saturday.

For the Flyers, Lecavalier, Hartnell, and defenseman, Andrej Meszaros, are all out with injuries.

Oct 122013
 

Vancouver Canucks vs. Montreal Canadiens

Photo credit: canucks.com

The good news for the Vancouver Canucks is, tonight’s opponents aren’t the San Jose Sharks.

The bad news is, the Canucks haven’t beaten tonight’s opponents, the Montreal Canadiens, at Rogers Arena since October 7, 2009.

To complicate things for the Canucks, they’ll have to go against the storied Habs without top defensemen, Alex Edler, who was suspended for 3 games because Tomas Hertl lowered his head and skated it into Edler’s shoulder for his head shot on Tomas Hertl. Former Habs defenseman, Yannick Weber, who has been playing as a winger, is expected to move back and replace Edler’s spot on d.

Who to watch

Second-year players, Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher, are 1st and 4th in Habs’ team scoring, respectively, picking up nicely where they left off last season. Gallagher, especially, has been a revelation. Not much was expected of the diminutive, former Vancouver Giant who was selected in the 5th round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft – only two picks earlier, the Canucks selected Adam Polasek – but all Gallagher has done at the NHL level is produce; in 48 career games, he has 33 points, including 18 goals.

Who’s back

6’3″ Canucks power forward (in the making, we hope), Zack Kassian, is expected to make his season debut tonight after serving an 8-game suspension for breaking Sam Gagner’s jaw with his stick. Kassian was on a line with David Booth and Brad Richardson during the morning skate.

Who’s out

Besides Edler, Alex Burrows and Jordan Schroeder remain out of the Canucks lineup due to injuries.

Habs captain, Brian Gionta, will miss tonight’s game due to a family emergency.

What to watch

For all the ups and downs of the Canucks’ early season, one thing that has been consistent is their penalty-kill. After 5 games, their PK has been perfect, killing all 18 powerplays against them.

Oct 062013
 

Calgary Flames v Vancouver Canucks

Photo credit: canucks.com

Lately, the Calgary Flames seem to cure all things that ail the Vancouver Canucks. In the last 3 seasons, the Canucks have a 13-3-2 record against the Flames and have outscored them by a combined scored of 60-35 in those 18 outings. For all their offensive struggles in recent times (last night’s 6-goal explosion against the Oilers aside), they’ve somehow managed to average 3.33 goals per game against these Alberta rivals.

These days, both teams are going through somewhat of a transition period.

The Canucks, of course, are still learning a new system under new head coach, John Tortorella, and are doing so with much of the same roster. However, tonight, they’ll be even thinner up front with Alex Burrows and Jordan Schroeder out for a couple more weeks, Zack Kassian still serving his 8-game suspension for “accidentally” breaking Sam Gagner’s jaw with his stick.

On the other hand, the Flames are completely rebuilding their organization – finally – after missing the playoffs the last 4 seasons. Just before the start of this season, they hired ex-Canuck GM, Brian Burke, as their President of Hockey Operations. Even before that, they jettisoned long-time face of the Flames, Jarome Iginla, and franchise defenseman, Jay Bouwmeester. Long-time goaltender, Mikka Kiprusoff, also retired.

Both the Canucks and the Flames have won a game and lost a game to start the 2013/2014 season.

Last Year’s Meetings

The Canucks won 5 of 6 meetings last season, outscoring the Flames by an 18-10 margin. Burrows and Schroeder scored 5 of those goals, but neither will suit up tonight. Mason Raymond, Derek Roy and Max Lapierre chipped in with 4 goals, but all have moved on and replaced with Brad Richardson, Zac Dalpe and Mike Santorelli in the lineup.

Alex Tanguay and Mike Cammalleri paced the Flames with a couple of goals each, but Tanguay has since been traded back to the Colorado Avalanche and Cammalleri remains out of the lineup (perhaps for good).

Who to watch

Two defensemen: With 3 points each in their first 2 games, Jason Garrison from the Canucks and Mark Giordano from the Flames are off to hot starts. Garrison has 2 goals – one on the powerplay and one shorthanded (a slap shot, trick shot off the glass and into an empty net) – and an assist; Giordano has 3 assists.

The Canucks will get a first glimpse at prized Flames rookie, Sean Monahan, the 6th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Monahan, who the Flames picked 3 spots before the Canucks picked Bo Horvat, has 2 points in 2 games, including scoring the team’s first goal of the 2013/2014 season.

Both Sedins have feasted on the Flames. Against the Flames in their careers, Daniel has 73 points (25 goals and 48 assists) in 71 games, and Henrik has 66 points (12 goals and 54 assists) in 73 games.

With the Canucks playing back-to-back games, Eddie Lack will get his first career NHL start.

The Lineup

Tonight’s Lineups

Vancouver

Daniel Sedin – Henrik Sedin – Jannik Hansen

David Booth – Ryan Kesler – Chris Higgins

Brad Richardson – Mike Santorelli – Dale Weise

Tom Sestito – Zac Dalpe – Yannick Weber

Dan Hamhuis – Kevin Bieksa

Alex Edler – Jason Garrison

Ryan Stanton – Chris Tanev

Eddie Lack

Roberto Luongo

Calgary Flames

Curtis Glencross – Matt Stajan – Lee Stempniak

Jiri Hudler – Mikael Backlund – TJ Galiardi

Sven Baertschi – Sean Monahan – David Jones

Lance Bouma – Ben Street – Brian McGrattan

Mark Giordano – TJ Brodie

Kris Russell – Dennis Wideman

Chris Butler – Shane O’Brien

Joey Macdonald

Karri Ramo

Sep 302013
 

On the eve of the start of the 2013/2014 NHL regular season, I preview the 30 teams, one division at a time.

Kings vs Sharks

Photo credit: Sportsnet

Anaheim Ducks

The Good

With newly-acquired Jakob Silfverberg, Kyle Palmieri, Nick Bonino, Emerson Etem, Cam Fowler, Luca Sbisa and Sami Vatanen, the Ducks have a lot of good, young players in their system.

The Bad

These kids will be good, but the Ducks may be expecting them to take on a lot more and much too soon.

The Outlook

After a strong start to the 2012/2013 season, the Ducks faded down the stretch and lost to the no. 7 seed, the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs. If the kids can perform over an 82-game season like they did in the first 30 games of the shortened season, they’ll make the playoffs. But that’s a big if.

*****

Calgary Flames

The Good

After years of confusion – should they go for it or should they go on a rebuild – Brian Burke, the Flames’ new President of Hockey Operations, should now give the organization some sense of direction. And that direction is a rebuild.

The Bad

It’ll be a long year in Calgary. Sven Baertschi, Mikael Backlund, Max Reinhart and Sean Monahan provide some hope up front, but the cupboard is otherwise barren. It’s the same in the back end where they have Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie, but not much else.

The Outlook

By the time this season is all over and done with, the Flames may well be in a position to draft Max’s brother, Sam, who currently sits no. 1 in the 2014 NHL Draft rankings.

*****

Edmonton Oilers

The Good

Aside from the injuries to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sam Gagner, there’s a lot to like in Edmonton these days. Taylor Hall should make Team Canada in Sochi. Jordan Eberle should return to 30-goal form. Nail Yakupov is, quite simply, a helluva player. Meanwhile, David Perron and Boyd Gordon give the Oil some veteran help up front, and newly-minted captain, Andrew Ference, provides some much needed leadership and grit from the back end.

The Bad

Adding Ference and drafting Darnell Nurse was a start, but overall, the Oilers are still a small bunch. Incredibly skilled and talented, but small.

The Outlook

The Oilers’ speed and skill rank up there with the best in the league. A bit more tinkering and it’s not inconceivable that they make the post-season for the first time in 8 years. They’re that close.

*****

Los Angeles Kings

The Good

Like the Blackhawks, the Kings have enjoyed much post-season success recently and have managed to retain their core. With Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Justin Williams, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick all at their prime years and signed for a few more seasons, life should be good in La-la-land.

The Bad

Sadly for Canucks fans, I can’t think of any.

The Outlook

Sadly for Canucks fans, the Kings are positioned to remain one of the best in the West.

*****

Phoenix Coyotes

The Good

There’s finally some stability in the Coyotes’ ownership situation – or at least there is until they lose their first $50 million. Goaltender Mike Smith re-upped long-term, and so did defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Signing Mike Ribeiro will help the league’s 25th-ranked PP.

The Bad

Besides Ribeiro, and perhaps an improved Mikkel Boedker, the ‘Yotes don’t have a lot of offensive pop up front.

The Outlook

Smith will keep the Coyotes in most games, but unless they can improve on the NHL’s 21st-ranked offense, they’ll miss the postseason for the second consecutive season.

*****

San Jose Sharks

The Good

Logan Couture may have slowly surpassed Joe Thornton as the Sharks’ no. 1 center. And it’s saying something when Joe Thornton is your no. 2 center. Add Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, and promising rookie, Tomas Hertl, and the Sharks have some enviable depth up front.

The Bad

The defense isn’t as deep, and neither is their goaltending. In fact, it’s scary to think what would happen if goaltender Antti Niemi ever suffered an injury.

The Outlook

This could very well be the last kick at the can for Thornton, Marleau and Dan Boyle – long-serving Sharks who are all unrestricted free agents at season’s end.

*****

Vancouver Canucks

The Good

After 7 years of hearing the same message from head coach, Alain Vigneault, the Canucks fired AV and replaced him with the much more abrasive, John Tortorella. Torts vowed to play a more aggressive system and to make the Canucks a harder team to play against, which would be a welcome change to those of us who witnessed the passive and predictable system from the last couple of seasons.

The Bad

Besides the coach, the biggest change was in goal, where Roberto Luongo is, by virtue of Cory Schneider being traded to the New Jersey Devils, once again the Canucks’ no. 1 goaltender. Elsewhere, the Canucks simply tinkered and Torts will have to make lemonade from pretty much the same group of lemons AV had.

The Outlook

Despite the resounding pessimism present in Canucks Nation, the Canucks should be able to compete for one of the final playoff spots in the Western Conference.

Sep 302013
 

On the eve of the start of the 2013/2014 NHL regular season, I preview the 30 teams, one division at a time.

Chicago Blackhawks

Photo credit: Grantland

Chicago Blackhawks

The Good

The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in 2013, and may very well have a chance at a repeat performance. After all, they retained much of their players, with Dave Bolland perhaps the only significant subtraction from the roster. Brandon Saad, Nick Leddy and Marcus Kruger all seem ready to take on more responsibility.

The Bad

Especially with the hard salary cap and increased parity, it’s pretty darn tough to repeat in this league. The last team to be able to do so were the 1996/1997 and 1997/1998 Detroit Red Wings.

The Outlook

As much as it hurts to say this, I think the Blackhawks are, once again, the team to beat this season.

*****

Colorado Avalanche

The Good

After a few seasons in the cellar, the Avalanche are slowly assembling a good group of players up front. Gabriel Landeskog, Matt Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly and Nathan MacKinnon are as good a young forward core as any team can ask for.

The Bad

Their defense is weak and their goaltending is inconsistent.

The Outlook

There may be hope on the horizon for the Avs, but at least for this season, they’ll have to go through some growing pains.

*****

Dallas Stars

The Good

The Stars may have given up first-line winger, Loui Eriksson, to the Boston Bruins, but in Tyler Seguin, they received someone with no. 1 center potential. In the same deal, they also managed to get Rich Peverley, who has potential to produce as a no. 2 center. Jamie Benn, a 6’2″ forward who averaged 0.80 points per game last season, is an emerging star. 23-year old Alex Chiasson and 2013 1st round draft pick Valeri Nichushkin look like they will fill some key roles in the lineup.

The Bad

There’s not a lot of depth in the back end after Alex Goligoski, Stephane Robidas and Trevor Daley. 39-year old, UFA signing Sergei Gonchar will help, but other than that will rely on guys like Brendan Dillon, ex-Canuck Kevin Connauton, Jamie Oleksiak and Jordie Benn to improve.

The Outlook

This may be a bridge year for the Stars. The kids will get opportunities to play and gain some much-needed experience.

*****

Minnesota Wild

The Good

By signing Matt Cooke and trading for Nino Niederreiter, the Wild did well to improve their bottom-six.

The Bad

The top-six is top-heavy. After the no. 1 line of Mikko Koivu-Zach Parise-Jason Pomminville, the Wild will have to rely on youngsters, Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund, and hope that Dany Heatley can stay relatively healthy and able to chip in offensively.

The Outlook

After making a big splash and signing Parise and franchise defenseman Ryan Suter last year, there was a lot of optimism in St. Paul to start the 2012/2013 season. Expectations should be more tempered this season.

*****

Nashville Predators

The Good

Goaltending and defense will, of course, once again be the Predators’ strong suit. They had Seth Jones drop into their laps at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, and Roman Josi looks like the real deal.

The Bad

The Preds’ offense finished dead last in the NHL last year; this year won’t be any better.

The Outlook

Sometime in the future, Colin Wilson, Filip Forsberg and Taylor Beck may well provide Nashville with the offense they need. Just not with any regular frequency this season.

*****

St. Louis Blues

The Good

The Blues have incredible depth throughout their lineup and should once again be one of the hardest teams to play against. Already with David Backes, Alex Steen, Chris Stewart, Patrick Berglund and Vladimir Tarasenko, they went ahead and added Magnus Paajarvi from Edmonton and ex-Canucks, Derek Roy and Maxim Lapierre. Their defensive corps consisting of Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester, Kevin Shattenkirk, Barret Jackman, Roman Polak and Jordan Leopold may be the best in the league.

The Bad

The Blues have only won one playoff round – in 2011/2012 – in the last ten seasons.

The Outlook

The Blues should easily make the post-season in the new Central Division, and certainly, they have the pieces to finally make it out of the second round of the playoffs.

*****

Winnipeg Jets

The Good

The Jets’ top-3 on d – Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom and Zach Bogosian – can produce with the best of them. Up front, they added some depth behind Andrew Ladd, Evander Kane, Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little by signing versatile Michael Frolik and 20-goal man, Devin Setoguchi.

The Bad

Their defense isn’t that great defensively, playing in the same division as some very good defensive teams.

The Outlook

The Jets should be able to compete for one of the Western Conference’s wildcard spots.

Sep 302013
 

On the eve of the start of the 2013/2014 NHL regular season, I preview the 30 teams, one division at a time.

Rangers vs Islanders

Photo credit: MLB

Carolina Hurricanes

The Good

The top-line of Eric Staal, Alex Semin and Jiri Tlusty was one of the highest-scoring lines in the NHL last season, but the Canes have little scoring depth after that. Adding Jordan Staal last season helped address this, but at this point, Tuomo Ruutu and Jeff Skinner can’t reliably be counted on to stay healthy.

The Bad

I think it says enough when the addition of Mike Komisarek on defense is considered an upgrade.

The Outlook

Things won’t be rocking like a Hurricane in Carolina this season.

*****

Columbus Blue Jackets

The Good

If Marion Gaborik, Nathan Horton, Artem Anisimov and Brandon Dubinsky can ever stay healthy, the Blue Jackets may actually boast some scoring punch on its top two lines. They still do have a lot of ifs, but there’s no denying GM John Davidson has the team moving along the right path.

The Bad

Like the Canes, the Blue Jackets don’t have a lot of team depth.

The Outlook

Columbus was built to bump and grind it out with the best of them, which, playing in the old Central Division, almost won them a playoff spot last season. The East is a different beast, however, and being in the same division as the Pittsburgh Penguins, Washington Capitals, Philadelphia Flyers and New York Islanders will force them to play a more wide-open game than they’d like.

*****

New Jersey Devils

The Good

With Hall of Famer, Martin Brodeur, already in the lineup, goaltending was never an issue in Newark. But now, they also have ex-Canuck, Cory Schneider, to take over when Brodeur decides to hang them up.

The Bad

After losing Zach Parise, the Devils finished 28th in goals per game in 2012/2013. Now, they’ve also lost their leading goal scorer, David Clarkson (Toronto), and 2nd-leading scorer, Ilya Kovalchuk (KHL).

The Outlook

While Brodeur and Schneider can keep the Devils close in games, regardless of how the team is playing in front of them, I’m not convinced UFA signings, Michael Ryder, Jaromir Jagr and Ryane Clowe can adequately replace the loss of Parise, Kovalchuk and Clarkson.

*****

New York Islanders

The Good

With John Tavares and Matt Moulson leading the way, the Islanders finished the 2012/2013 season with the 7th-ranked offense in the NHL. Now, it looks like Josh Bailey and Kyle Okposo are poised to take another step in their development and help out. Ex-Canuck, Michael Grabner, can also be counted on to score about 20+ goals.

The Bad

The Isles don’t have much back on d. Yes, they’ll score a lot. But they’ll also let in a lot of goals.

The Outlook

If another youngster or two – maybe a Griffin Reinhart – then the Isles may very well compete for one of the last playoff spots in the Eastern Conference.

*****

New York Rangers

The Good

The Rangers may very well benefit from a gentler, calmer, kinder (sometimes too kind) voice behind the bench in former Canucks coach, Alain Vigneault. But also, AV will also benefit from having an elite goaltender in Henrik Lundqvist, a deep group down the middle (Brad Richards, Derek Stepan, Derrick Brassard and Brian Boyle), some solid players on the wings (Rick Nash, Ryan Callahan), and some good, young players stepping in (Carl Hagelin, Mats Zucarello and JT Miller).

The Bad

The Rangers’ special teams weren’t exactly special last season – their PP was in the bottom-third of the league and their PK was merely average – and they didn’t add anyone specifically to address them.

The Outlook

After the Penguins and the Capitals, the Rangers should take one of the divisional playoff spots. How far they go will depend largely on how AV can motivate a group that seemed to get stale last season.

*****

Philadelphia Flyers

The Good

On paper, the Flyers seem to always boast one of the strongest, most balanced teams in the league, and this season is no different. Up front, they already had Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, Scott Hartnell, Sean Couturier and Matt Read in their top-nine. And then they added Vincent Lecavalier during free agency. In the back, they added offensive defenseman, Mark Streit, to a group that already included Kimmo Timonen, Braydon Coburn, Nicklas Grossman and Luke Schenn.

The Bad

The Flyers’ playoff hopes hang on Ray Emery, who hasn’t been a no. 1 goalie since the 2006/2007 season, and Steve Mason, whose last good year as a no. 1 goalie was his rookie year in the 2008/2009 season.

The Outlook

As their goaltending go, the Flyers will go. But hey, it wouldn’t be Philadelphia-like any other way.

*****

Pittsburgh Penguins

The Good

Where to start? Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang, James Neal and Chris Kunitz highlight the attack, and Pascal Dupuis, Brandon Sutter and Jussi Jokinen provide more than adequate support. 21-year old Beau Bennett looks good too.

The Bad

Marc-Andre Fleury is still the Pens’ starting goaltender while Tomas Vokoun is out indefinitely.

The Outlook

The Pens should make the playoffs on the strength of their lineup alone. After that, all bets are off.

*****

Washington Capitals

The Good

Simply, the Caps’ offense. Alex Ovechkin is back. And so is Mike Green. Nicklas Backstrom scored at a point-a-game pace. Marcus Johansson and Troy Brouwer also improved. And while the league’s 5th-ranked offense and top-ranked power play lost second-line center, Mike Ribeiro, the Caps did replace him with Mikhail Grabovski.

The Bad

The defense is razor-thin. Green, fellow offensive defenseman, John Carlson, and defensive defenseman, Karl Alzner, head the group, but after that consists of some guys I’ve never heard of.

The Outlook

The Caps will make the playoffs, but will need some help in the back end to make any sort of an extended playoff run.

Sep 302013
 

On the eve of the start of the 2013/2014 NHL regular season, I preview the 30 teams, one division at a time.

Boston Bruins vs Buffalo Sabres

Photo credit: Sportsnet

Boston Bruins

The Good

It’s scary to think, but the Bruins, which made the Stanley Cup Finals last year, may have added some more pop to their offense. Not only is their core is largely intact, with David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron coming off healthy seasons, but the B’s also replaced the injury-prone, Nathan Horton, with 25+ goals winger, Loui Eriksson, and 41-year old Jaromir Jagr with a slightly-younger but extremely-motivated Jarome Iginla.

The Bad

Trading Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley to the Dallas Stars – to acquire Eriksson – really cuts into their forward depth.

The Outlook

It’ll be interesting to see how they fare with the Detroit Red Wings now in the Atlantic Division, but expect the Bruins to still be a Stanley Cup favorite.

*****

Buffalo Sabres

The Good

The good news for the Sabres is, this is a contract year for leading scorer, Thomas Vanek, and no. 1 goaltender, Ryan Miller, so both should be motivated to perform well.

The Bad

Even if Vanek and Miller have a good season, it may very well be their last one in Buffalo. Neither seem to want to re-sign with the Sabres, and it was rumored that the Sabres were entertaining trade discussions for both.

The Outlook

Like it or not, the Sabres are rebuilding and will rely more on youngsters like Cody Hodgson, Tyler Ennis, Mikhail Grigorenko, and even 25-year old goaltender, Jhonas Enroth.

*****

Detroit Red Wings

The Good

The Red Wings finally got their wish and got their move to the Eastern Conference. The lesser travel and generally wider open style of play in the East should work well for a skilled, albeit aging, core. Should.

The Bad

The Wings continue to build their lineup around Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, who are 35 and 32 years old, respectively. And this off-season, they surrounded them with a 40-year old Daniel Alfredsson and a 30-year old Stephen Weiss; both Alfredsson and Weiss will combine to make $10.4 million.

The Outlook

Old Central Division teams like the St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators loved to suffocate the Wings. The Wings will definitely have a bit more room now, but so will their opponents. As long as the Wings can keep up and stay healthy, they should make the playoffs.

*****

Florida Panthers

The Good

The Panthers have some nice, young players playing key roles – Jonathan Huberdeau, Erik Gudbranson, Dmitry Kulikov and Jakob Markstrom to name a few – and have surrounded them with good vets like Brian Campbell, Kris Versteeg, Tomas Kopecky, Brad Boyes, Ryan Whitney and Tim Thomas.

The Bad

The Panthers should be a team on the rise, but unfortunately, are in a tough division with the Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings and Ottawa Senators favored to come out of the Atlantic.

The Outlook

The Panthers must be hoping the kids are ready to take another step and the vets can take some pressure off them so as not to repeat last season’s last place finish.

*****

Montreal Canadiens

The Good

PK Subban won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman last season and is now entering the final year of the contract that’s paying him just $2.875 million. Alex Galyenchuk and Brendan Gallagher are coming off solid rookie campaigns and look to be much better.

The Bad

George Parros was the only size addition to a pretty undersized lineup.

The Outlook

The Habs are looking up. But that’s only because they’ll likely to regularly ice a lineup including 7 players standing less than 6 feet.

*****

Ottawa Senators

The Good

The Senators lost long-time captain, Daniel Alfredsson, to free agency, but promptly replaced him with power winger, Bobby Ryan. He should mesh nicely with an offense that already includes top-liners, Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek, improving Kyle Turris and Mike Zibanejad, and a healthy Erik Karlsson.

The Bad

Operating with an internal salary cap of only around $50 million, there’s little room for improvement in the lineup.

The Outlook

The Sens are a balanced team throughout the lineup. If they stay healthy, they should be considered a contender in the Eastern Conference.

*****

Tampa Bay Lightning

The Good

Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis will continue to pace the offense, while vesatile Teddy Purcell and newcomer Valterri Filpulla will help provide some support.

The Bad

Everything else. Not only does the loss of Vincent Lecavalier (bought out) hurt the league’s 3rd-ranked offense, the Bolts also don’t have much in the back end or in goal. On d, there’s litle depth after Victor Hedman, Matt Carle, and 39-year old, Sami Salo. In goal, neither Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback have played a full NHL season as a starter.

The Outlook

It looks like it’s going to be another long season for Bolts fans.

*****

Toronto Maple Leafs

The Good

The Leafs may be in cap hell right now, but you can’t argue they didn’t at least improve themselves from last season’s team that almost beat the Boston Bruins in the first round of the NHL playoffs. David Clarkson (when he comes off suspension), Dave Bolland (when he gets healthy), Mason Raymond and Paul Ranger will provide some welcome veteran depth and grit to an already potent offense.

The Bad

Dave Nonis, Randy Carlyle and company don’t have a heck of a lot of roster flexibility.

The Outlook

The Leafs will push for a playoff spot. Which, for us Canucks fans, sucks.

Sep 102013
 

[The Vancouver Canucks enter this season facing more questions than they have in recent years. In this preseason series, we'll try and answer a few of them.]

Canucks GM Mike Gillis and new coach John TortorellaPhoto credit: PNG

It’s hard to believe that training camp is upon us, and the Canucks take to the ice in a preseason tilt against the San Jose Sharks only a week from now.

Much has happened since the Canucks got swept by those same Sharks a short four months ago. GM Mike Gillis fired coaches Alain Vigneault, Rick Bowness and Newell Brown. He hired John Tortorella, Mike Sullivan and former Stars head coach, Glen Gulutzan, to replace them. He didn’t trade Roberto Luongo. He traded Cory Schneider instead for a promising prospect in Bo Horvat. Maxim Lapierre wasn’t re-signed. Neither were Derek Roy, Manny Malhotra, Mason Raymond, Andrew Ebbett and Cam Barker. Keith Ballard was bought out. Brad Richardson and Mike Santorelli were brought in. At his year-end presser, Gillis promised a reset of this organization, and you can argue that he did.

The question is, did he do enough?

On the one hand, there was certainly a long list of casualties – hardly a surprise after a disappointing, second consecutive first round exit. But despite the number of roster changes, the core of this Canucks team largely remains the same. Look at the lineup again: the Sedins and Alex Burrows are most likely to remain the top line; Ryan Kesler will again anchor the second line, and have a combination of any of David Booth, Chris Higgins, Jordan Schroeder and Zack Kassian alongside him; whoever is left will join Jannik Hansen and newcomer Brad Richardson on the third line; Tom Sestito and Dale Weise will continue to provide some muscle a couple of minutes a game; and the entire back end will return, with the exception of Keith Ballard. Sure there’s room for a kid or two to make the team out of training camp, but by my count, there’s about 11 forwards and 5 defensemen returning. And Roberto Luongo.

Seemingly, the biggest change for the Canucks this off-season occurred behind the bench. Personnel-wise, the more things changed, the more they stayed the same.

Some reset, huh?

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