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#1 TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
There isn’t a team with as much top end talent backed with great depth as much as the Lightning. Their forwards are fast, skilled and very opportunistic, especially with Kucherov and Stamkos leading the way up front. They were first in scoring with 296 goals last season. That was the highest amount of goals recorded in a regular season since the Washington Capitals filled 318 pucks in the net during the 09-10 season.
Their defense is filled with workhorses as Hedman, Sergachev and newly acquired McDonagh are in for a full season. They can each run the powerplay and cover their man in the defensive end very well. Most teams are lucky to have just one of those guys as good as they are. Tampa has three. That will be very scary for opponents to deal with.
Great goaltending from Vasilevskiy will once again vault this team over the top. He was outstanding for the Lightning last season and is likely going to do work his magic again this year.
Overall Tampa will be one of the best teams in the league with a very dangerous team up and down the roster. Their weakness is the penalty kill as they just averaged 76% last season and was a direct result as to why they lost the very few games they did lose last season. Other than that, they’ll be a deadly team all season long.
#2 TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS
Fans have been gushing over the John Tavares signing in early July of this year. Why not? This is a great times to be a Leafs fan. The turn around of the team started with great management as Brendan Shanahan, Lou Lamoriello and Head Coach Mike Babcock turned water into wine with their consulting, drafting and signings they’ve made in the last three seasons. Rookie GM Kyle Dubas made a great first impression by landing the big fish in John Tavares. Dubas hasn’t even been GM for a month and he already signed him for 8 seasons on contract to play for the Buds.
Toronto is a team that boasts a great top 6 forward cast with Matthews, Tavares, Nylander, Marner, Kadri and Marleau as the main scoring weapons up front. With a group like that, you’ll have a solid chance of getting 3+ goals per game average and score one out of every four powerplays (25%) which will most likely make you a top 3 scoring team in the league.
On paper, their defense doesn’t have a bonafide powerplay quarterback or even a defensive stalwart but they’re still alright as they averaged over 80% on the penalty kill. They were slightly above average in goals allowed (232 GA, 12th in league) which is still good considering the weapons they boast up front. Having a goaltender like Frederick Anderson saving your butt combined with Mike Babcock’s excellent coaching will boost the team’s defensive prowess too.
Overall, you’ll see the Leafs in high scoring games, they’ll be fun to watch, but they will need an additional defenseman at the trade deadline. They will get their man next Spring if they want to push for a deep playoff run.
#3 FLORIDA PANTHERS
Ok, so this a gamble and some of you will say I’m crazy for writing this but there is a lot to like about the Florida Panthers being a playoff team this year. My reasoning is that the Panthers young nucleus of Ekblad, Barkov, Dadonov, Huberdeau and Bjugstad still have the best years ahead of them. I wouldn’t be surprised if Huberdeau, Barkov and Trochek all had 80 point seasons and they are talented enough to make it happen. They made a terrific late season push last year and were just one point away from making the playoffs.
Florida doesn’t have a ton of depth but they do have Borgstrom and Tippett on the verge of making the team and if they do, they’ll have a chance to make a great impression on the checking line and even special teams as well.
Goaltending is a bit uncertain as Luongo is getting up there in age and James Reimer still needs to post better numbers to be a solid #1 goaltender. It’ll be interesting to see how this pans out.
The Panthers are not known to be strong starters but they tend to play better late in the season. That’s the best time to watch them play.
#4 BOSTON BRUINS
There is no doubt that everything worked out for Boston last season. They were scoring, defended well, plus they were converting powerplays and killing penalties at a high-caliber rate. Sometimes, I wonder about Boston because they’ve had some great seasons with the same core of players. Sometimes, they’ve had some mediocre years where they’ve finished 9th in the conference two years in a row. Finishing 9th is really bad because it not only means you’re not in the playoffs, you don’t get a high draft pick either.
Boston is still a really good team and they definitely do have talent but I think they over-achieved last season. We might see a correction in their stats. Marchand is a slippery player and hard to play against but it wouldn’t amaze me if he drops 10-15 points. Same goes with Pastranak and Chara. I can see the team trending sideways or even down because of how much better teams like Florida is getting plus with division rivals Tampa Bay and Toronto making strides in the off-season.
Boston will be at least be a wild card team but their path to the playoffs will be inconsistent especially if Rask has a few off games but overall, it shouldn’t be anything to worry about.
#5 BUFFALO SABRES
The Sabres will not focus on making the playoffs this year, they will focus on development. What’s positive about the Sabres is that unlike the other teams not making the playoffs in the Atlantic Division, they’re trending up, not down. Buffalo boasts the best prospect pool in the league with Rasmus Dahlen, Casey Mittelstadt, Alex Nylander and Brendan Guhle all projecting to make the team next season.
The Sabres already have Eichel, Reinhart and Ristolainen on the team showing great play and excitement but the issue will be how they will gel playing with new players making the cut.
I believe they’ll have a great nucleus in the future. They might surprise with a couple winning streaks this year, especially once the kids find their way playing in the NHL. They’ll show a huge improvement between now and April of 2019 but they’ll be golfing after that time.
#6 OTTAWA SENATORS
Let’s not talk about last season. That’s a topic for another day. This prediction is made assuming Erik Karlsson is finally out and it was a sad ending for him in Ottawa. They still have some good players in Stone, Duchene plus up-and-comer Chabot but the atmosphere in the locker room needs to be addressed. There are still controversies and issues that haven’t been settled since last season and that can affect the team this season. Some more moves on the roster will have to be made in order to clear the air to start fresh and no team needs it more than the Sens.
Despite their shortcomings on the current roster, Ottawa does have a few good prospects. Brady Tkachuk is their top gun that can make camp this year as well as Logan Brown. There are spots available so look for them to make an impression right out of the gate.
The Sens might be in for another fiasco if the garden hose is still kinked but I think it’ll be a little bit more stable this season, but just a little.
#7 DETROIT RED WINGS
If there was a word that would describe Detroit right now, it would be ‘underwhelming’. Nobody on Detroit was an impact player last season. Forwards like Larkin and Mantha are good, but they are better suited for secondary scoring roles, not top line duties.
If this team gets one or two studs that can plug and play into the lineup(most likely won’t happen), the whole dynamics of this team will change for the better but it’s wise to go for the rebuilding strategy since Detroit is excellent at drafting. They got Pavel Zadina at the draft this Summer. He’s a pure goal-scorer who can make the team but he won’t a impact right away. Michael Rasmussen is very intriguing as well. He will most likely make the team with a great impression but overall the Wings won’t be taken seriously this season. They don’t have any established elite players at this point in time.
Give it another year for Detroit be a much better team who can quietly make a massive leap forward if the development of Zadina and Rasmussen goes well.
#8 MONTREAL CANADIENS
I wish I could say that the Habs have something going for them but I’m afraid they don’t have much at this point, at least for now. The team on paper looks like it’s rebuilding especially with Pacioretty recently traded to Vegas for Nick Suzuki, Tatar and a 2nd round pick. Looks like a type of trade for a rebuild to start but GM Bergevin says otherwise. He still wants to keep Weber and Price on the club despite the club going on a downward trend. Drouin and Gallagher still had good seasons despite how poorly the team performed but they need a wealth of support around them if they want to improve their numbers.
If the Habs want to trend upward, they have to focus on developing their current prospects. They have a long list of centers that are in development and that’s an area where they need top get much better at. They do have Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Ryan Poehling aa their top center prospects but they won’t be ready for awhile yet. Now that they have Suzuki, it should be interesting where he slots in if he makes the club. Nikita Scherbak is talented and will challenge for a wing position as well.
Victor Mete and Noah Juulsen saw some action last season and made an impression to the coaching staff. They’ll have an advantage in training camp because of the experience.
The Habs have a much better prospect pool than what most people think and they still have decent pieces in place to make a good team down the road but their locker room is filled with distraction. The media always puts a spin on the team’s affairs which makes it difficult to focus on playing hockey. Because of that, they’ll have a rocky season ahead of them.
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#1 PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
The perennial offensive powerhouse is back and ready to attack once again for another exciting season coming our way! It was a relatively quiet off-season for the Pens but they didn’t need to make many moves. They signed Jack Johnson to a multi-year deal to shore up the blueline which is one of the team’s weak spots.
It wouldn’t be surprising if the Pens make it to another Stanley Cup Final and what’s different this year compared to the last couple of seasons is that they’re on the outside looking in. They were eliminated by the eventual Stanley Cup winners, the Washington Capitals, in 6 games of the Eastern conference semi-finals.
The Pens will be fresher because of the extra rest compared to years before when they won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017. There’s no doubt Crosby, Malkin, Kessel and company will still be at the top of their game to cement another great season in the best era of Penguins history. They have the deadliest powerplay as they were ranked #1 in that department last year plus they were #5 on offense. There’s no reason why that won’t change as of right now. Look for some exciting, high-flying games by them, especially against the Flyers and the Capitals. Mark it on your calendar when they play!
#2 PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
This might come as a surprise to some but I think the Flyers have a team that is a force to be reckoned with. Giroux, Voracek and Couturier had outstanding seasons last year. With Nolan Patrick on the verge of a breakout plus the signing of James van Riemsdyk, they now have a very scary offense that has great mix of skill, physicality and speed.
On the back end, Ivan Provorov has established himself as a solid two-defender for years to come and Gostibehere (aka Ghost Bear) had a terrific season as well. Ghost Bear’s numbers might see a dip but he’ll still put up big numbers from the back.
The Flyers aren’t as deep as the top contending teams but from what they lack in depth they make up for in prospects. Carter Hart is arguably the top goaltending prospect in the league and he’ll get a shot at training camp. Defenseman, Phillipe Myers has a great shot at making the team as well as centerman, Morgan Frost, a very explosive skater.
Penalty Killing and goaltending are Philly’s weak spots but with an improved roster from within, they will get better in those departments. Their offense should make up for those deficiencies.
#3 WASHINGTON CAPITALS
The 2018 Stanley Cup champions had a year to remember! After many disappointments and early playoff exits, they finally made their mark in history and Alex Ovechkin got his Stanley Cup; he hasn’t let the cup out of his sights or been sober ever since, haha.
The Caps earned their first Stanley Cup by having the presence of two elite centers in Kuznetsov and Backstrom. In the past, the Caps didn’t have this luxury, which is why they too often eliminated early in the playoffs. Their rivals, the Penguins, always stacked themselves down the middle with Malkin and Crosby. That’s why the Penguins have 3 cups since 2009.
The Caps still have their main core intact and they’ve signed D John Carlson to an extension this summer. They’ll be gunning for a second straight cup and their odds are terrific.
#4 CAROLINA HURRICANES
It was a down year in Carolina and another missed opportunity to make the playoffs. That has been the case for the last 8 season ever since they made the Eastern Conference finals against the Penguins in 2009. But that was a long time ago and none of the guys that were on that team are here today.
There was no distinguished strengths of that team as they ranked in the mid 20’s in goals for, goals against, powerplay and penalty killing against other teams in the league.
What they did have right was their shots for/ shots against ratio. They peppered 2780 shots on goal while having 2367 shots against. Do you realize how good that is? They had 413 more shots on goal than against. That’s huge! The problem is that they couldn’t finish opportunities and Scott Darling did not play well for the Canes last season. They easily would of been a playoff team if Cam Ward simply played more games. Now that Ward is gone, Darling will get a second chance to see if he is worth the starter’s job. We’ll see how it goes but I think he’ll improve. I believe in second chances for opportunities like what Darling has, except for getting back together with your ex. I don’t believe in that at all.
Carolina’s strength by far is their defensive core from #1 to #6. They just got Dougie Hamilton who is very gifted offensive from the backend. Jaccob Slavin is a defensive stalwart plus Faulk, Pesce and van Riemsdyk round out a pretty solid backend.
The Canes lack star power and they’ve especially missed it last year. Now with Svechnikov in the picture, he’ll most likely make the team. He’s the Cane’s main weapon for the future and he’ll get his feet wet this season. If he turns out to be any good, he’ll make the Canes a better team immediately.
This team is closer to being better than what a lot of people think and it won’t be surprising if they contend for a wild card spot in April of 2019.
#5 COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
If it wasn’t for Panarin (aka Pan Bread) or Bobrovsky (aka Boobtitsky) the Jackets wouldn’t have a chance to make the playoffs. Consistent scoring was a struggle for them last season despite Seth Jones had an outstanding year from the backend. A lot of players experienced big drop offs including Cam Atkinson and Nick Foligno. Luckily Pierre-Luc Dubois had a nice rookie season for them and played really well with Pan Bread late in the season.
Ever since Tortorella has taken over the head coaching job in 2016, he turned this team around and established an identity by getting his team to play a gritty, hard-nosed, in-your-face brand of hockey. Although they have depth and character, they lack someone who can score all season long. Only Pan Bread can do it and the rest of the team has streaky scoring.
Although I like this team on paper, they are one distraction or injury away from having a bad losing streak faltering their chances on missing the playoffs. Speaking of distractions, Panarin needs a contract and he won’t likely stay with the club. They’ll miss the playoffs, but just barely.
#6 NEW JERSEY DEVILS
The Devils made a terrific run in the season to make the last wild card seed in the Eastern Conference. That’s how Taylor Hall won the MVP trophy this season as he shouldered this team to the playoffs. Much like Columbus, Hall is the reason why the Devils made the playoffs just like how Panarin was the reason the Jackets were successful. The depth chart falls immediately after Hall. Nico Hishier is good and will be an elite center in a couple of seasons but he isn’t at his prime yet.
The defensive core is probably the most average in the league. Will Buthcer had a great rookie season but he may have been over-acheiving just a bit. He could drop a few points but that’s ok, he’s still a lte round steal for the Devils. Vatanen looked good for the Devils last season but he won’t be carrying this club from the backend.
The Devils were probably the luckiest team when it came to their goaltending situation. As Cory Schneider struggled, Keith Kinkaid bailed him out and played way above expectations earning himself the starter job.
Much like the stock market when things go much better than expected, a course correction is in Order for the Devils.
#7 NEW YORK RANGERS
In a letter published in a local newspaper to Rangers fans from Glen Sather and Jeff Gorton on February 8th, 2018, they basically told fans that they’re rebuilding from the ground up and that marked a significant change in the Ranger’s destiny for the coming years on that day. Rick Nash, Ryan McDonagh, J.T Miller and Michael Grabner were shipped out at the trade deadline for prospects and future considerations.
The full rebuild is in effect at the Big Apple. They were loaded with 10 picks at the 2018 NHL Draft in Dallas, Texas including three first round draft picks. They selected forward Vitali Kravtsov with the 9th overall pick, defenseman K’Andre Miller with the 22nd overall pick, and defenseman Nils Lundkvist with the 28th overall pick.
With those picks, they’ll have the deepest pool of prospects in a couple of years. As of now, the Rangers are in transition. Henrik Lundqvist needs an opportunity to play for the Stanley Cup and they’ll most likely have him shipped out somewhere by the trade deadline in 2019.
The Rangers won’t be good but they now a have a direction and that will bode well for their future.
#8 NEW YORK ISLANDERS
I’m not going to hold back on this one. The Islanders had a wasted season that could of been completely avoided. The Isles needed to chooses a path for the club while they still had a shot at the playoffs. They either had to buy or sell. Instead, they didn’t make a single move. The Isles were in desperate need of goaltending near the trade deadline. They easily could of snagged Cam Ward. He was available. A defensive stalwart would of made a difference as well. Their penalty kill was horrible as they ranked dead last in the league. Ryan McDonagh would of been terrific in fixing that problem. He was available.
Islanders were even better off to sell than to do nothing. They didn’t even trade Tavares away while they still could of got some value from him and now he’s moved on with the Maple Leafs for nothing in return for the Isles.
The team had these problems because of colossal mismanagement from Garth Snow and now he’s fired. Thankfully, Lou Lamiorello took over the General Manger role. Even with him at charge of operations, the Isles won’t recover from what happened last season. Now they have to suffer a painful season trying to figure how they can get back to being a playoff contender. Time to get to work.
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Vancouver Young Talent Shines
The preseason could not be going any better if you are a Canucks fan. Preseason is a showcase for young prospects, and in Vancouver the young prospects look amazing………Olli Juolevi is staking claim that he will be a solid NHL player, but then there is the man…Elias Pettersson! Wow is this guy impressive. He is doing everything… He is flashy, he is exciting, and more importantly he is making players around him look like superstars – right Sven Baertschi.
Leafs Tire Pumping
The Maple Leafs will be good, but back the wagons up Leafs fans. The season has not started. I know..I know… Tavares has two goal in his first game… I think there is a lot more ahead for this team. They will be good, but relax Leafs fans… You’re not cup contenders… and honestly, I hope you prove me wrong.
The first preseason game that new Montreal Canadiens center was in turned out to be a disaster. Domi tried baiting Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad into a fight. Ekblad would not give Domi the satisfaction of the fight – in return Domi sucker punched him in the face. Not the showing the Habs fans expected or wanted. Well maybe it was not too bad. Below is a press release from the NHL:
NHL PRESS RELEASE
Montreal Canadiens forward Max Domi has been suspended for the remainder of the preseason for roughing Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad during NHL Preseason Game No. 29 in Montreal on Wednesday, Sept. 19, the National Hockey League’s Department of Player Safety announced today.
The incident occurred at 0:56 of the third period. Domi was assessed a match penalty as well as a minor penalty for roughing.
For a full explanation of the decision, complete with video, please click on the following link: https://www.nhl.com/video/t-277440360/c-61189703.
The suspension shocked me and frustrates me. I ask the NHL, is it really a penalty to punish a guy with preseason games. No regular season games, none. So Domi gets to practice and relax and prepare for the regular season without having to worry about in significant pre-season games. Look out NHL, you quickly set the suspension bar for the season, and it is low.
#1 WINNIPEG JETS
It wasn’t a matter of how, it was a matter of when. When the Jets will finally play as a great hockey team. Many years of building a prospect pipeline is finally paying dividends and they are ready to contend for a Stanley Cup for years to come.
In the most competitive division of the NHL, the Jets have what it takes to be #1 in the Central. Their offense is oozing with speed and skill. They play an aggressive up-tempo game and they have size to win key puck battles in the corners.
The X-factor for the Jets will be goaltender Connor Hellebuyck, who had an amazing 17/18 season. He had a really good playoff showing as well. Not many goaltenders make the conference finals in their first full season and there isn’t a reason why he can’t do it again.
The Jets are poised to be a Stanley Cup contender this season and as long as distractions or the injury bug keep away, they’ll have a great chance to go the distance.
#2 NASHVILLE PREDATORS
Arguably the most well structured team in the league, the Preds had a disappointing playoff exit against the Jets in the Western conference semi-finals last season. They’ll look to bounce back and if they want to go anywhere in the post season, they’ll most likely have to go through the Jets again. They have the team to do it but they do have to keep themselves in check and make sure they’re prepared to match the up-tempo game the Jets like to play.
Nashville’s strength by far is their blueline. They have the best defensive core in the entire NHL with Josi, Subban, Ekholm and Ellis rounding their top 4. They all play sound defensive hockey. With Rinne as their goaltender backing the defense, it’s very difficult to score 3 goals in a game against them.
Their offense is really good but it’s not at the same caliber as their defense and that’ll be their weakness if they start scoring in streaks. Forsberg, Turris, Arvidsson and Johansen are solid contributors offensively but they are not at the same level as the Penguins, Capitals, Leafs, Lightning and Jets when it comes to fire power up-front.
The Preds will most likely be a playoff team and maybe a Stanley Cup contender if their scoring gets hot at the right time but it’ll be a wait-and-see approach from here on in.
#3 ST. LOUIS BLUES
It was a disappointing season for the Blues as they missed the playoffs for the first time since 2011. It’s the Central we’re talking about so it’s tough for every team to get an advantage over their divisional rival. Blues management knows how hard it is to play in the Central so that’s why GM Doug Armstrong acquired Ryan O’Reilly, Tyler Bozak and David Perron in the off-season. That’s a nice score for any team in an off-season, but it’s extra sweet for the Blues because those players play Blues style hockey; a blue-collar, chip-and-chase brand that’s very aggressive on the forecheck.
The Blues aren’t very good on the powerplay as they ranked 30th in that department last season. That’ll still be a concern when the season starts on October 3rd and will be their biggest weakness. None of the guys they acquired in the off-season are true powerplay specialists but their 5-on-5 game will be a huge plus. They’ll be much better even-strength.
With a nice rest in the off-season, they’ll have a fresh start to what looks to be a promising campaign for the Blues in the 18/19 NHL season.
#4 DALLAS STARS
The Stars are an interesting case to look at because what you think the Stars are known for, their offensive talent, wasn’t their strength last season. The Stars were remarkably ranked 6th in goals allowed last season and that wasn’t expected from them whatsoever, but that was with Ken Hitchcock as coach. He’s retired now so Jim Montgemery will takeover. He’ll have an improved team to coach because Valeri Nichushkin is back with the team and they could have talented defensive prospect Miro Heskanen making an impact right away.
Ben Bishop was a great goaltender with his first season with the Stars last season but injuries limited him to just 53 starts in 17/18. If he has a full season, he can push the Stars to the playoffs and that’s very achievable.
The Stars will compete for a wild card spot next season and if their off-season acquisitions can improve their depth, they’ll make some noise this season.
#5 COLORADO AVALANCHE
Besides Vegas, the Avs had the best Cinderella story of last season. Mackinnon was a beast and Rantanen played his role as shotgun perfectly for Mackinnon. The Avs had the best comeback season in recent memory after having a dreadful season in 16/17.
The Avs established themselves as playing very explosive hockey and Mackinnon thrived in that environment. He carried this team to it’s first playoff birth since 2014 and although they were defeated by Nashville, they show promise for the future. Tyson Jost is primed for a breakout season and they’ve added defenceman Ian Cole to shore up their blueline.
The Avs are in a very good situation with how they are growing and they still have an elite prospect with defenceman Cale Makar primed for the future. As for this season, they’ll build off their success they had last year and will compete for another playoff spot this year.
#6 MINNESOTA WILD
The Wild had a good season last year. They made the playoffs and were contending to advance once again. The problem is more teams in the Central have improved are in the toughest division in the league because of it. The Wild have a good team and have got the most out of Eric Staal and Devan Dubnyk, who performed way above expectations. Good for them but the team didn’t improve at all in the off-season while other teams were making moves. That’ll hurt the Wild this season.
The Wild aren’t great at any particular part of their game but they’re not terrible either. What’s bad is that they are average in special teams and 5 on 5 play. While that may have worked in the past, it won’t cut it this season. Will a rebuild be in order after next season? Let’s hope for the Wild, that’s not the case.
#7 CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
The main core of the team is still in tact as Kane and Toews still play good hockey. Seabrook and Keith had seasons they want to forget but their play was severely hampered because of the lack of depth they used to when they were on top of the hockey world with 3 Stanley Cups in 5 seasons. The depth drops off very fast from their first line and had to use their 2nd, 3rd and 4th lines as a season long tryout camp for their prospects, with most of them not ready to make the leap. Alex DeBrincat was a diamond in the rough and was the only bit of good news the Hawks had all year. He led the Hawks in goals in his rookie season and is looking to build off that.
If the Hawks want to make an impact this season, Corey Crawford needs to overcome vertigo plus Kane, Toews, Seabrook and Keith need to have monster seasons. In a division like the Central, it isn’t likely.
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#1 SAN JOSE SHARKS
Coincidence is funny sometimes. A few hours before I was writing this article, news broke out that Erik Karlsson gets traded to the Sharks. I also had San Jose slotted in to go #1 even before the announcement of the blockbuster trade so this was mean’t to be.
This team keeps finding ways to get good players on the team whether it’s trade or drafting, GM Doug Wilson gets the job done and he is the reason why the Sharks have been a consistently great team. Even with Thornton, Pavelski, Burns and Couture getting older, the Sharks keep drafting excellent talent that will back those players up and provide a great future for the club. Tomas Hertl, Timo Meier, Joonas Donskoi and even Kevin Labanc have provided great secondary support for Couture and Pavelski, who had average seasons compared to what they can achieve.
The Sharks now have Evander Kane for a full season as well. He came in as a late season pick up from Buffalo and was able to fit in like a glove in Northern California.
This is easily the best team the Sharks had on paper in many years and I’ll bet this team is better than the one they had in 2016 when they went to the Stanley Cup finals against the Penguins. Expect them to take advantage of a very weak Pacific division and tear up the Western conference.
#2 CALGARY FLAMES
The Flames I see as a team that can come together and play well as a cohesive unit if they put their mind to winning. The Flames have a very good team on paper but last year they had no emotion nor spark to drive them to a playoff spot. That prompted a shake up in the off-season as the Flames acquired two players who feel they have something to prove in Elias Lindholm and Noah Hanifin. They’ll provide the fire the Flames need as it’s their last chance to prove they can play up to their potential. Dougie Hamilton and Michael Ferland were subsequently shipped to Carolina as a result of the trade. The Flames also signed James Neal, who has been to the Stanley Cup Finals in two straight seasons, offers character and an insight of what the finals are like. He’ll be an asset going forward.
The Flames have a very good defensive core plus a fast, skilled, and speedy top 6 forward group. If they can find chemistry and get a good rhythm going, they’ll easily be a playoff team. I think they’ll struggle early on in the season but will find their groove from there on in.
#3 VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS
The best expansion season from a major league sports team in history is under the books and what a thrilling journey it was for the Vegas Golden Knights. The team of “Golden Misfits”, a team that had players that were outcasted by their former NHL clubs came together and played an incredible brand of hockey that nobody expected.
Now we’re in year two and already this team is going through a shakeup. Perron and Neal are gone but they now have Pacioretty and Statsny. If you ask me, I think the latter is far more valuable than the former. Patches needs a rebound year and he’ll get one with Vegas without question.
Fleury needs to continue to be his superstar self if Vegas wants to make the playoffs this season and I think he’ll be successful. He’s been better in the last 3 seasons than he has been his entire career. Signs point that he’s one of guys who goes through his prime later than most athletes. Luckily for Vegas, that time is now.
It’ll be a tougher year for Vegas, as they can’t sneak on opponents anymore plus Nate Schmidt is suspended 20 games for a supposed drug violation. Schmidt was a valuable asset for Vegas last season and his services will be missed for the first quarter of the season. That’s unless they prove the suspension was unjust and reversed during training camp.
#4 EDMONTON OILERS
Last season, a lot of people have claimed high expectations that the Oilers were going to be a force to be reckoned with last season. Sadly for the Oilers, it didn’t come to be. McDavid was the only bright spot the Oilers had last season as he won the NHL scoring title even on an under-performing team. Not much has changed since the off-season and the same glaring holes in the Oilers weak spots are still there.
The special teams were dreadful for the Oilers the prior season placing dead last on the powerplay and 25th on the penalty kill. Goaltending isn’t where it’s supposed to be and the defencemen for the club give opposing forwards too much space on the ice.
A big positive is the fact that the Oilers have the best player in the world in Connor McDavid and studs such as Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. Regardless, this team still needs a few areas improved if they want to be a playoff team and I doubt this year will be their year.
#5 LOS ANGELES KINGS
The Kings pride themselves by playing very sound defensive hockey. They were #1 in both goals against (203 GA) and penalty kill (85%) last season. When you’re the best at both of those categories, your defense is like a wall that can’t be run through or climbed over. Goaltender Jonathon Quick has been outstanding plus the coaching structure contributed to the success on defence.
L.A. will continue to be great defensively but not as good as they were a year ago. It’s hard to see Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown continue their amazing play as they age. Even with Ilya Kovalchuk signed to a 3-year deal in July, teams like Calgary, St. Louis and San Jose have made strides ahead of L.A. this summer as they’ve acquired more impact players than the Kings. The team itself isn’t worse, but they did get 1 year older and in today’s game, age means a lot and is more crucial than ever before as players are having shorter careers because of how fast the game is played. Unfortunately, the Kings are not a fast skating team so that could be a problem for them. Signs indicate that this might be a trying time for the Kings this season.
#6 ANAHEIM DUCKS
The Ducks were one of the better defensive teams last season. They’re usually in the playoff hunt more times than not but were easily dismantled by the Sharks in 4 games last season during the Western conference quarter-finals last season. Fast forward 5 months and the Ducks haven’t changed their team very much. Their outlook isn’t overly favourable because Getzlaf and Perry are already 33 years old. Their best years are behind them. Kesler has a brutal hip injury he may not ever recover from. He may even miss the entire 18/19 season because of it.
Their defensive core is in good shape and are a tough group for forwards to compete against but their depth up front is an issue. Rickard Rakell is Anaheim’s only bonafide goal scorer and besides Getzlaf, nobody on the Ducks scored over 50 points. The scoring won’t go up with the current group and that lack of offensive punch is what will bite the Ducks during the season. Goaltender John Gibson has to be outstanding in order to give the Ducks a chance but he is simply not a brick wall. Expect a downward trend for the Ducks this season.
#7 ARIZONA COYOTES
Another year, another chance of scoring a draft lottery pick. I want to be excited for the Coyotes. I really do. But, even for a rebuilding team, they don’t have a lot of high-end prospects. Dylan Strome is the exception and he has a fantastic opportunity to make the team this season. Clayton Keller can build off his successful rookie campaign plus Alex Galchenyuk is away from the drama that’s happening in Montreal. He has a chance at a fresh start and be an integral part of the Coyotes in the future.
If the Yotes can get a win in their first 10 games of their regular season this season, they can consider themselves more successful compared to the same stage of last season. It took the Yotes 12 games to get their first victory and it took them 21 games to get their first win in regulation during the 17-18 campaign. Surely they can do better right? Let’s pray for them.
#8 VANCOUVER CANUCKS
Let’s face it, the Canucks suck. But, it’s not all that bad. Unlike bottom-feeders like the Coyotes, Habs or Senators, the Canucks have an amazing list of prospects that tell the tale of what the future is in store for them. Elias Petterson is an insanely great talent and will make the team out of camp (pending injuries of course) and Thatcher Demko is arguably the best goaltending prospect in the NHL. They also have a great defensive prospect in Olli Joulevi as well. They have players currently on the roster that are still growing in their own too. Brock Boeser and Bo Horvat shined last season and have a great opportunity to be the leaders of this club as the Sedin twins are now retired.
The 2019 draft is in Vancouver next June and consensus is that the Canucks will be very involved in that draft. They might even score a lottery pick and draft Jack Hughes as their new franchise centerman.
Regardless how Vancouver performs this season, the future is bright on the West Coast and they’ll be a great team once again.
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I did not provide a recap on the Circus Trip so here a quick one...As I previously wrote, I had set the goal for the Hawks to take 7 of 12 points and they came home with 6 points. I can live with that. The Circus Trip started great with an a$$ whooping of the Canuckleheads. Next came the "Alberta Swing" where the Hawks looked like they’d never played hockey before. The final leg of the trip in Wine Country and Highway 1, the Hawks should have won the last three games as they played well enough to win all three but only won in Anaheim and LA.
Many improvements still need to be made for the Hawks to seriously contend for the Cup:
1. Duncan Keith must play better: I not sure if he is being pressured to do to much.
2. Where's the Physical play? Free agents, Carcillo (the Car Bomb) and Jamal Mayers have been pretty invisible so far. The Hawks brought them in this offseason to make the team tougher, and they did, for a while. What happened ?
3. Scoring Depth: is becoming a problem for this year’s team. Of the 17 goals they scored on the trip, 11 came from the Hawks’ big guns (Toews, Kane, Hossa and Sharp). The players that the Hawks need to step up and contribute more offensively (mainly Stalberg, Bickell and Frolik) aren’t doing so. While not much can be expected offensively from the fourth line, they haven’t been contributing at all lately. This spells trouble, because if the Hawks’ top four falls into a slump, no one will be there to pick up the slack.
4. Improve the defense: The Hawks have given up 74 goals in total, third worst in the Western Conference.
5. Special Teams must become more consistent. The PP has improved considerably and must continue to produce but the PK SUCKS (see Odds and Ends)
6. I expect the Hawks to trade for a stud Blue Line defensemen and also make a trade for a "true" #6 forward.
Regarding tonight's game against the Yotes...
The Hawks are glad to be back at the Madhouse on Madison where they have a 7-1-2 record and will face a team on a roll of late, the Coyotes. The Yotes come in with a 6-3-1 record in their last 10 games and also own the 3rd best road record in the West at 6-3-1. The last meeting between the two teams was in Phoenix and the Hawks won handily 5-2.
Tonight's Expected Lineup:
Odds and Ends:
- "Turn around Bright Eyes" - Through the Hawks first 15 games, the pp unit scored just five goals. Over the past nine games, the group has scored 11.
- Captain Serious is a legitimate contender for the Hart Trophy (He had 10 points (four goals, six assists) in the six games on the trip and is in a tie with James Neal and Claude Giroux for third in scoring in the NHL, just three behind Phil Kessel for the league lead)
- SUCK! On the trip the penalty killing was just awful. After not taking a penalty in the first game of the trip in Vancouver, Chicago allowed six power play goals in 18 opportunities, a below-mediocre 67 percent kill rate.
- "Madhouse on Madison" - The Hawks play the next 19 of 26 games at home.
It’s only one game but tonight's game against the Sharks is a measuring stick of the Hawks heart and desire. The Circus trip continues tonight in San Jose and it will be interesting to see how the Hawks present themselves after being b*tch slapped the last two games being outscored 14-4. There was no one individual to blame for the bad losses to Calgary and Edmonton but its late November and tonights game will provide a test to determine how well the Blackhawks stack up against a key Western Conference rival.
The Blackhawks may be catching the Sharks (12-5-1) at the wrong time. San Jose has scored 13 goals during a three-game winning streak and 20 over a 5-1-0 stretch.
If Q decides to change the lineup and would like to seek my advise, I would suggest that Brunette would look pretty good with Toews and Hossa on the #1 line. Next move Stalberg to the 2nd line and Car Bomb to the 4th line. Car Bomb and the 4th line could manage against the Sharks #1 line of Couture, Thornton and Pavelski. Heck its just a thought.
Tonight's Expected Hawks Lineup:
Odds and Ends:
- The Mighty Blackhawks are 10-3-1 in the past 14 games against the Sharks
- Seabrook and Frolik practiced yesterday, look to return soon to the lineup. I expect Seabs to play tonight.
The Flames torched the Hawks last night and ended the Hawks four game winning streak last night so what does this mean? The Hawks get a chance to start a new one tonight in Edmonton against an Oilers team that has lost four straight. Games like last night's seems to be demonstrate the need for more heart, energy, piss and vinegar on the roster than that which was added in the offseason. Hey Q, please sit John Scott! In my opinion the entire Hawks team looked bad last night especially Crawford giving up two bad goals. This is the part of the game were I hope Coach Q does not burn him out to soon in the season. The Razor has proven to be a viable backup, use him Q, as I expect you to, tonight.
The Hawks look to duplicate their effort from last Sunday's victory over the Oilers. The Oilers PK ranked 6th in the league has been pretty solid and the Hawks will need to find a way to keep their
powerplay improving going (at least one pp goal in each of the last five games). The success while
on the man advantage was a big reason for all of those comfortable 3+ goal wins over the last week or so. Speaking of offense, Sharp and Kane need to have a game; think about it, Hossa, Toews, and Stalberg can't score every night, right? Lets step it up 2nd line.
Tonight's Expected Lineup:
Odds and Ends:
- The Hawks are 1-3-1 on Fridays so far this year.
- Money to spend; Bowman has $6 million to $7 million at his disposal to improve his team, if needed.
There was a little shuffling of the deck in the Blackhawks lineup these last few days.
Everyone saw this coming a mile away, but overpaid and under-talented winger Rostislav Olesz
and his $3 million salary was placed on waivers, and then sent to Rockford. Ben Smith joined the team on Thursday and is expected to play on Friday, mainly because…
Frolik is injured. Seabs missed the morning skate and is out of the line-up too.
Now to the Flames game, With the clowns and elephants occupying the Madhouse on Madison,
the Hawks started their annual "Circus Trip" with a bit of payback with a 5-1 ass-whipping
of the Canuckleheads. Tonight I expect the Hawks to follow that performance by dousing the
Flames in Calgary. The Hawks must continue to play disciplined hockey which they displayed
on Wednesday night and stay out of the sin bin. This could be a trap game for the Hawks who
must not have a let down after the big win in Couver. I expect Captain Marvel to have the boys
in the Indian Crest ready.
Expected Hawks Line-up
Odds and Ends
-The Hawks power play continues to improve moving from 30th in the league to 19th scoring pp goals in their last four games.
- The Mighty Blackhawks have outscored opponents 22-12 in the third period this year.
- The Flames have given the Hawks headaches at home. Last season the Flames outscored the Hawks 10-3 in beating the Hawks in their two games in Calgary.
Call it revenge, call it payback beyotch, I don't care, you pick. The Hawks were able to avenge their 6-2 loss to the Canucklheads ten days ago, as they came into Vancouver and beat the em last night 5-1. The Hawks played a very disciplined game, got timely scoring and strong goaltending to skate to victory over the Canucks in front of a stunned, towel waving, early leaving Rogers Center crowd. I never understood leaving a game early regardless of score, true Hockey fans stay until the end... regardless. This was not a perfect game by the Hawks as they played a bit chippy and sloppy in the beginning of the first and second periods but a "W" is a "W". Last night the power play scored two more goals and since Coach Q's changes, both units appear to be clicking. The Hawks have now scored power play goals in the last four games. Last night's victory was provided a great start to the Circus trip, let's keep it going boys by putting out the Flames Friday night!
Odds and Ends:
- Michael Frolik never returned after sliding awkwardly into the boards late in the third period.
- Remember when the power play sucked?
- As previously noted, Hawks placed winger Rostislav Olesz on waivers Wednesday freeing up approximately $3MM in cap space. Rumor has it that Ben Smith, who was among the last cuts of training camp, would be joining the Hawks.
Hello Blackhawks fans...
Tonight the Hawks officially kickoff the Circus trip and the Hawks hope to continue their recent success on the November trip, having gone 4-2-0 last season and 4-1-1 during the 2009-10 season. The boys in the Indian Crest kick off a six-game trip with revenge on their minds because the Canuckleheads manhandled the Hawks in their last meeting, scoring five power-play goals. Tonight, I expect a different storyline. The Hawks are improving but still have weaknesses primarily on the power play and the penalty kill. These two areas of the game must continue to improve. It is also important for the Hawks to score first (they are now 8-0-1 when scoring first) and silence the Schmuck fans. Lastly, look for the Hawks not to take the stupid, selfish penalties that they did in the first meeting between the two teams.
Keys to the game:
- The 25th ranked Hawks Penalty kill must shut down the Canucnkleheads 2nd ranked Power Play.
- The Bolland line matching up with the Sedins
- Crawford controlling the rebounds
Odds and Ends:
- Duncan Keith missed the first game against the Canucks two weeks ago because of injury, I expect him to bring some killer intensity to the game.
- Dave Bolland practiced yesterday and is expected back in the line up.
- Unlucky #7, Seabs, will not play due to a lower body injury.
- Canuckleheads starting goaltender, Baby Luongo is sidelined with an upper-body injury and will sit out tonight's game.
Expected Hawks Line-Up:
Hawks lets start his trip with a bang! GO HAWKS!!!
The Hawks placed Rostislav Olesz on waivers today. NHL teams have 24 hours to claim Olesz and if he isn't picked up by another team could be headed to Rockford of the AHL.
Olesz was aquired when the Hawks traded Campbell and his $7 million-plus salary per season to Florida. If Olesz heads to Rockford, the Hawks would still be on the hook for his salary of $3.4 million, but would gain $3,125,000 of cap room. This is important as I expect Bowman is looking for another D-Man to secure the blue line or another scorer (center) to help the power play.
With Olesz waived, I expect Brandon Saad to join the team and fill the 23rd roster spot.
While coaching one day, an 12 year old player skated up to me and said, "Hey Coach, what can I do to make it to the NHL"? I was taken back at first because I saw the seriousness in his eyes and he was very sincere with his questions. At first I gave the typical "hard work" line that we've heard so many times, but after giving the question more thought I would have liked to, and should have said more than just work hard.
So what does it take?
First off, the most important thing for a young player is to keep up their grades! School work should be a top priority. The dream of making it to the NHL are slim, but no child wants to hear that. Parents we have a responsibility to prepare them for "Plan B" if they don't wear an NHL sweater which means they need to have decent grades for other options to open up.
It takes more than just lacing up the skates every day and a work out regime to add muscle mass to increase your chances. There obviously needs to be some talent and a good understanding of the game, but what I really see making an average player into an effective player is heart and passion. Players who play with heart and a passion to be there always seem to win out with the coaches over a talented player who is lazy. It's like the old saying that we've seen hanging up in a locker room somewhere reminding us all the time to give it 100%: "Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn't work hard." Speaking of the coaches; listen to them!
Ok, so we know that you have to have some talent, heart, a brain, and a passion. What else is there?
To be honest, a little luck. There are eyes everywhere around the hockey rink. You never know who is watching you play and who that person is connected to. If you have "the right stuff" word will get out and you will be found. There are many places you can play to increase your visibility but if you are really that good, you will be found. I remember filling in for a coach who had been suspended and coached a game in Brick against some kid name James Van...something. When the puck hit his stick, it made a different sound. You could just tell that this kid was going to be found and he was. He didn't play AAA at 12 to be found. He was playing AA the time he was noticed (and probably was noticed a lot earlier than that). The point is, he wasn't traveling all over the country while his parents shelled out thousands of dollars to be recognized. He just played and someone heard about him.
So what would I say now to that players question? It would probably sound something like this:
"Johnny, if you want to play in the NHL then I support your dream 100%, but there is nothing I can say or do to help your chances. It's really up to you. I will guide you the best I can, but remember that this is just a game and your family and school should be the top priorities right now. Keep working hard in practice. When I ask you guys to skate to the blue line that means all the way to the blue line. Don't short yourself in any drill and always keep trying things that are outside your comfort zone. If you fall down, get right back up. If you lose the puck, go back and get it. At the end of the day, if you do everything in your power and do not make it to the NHL, just remember why you play this game to begin with. To have fun."
I guess I'll have something to tell the next person who asks me that question.
This year we've already seen major ups and downs in Philadelphia. The powerplay is either at peak performance or barely a powerplay at all, Hartnell is either on his feet or on his rear, and our 9 million dollar man Bryzgalov at times has looked stellar and at others looked lost. However the one thing that we continually repeat is the ol' "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" mistake.
The Flyers came out of the gates strong and jumped to a 4-1 start which for some reason signaled to Flyers brass the need to toy with the lineup and recall Brayden Schenn from Adirondack. Making his Flyers debut against Washington in an embarrassing 5-2 loss that saw him play 11 minutes and go -3.
Since then the Flyers have gone a pathetic 1-3 and have played very mediocre hockey. To be fair I do not blame Schenn's play for the poor results of the team but what I don't get was the reason for bringing him up in the first place. He was performing at a very high level in the AHL netting 4 goals and 4 assists in 4 games while the Flyers were having very little problems putting pucks in the net and winning games of their own. There seemed to me to be very little reason to make the move.
The move though was made and Schenn has played very subpar hockey. In 4 games played he is averaging 14:52 TOI and produced zero points and has a -5 rating. In the loss to Washington he was on ice for 3 of the 5 goals surrendered and during stretches you wondered if it was nerves or if the kid just isn't ready.
Schenn has talent, there is no doubting that but to me this is signs of a bigger problem in Philadelphia and that is mismanagement of young talent. The list goes on and on of players that have been called up too early or at the wrong time by the Flyers and have either disappeared from the game or gone on to bigger better things with other teams. Patrick Sharp and Justin Williams to name a few.
The problem with Schenn is that he was obviously started at the AHL level to circumvent a 1.4 million dollar roster bonus he was due if he was on the Flyers opening night roster. When it was announced he was sent down to work out an injury nobody questioned it but what it did was create a situation where everyone knew Schenn belonged in the NHL but was being put in the AHL for suspicious reasons. Fast forward to the Capitals game and now your dealing with a player who should have been here all along and inserting him into the lineup somewhere juggling things around to get him playing time and you end up with the results you've seen since.
A complete botch job by the Flyers management if you ask me.
(Repost - Cessna|10/27/2011|http://www.centericenews.com/_/articles/ahl/if-it-aint-broke-dont-fix-it-r71)
During it's inaugural season 1996, Major League Soccer's (MLS) average attendance was about 17,406 but dropped off between 1999-2002. This year marked an all-time average high of 17,870 surpassing the NHL and NBA bringing it to the 3rd most attended major league in the United States. MLS's average game attendance numbers still pale in comparison to the country's top two sports -- the National Football League (66,960) and Major League Baseball (30,352).
Observers of the the MLS attribute the growing interest in part to the construction of more fan-friendly soccer stadiums as well as the league's recognition of an established soccer culture in the Pacific Northwest. That region now has three MLS teams: the Seattle Sounders, Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps.
The atmosphere in the newly built soccer specific stadiums, which usually hold 18k-20k fans, helps the fans feel more connected to their team while the average ticket price remains around $25. On the contrary, ticket prices for NHL games only seem to be going up, pricing the die-hard fans right out of their seats. The current league wide average ticket prices to see a NHL game is approximately $48.50 before you factor in parking, food and drinks. That means for a family of four to attend a NHL game, they would need to shell out between $200-$250 for 3 hours of entertainment. That's about $100 more than the same family attending a MLS game.
Not helping the situation for the NHL is the "post-lockout" rules. The clutch and grab ways have since gone by leading to more speed in the game, but that also seemingly turned the NHL into a special teams contest due to the number of penalties called. It's safe to say that a free flowing NHL game is something to behold but when 5 on 5 play is hampered by power plays it changes the game. The lack of consistency in the penalty calls between games, even from one period to the next, frustrates even the casual fans. Add to that the southern expansion teams inability to even draw a half capacity crowd leading to inflated number of teams in the league thus causing the dilution of skill.
What's next for the MLS? It's eyes are locked on the MLB but that might take another decade. As for the NHL, the ability to regain it's ranking at #3 is squarely in it's hands. Realignment, rule changes, lower ticket prices and even league down-sizing should all be in play. As with most situations, time will tell.
“I am Rick Tocchet”
“Oh yeah, well I am Mike Richter! Try and score on me”
Those are the words of two small brothers in the 1980’s playing knee hockey in New Jersey suburbs. I often take a trip down memory lane to recall the greatest moments of my childhood and, more often than not, find that most of the really great memories revolve around hockey. From blocking off sewers so the ball would not get lost in the streets to bringing buckets of water outside in the winter to freeze the back patio just to pretend for a moment that I’m a Flyer. This so called “game” is much more than just something played. It’s something experienced, cherished, loved, and shared.
My first introduction to this sport came in September of 1984. I was a young child and recall my father asking my brother and me if one of us wanted to go to see a hockey game. At the age of 5, my options were playing Atari or go and do something I knew nothing about. Naturally, the kid in me wanted to play video games, but my father told me we would have a great time and dragged me with him. Boy was he right. That first game I went to was vs. the Islanders and we sat in the front row! My mouth was open the entire night in awe of the speed, size, and of course, the big hits right in front of me! I was in complete amazement and have been officially addicted to hockey since that night. My father loved to see me smile. He would continue taking me to more and more games over the next few years, and while I don’t recall specifics to any of the actual games (expect when he put me on his shoulders when Ron Hextall scored his first NHL goal) I remember the bonding experience. I remember taking bets how far we though the Ben Franklin Bridge was once it came into view. I remember laughing. I remember being happy.
A few years later in the fall of 1988, my father passed away suddenly and everything had felt like it came to a halt. I was old enough to understand what was happening and all those cherished moments we had together would now only exist in a memory. But that bond and energy we had from creating life long memories stemmed from a shared passion, Ice Hockey, and I was just getting started.
I was still Rick Tocchet, my brother was still Mike Richter, and the rivalry was still very much alive. We played travel hockey together and here is where my true love of the game really broke out of its shell. I didn’t play because I wanted to be an NHL star or because I wanted to win every single game. I played because I loved to. The locker room banter, my grandparents making every game, and the lifelong friendships I would develop as a result of being part of a team. These 18 guys were like family. It wasn’t just Rick Tocchet and Mike Richter anymore. We had Brian Leech, Bruce Driver, Mark Messier, Pavel Bure, and many more on our side and were willing to do whatever it took for their hockey family. It didn’t matter if we won or lost the game. All we cared about was going out there and playing the best we could and have fun.
After my playing days I did not want to hang up the skates so I did the next best thing I could think of. I went into coaching youth players. For over 10 years, and all different age groups/levels, my experiences and memories were being passed on. I was sharing a passion and joy with others who were once in my shoes. These players were here to create their own memories and I was lucky enough to be part of that. Now, the little boy who was once running his brother into a wall was seeing things come full circle….but I’m not there quite yet.
I was blessed earlier this year with the arrival of my twin boys. Now, everyone in the world knows how much I love hockey and have already prepared me for the possibility they may not play that sport. While it may break my heart, it honestly does not matter. The only things that matter to me are being there for every single moment of their youth, to help them have their own experiences. To help them find something they cherish, love, and want to share like my dad with me.
They don’t need to be Rick Tocchet….they can be whoever they want.
More and more I wonder if Sean Avery has some kind of magical power. The Rangers traded for him in February 2007, helping to put Avery on a more prominent stage than he had in LA as a King. Avery’s antics and agitating suddenly seemed more noteworthy.
Avery loved it in New York but couldn’t come to a contract agreement with the Rangers, so in the summer of 2008, Avery signed with the Dallas Stars. Avery had a four-year contract, but he wasn’t playing for the team he wanted to be.
In Dallas, he made his infamous “sloppy seconds” comment and the Stars decided to part ways with Avery, whatever it took, whether it meant stashing him in the AHL for the rest of his four years, or simply paying him not to play for Dallas.
But then, the Rangers decided they wanted Avery back and claimed him off of Dallas’ hands, with the Stars on the hook for half of Avery’s salary. Not only was Avery back in the NHL, he was back playing for the team he wanted to play for.
And then, just a few weeks ago, Avery was once again sent to the AHL, told that the Rangers had no place for him. Avery’s NHL career seemed over. Again. Why would the Rangers ever recall him? What would they need Avery for?
And yet, here we are. Avery is once again on his way back to the NHL. As a Ranger no less.
Coach John Tortorella says Avery is needed because fourth-liner Mike Rupp is injured. There’s no guarantee Avery will even crack the lineup. Except you know he will. Because Avery is some kind of wizard who is magically keeping himself in the NHL. How many other NHL vets manage to get recalled to their team by a coach that seems to pretty actively hate them?
Just like horror movies have taught us the importance of the double tap, Sean Avery’s career has taught us never to count him out. The man is a boomerang. Every time he’s tossed out of the NHL, he returns right back to where he was.
And when he’s done with the NHL (if that ever actually happens), my guess is Avery will coach at Hogwarts. Maybe he’ll show them the spell to screen a keeper. (11.02.2011 | Author: Steven Ovadia | puckupdate.com)
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