|January 12, 2013||Tweet|
|Written by Jeff Angus|
|Friday, 11 January 2013 19:07|
I take a look at four of the major questions out of the Eastern Conference, involving the Rangers, Hurricanes, Canadian teams, and more.
The Hurricanes were a decent team at times last year, but struggled to compete with the better teams in the NHL. So GM Jim Rutherford entered the offseason with a very aggressive mindset, and he emerged with a significantly upgraded roster. He first acquired Jordan Staal at the draft from Pittsburgh, after Staal turned down a 10 year $60 million deal from the Penguins. Carolina was the only team Staal was willing to be traded to, as he wanted to play with big brother Eric, and quickly reached a long-term agreement with the Hurricanes for 10 years and $50 million.
The Staal brothers are expected to center the top two lines in Carolina, but don’t be surprised to see them on the ice together from time to time (Eric can shift over to the left wing).
Here is an interesting look at Justin Schultz and the expectations for him as a rookie. Lots of stats and math for those who like that stuff.
The equation predicts that Schultz will score 33 points in the upcoming 48-game NHL season. Having a look at some of the other defencemen on this list, it makes you wonder if this class will be as strong as the one seen in the prior lockout above. There are likely defencemen who played in the AHL this year who will become stars that we have barely even heard of. I wonder who they are…
The Rangers are at least giving Nash-Richards-Gaborik a chance to find some chemistry together in practice. I doubt the three will mesh (all are puck carriers), but they are going to be out there on the PP together at the very least.
Nicklas Backstrom is reportedly feeling good after sustaining a neck injury at the end of December. It sounds like he will be ready to go for the start of the season (contrary to what was reported a few days ago).
Tomas Kaberle has lost some weight, according to this report here. He is a candidate to be bought out this summer if he doesn’t get his career back on track. Kaberle’s rapid decline after leaving Toronto can be attributed to a few things, and one of them is conditioning.
“I feel a lot better than last year,” said Kaberle, who was carrying a few extra pounds when he reported to the Carolina Hurricanes training camp before last season.
He’ll get a chance in Montreal to play – there are a lot of question marks on the Canadiens back end (Markov injuries, Subban contract, and unproven other defensemen).
Chicago may keep Kane at center, as they still don’t have a legitimate second line center (David Bolland could fill the role, but then a hole opens up on line three). Kane’s fantasy value is much higher on the wing, obviously.
His thoughts on the shortened season:
"To start, maybe it will be a little bit more wide open because guys aren't familiar with systems … have been away from the game for so long," Kane said. "As time goes on, it's definitely going to get very intense because of the short season and we pretty much start a playoff race right away."
Thornton is hopeful that the Sharks can excel in a shortened season.
“Hopefully it helps. We had some guys that were playing and some weren’t, so it’s a good mixture of guys, but until it’s played it’s so tough to say right now.”
“I think everybody knows how important it’s going to be getting off to a quick start. You definitely don’t want to lose three or four in a row or you’re behind the eight ball. It’s important to stay consistent, and get off to a quick start.”
San Jose has a decent team, but they lack depth at forward, and I am not sold on Antti Niemi (yes, I know he has a Cup ring, but he isn’t a goalie that can carry a team anywhere). I really like the mix the Sharks have on the back end, though.
Burns and Boyle are both dynamic offensive defensemen. Vlasic is a stalwart in his own zone. Brad Stuart can play at both ends of the ice. Douglas Murray is physically imposing and great on the PK. And Justin Braun and Jason Demers are great depth defensemen.
Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell has stopped skating after experiencing some knee pain. Does this open the door for Thomas Hickey to start the season in LA? Mitchell’s injury isn’t believed to be serious.
Passes are defined as those which result in shots on goal and can determine which players are most adept at setting up shots in a way that's independent of shooting percentages. Unfortunately, this statistic is available only as an estimate based on the player's assists and the average shooting percentage of his linemates.
I am intrigued by a metric that measures passes – I am not sure of the value it may hold, but it is interesting nonetheless. DobberHockey friend Rob Vollman has put some work in with regards to it – you can read more about that here.
Dallas needs to get Jamie Benn signed, pronto. His value to the team cannot be overstated, and he/his agent know that.
Benn was on a point-per-game pace before the All-Star Break, but he finished the season with only 21 points in the final 28 games. He was asked to do a lot for a team desperate to make the postseason, and the Stars simply did not have the depth to remain in the Western Conference playoff mix, fading fast in the final weeks.
Here are five teams that may benefit from the lockout (I wrote this a few months ago, but now we find out how accurate my predictions were).
Zack Kassian may start the season on a line with the Sedins in Vancouver, as the Canucks want to try Burrows out on the second line (perhaps at center, in Kesler’s absence). I wrote a lengthy profile of Kassian last summer, and it sheds some light into where I see his offensive production going in the near future.
“I played there a couple games last year when Jags was hurt,” Voracek said. “A couple games. I think we worked pretty well. It’s going to be very exciting. G, everybody knows what kind of player he is. The last few years he’s shown it. I’m going to be very excited about it.’’
“He’s like a spineless jellyfish, like a slinky,” Laich said. “You can’t hit him. You go to hit him and he just wiggles through you. I don’t know how he does it.”
Interesting choice of words there, Mr. Laich.
Brendan Gallagher is ready for a promotion to the big club (Montreal, in his case). Is he ready? I think so. Gallagher is a very smart and very gritty undersized winger – he plays a lot like Canadiens captain Brian Gionta.
On the pro adjustments:
“I expected it to be tougher than junior, playing against men,” he explains. “The first couple of games maybe felt a little different but after that I felt normal and I could play my game and do things I’ve always been able to do.”
Columbus prospect Ryan Murray is out for sixth months after undergoing shoulder surgery recently.
Another day and more media scrutiny for Evander Kane in Winnipeg. He is far from blameless with some of his off-ice antics in recent years, but the media there seems intent on running him out of town. And that isn’t good news at all for the Jets.
From the Winnipeg Sun:
Where’s Evander? It’s a question on the tip of a few tongues around Winnipeg this week. All but four members of the Jets have returned to Winnipeg to skate informally with their teammates, but Evander Kane isn’t one of them.
Considering he’s only a three-hour flight away in Vancouver, some are wondering why he still wasn’t on the ice in Winnipeg on Thursday, although it’s believed he will be there on Friday. Captain Andrew Ladd used Twitter earlier this week to poke some fun at his teammate, asking where he was.
|Last Updated on Saturday, 12 January 2013 13:04|