From Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun
The NHL season is almost complete. For some it has been a long and painful one, while for others it’s been a coming out party. What better way to summarize it than with some classic tunes that we all grew up listening to:
You Can’t Always Get What You Want – The Rolling Stones
Like the Stones, the Ducks top players, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, are getting up there. Led by an old-school coach, their time may be running out of being a threat in the West, but they are still battling. They came close last season, but were ousted in the playoffs by the Preds. This may be the last go around for the Getzlaf-Perry led group.
Land of Confusion – Genesis
A year ago, the Coyotes were seemingly on the right track with some top young players in their system, like Anthony Duclair and Max Domi, and with the NHL’s version of Moneyball at GM, in John Chayka. This season they are battling for last overall with the Canucks and Sabres, Duclair is no longer on the team, and Domi appears to be on his way out.
Back in Black – AC/DC
With some strong play by both their veterans and young players, the Bruins are back at being one of the top teams in the East, as they have been one of the hottest teams in the second half of the season. With the acquisition of Rick Nash and solid goaltending by both Tukka Rask and Anton Khudobin, the Bruins could be a dangerous team come playoff time.
Shout – Tears For Fears
The Sabres cleaned house last season, hiring Jason Botterill and Phil Housley as GM and Head Coach, but things have gone from bad to worse this season. Their star Jack Eichel was hurt early in the year and they never recovered from that. The icing on the cake was when they practically gave away impending UFA Evander Kane at the trade deadline.
Moneytalks – AC/DC
Another classic tune by AC/DC. However, the Flames fans know all too well what the song title means with their year-long arena debate. Threats by their owner and the always quotable Brian Burke have seemingly fallen on deaf ears. Throw in a little (pardon the pun) quick fly-in by Commissioner Gary Bettman and the threat of possible relocation, it makes for a real fun atmosphere in Cow Town.
Winds of Change – The Scorpions
Peter Karamnos finally found a taker for the Hurricanes, when he sold majority control of the team to Tom Dundon. Dundon has since ‘moved’ his GM Ron Francis to another position in the organization. With the team likely to miss the playoffs, coach Bill Peters might be next to go.
You Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone) – Cinderalla
One of the best Hair Bands of the 80’s! The Blackhawks have been used to winning, having not missed the playoffs since the 2007/08 season and winning a remarkable three Stanley Cups. As they say, all good thing must come to an end and it has thanks to cap problems catching up to them and a key injury to their star goalie, Corey Crawford.
Return of the Mack – Mark Morrison
It’s not really a return, but more like a coming out party for Nathan MacKinnon, but it was the best I could as the song title fits. MacKinnon is playing out of his mind, which could land the Avs and playoff spot and Nathan with the Hart Trophy. GM Joe Sakic also deserves a lot of credit for the Matt Duchene haul earlier in the season, which jump started the team.
Bang Your Head – Quiet Riot
Is it just me, or every time I watch a John Tortorella postgame press conference he is either complaining about his team’s effort or badgering a reporter for asking a ‘stupid’ question. The Blue Jackets are well off last season’s win total of 108 points, as they battle for a wild card spot in the East. If they don’t make it in, the Fonz just may finally lose his cool.
Back in the Saddle Again – Aerosmith
The Stars were a disappointment last year, finishing under .500 and out of a playoff spot. In the offseason they added Ken Hitchcock and also traded for and signed arguably the top two players available on the market, in Ben Bishop and Alexander Radulov. The moves have paid off, as the Stars are back in contention in the very competitive Central division.
Gin and Juice – Snoop Dogg
For an organization that is not used to losing, Detroit fans have had to endure some lean years, recently which may have caused some to hit the hard stuff. They have not been able to replace Pavel Datsyuk and Niklas Lidstrom. GM Ken Holland is in the last year of his contract, and it might finally be time for the $1 Man, Kris Draper, to take over the reins.
Don’t Stop Believin – Journey
And what a ‘Journey’ it’s been for Oilers’ fans. Including this year, it will be one playoff appearance in the last twelve seasons. How many number one picks and coaches can this team go through before they can finally meet expectations? It may have finally dawned on GM Peter Chiarelli that they could really use a Taylor Hall, and not Milan Lucic. They may also want to consider making this tune their new goal song.
Round and Round – Ratt
After their ‘Analytics’ experiment fell through, the Panthers brought back Dale Tallon as their GM, and wouldn’t you know it, they are now back in the playoff hunt. Led by Aleksander Barkov, Vincent Trochek, Jonathan Huberdeau and a healthy Aaron Ekblad, they could be a dangerous team in the playoffs.
Crime of the Century – Supertramp
How does an expansion team end up with 45+ wins in their first season? The answer is $500 million and some head scratching expansion draft deals (Columbus, Florida, Minnesota). You have to also give credit to Head Coach Gerard Gallant (thanks to Florida again) for doing a marvelous job of getting the most out of the other team’s castoffs. It will be interesting to see what they can do in the playoffs.
Don’t You Forget About Me – Simple Minds
All it took was a coaching change and the Kings are back in business. They were also a big player at the trade deadline after acquiring Dion Phaneuf and speedy forward Tobias Rieder, for the final playoff push. I wouldn’t want to face this team in the first round.
Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd
Is it me or have the Wild been spinning their wheels since signing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to big money contracts? They have some solid seasons, but they have not been able to get past the second round of the playoffs. And then there was the Hanzal trade last season. Chuck Fletcher’s time as GM should really be coming to an end.
What Have I Done to Deserve This – Pet Shop Boys
With the way things have been going this year in Montreal, it’s seems as if their struggles have gone on longer than a season. However, they did win their division last season with 103 points. Lack of depth down the middle, average goaltending by Carey Price, and some head scratching trades will do that to you. The good news is Geoff Molson has all the confidence in the world that Marc Bergevin will turn things around. John Tavares could really help.
Even Flow – Pearl Jam
Ever since their long playoff run last season, the Predators have been on a roll. GM David Poile continues to roll too, with the amazing trades he continues to make which improves this already dangerous team. They are pretty much a lock to finish first place in the Central. We’ll see what they can do for an encore in the postseason.
Runnin’ With the Devil – Van Halen
What other way can you explain how Ray Shero managed to steal Taylor Hall from Chiarelli and the Oilers. Add to the team’s impressive performance this season and we’re convinced that Shero made a deal with the Devil. He’s made some shrewd trades (Marcus Johansson, Sami Vatanen) and signings (Will Butcher, Brian Boyle) too.
New York Minute – The Eagles
‘Everything can change in a New York Minute, ooooo ooo.’ Classic tune that rings so true for the Rangers season. While in the middle of a playoff push, the organization decided to go into sell-mode. GM Jeff Gorton got a nice haul of players and draft picks and the team has played better as of late. He has also freed up some cap space, so the offseason could be interesting (John Tavares).
Separate Ways (Worlds Apart) – Journey
‘Sleepless nights, losing ground, I’m reaching for you, you, you’ is the recent voicemail message that GM Garth Snow left for their soon-to-be impending UFA and superstar, John Tavares. Throughout the season, no story has been more prominent than this one. Will he or won’t he? Only JT knows at this point and with another season out of the playoffs, it might be one that leaves Islanders fans in even more despair. On the brightside, at least they will still have Andrew Ladd.
What’s Going On? – Marvin Gaye
Great question! After being taken to the cleaners by Joe Sakic and David Poile in the Matt Duchene-Kyle Turris trade, GM Pierre Doiron may not have an answer for that. Thus far, Duchene has not been the answer for the Sens but the trade did help the Avs turn their season around and solidify the Preds lineup. Add to that the Erik Karlsson situation and things just keeps getting better in the nation’s capital. Only thing shorter than the fan’s patience will be the lineup to renew season tickets.
Won’t Get Fooled Again – The Who
Will the real Philadelphia Flyers please stand up? So far this season, this team has gone on a 10-game losing streak, followed that up with a 6, 4, and another 4 game winning streak, only to lose 4 in-a-row, then proceed to win 10 out their next 11, and most recently dropping 8 out of their last nine games. What a rollercoaster! If they end up making the playoffs they’ll either make it all the way to the conference final or they’ll be out in 4 straight.
Take On Me – Aha
The two-time defending Stanley Cup champions started slow, but they have picked thing up in the second half of the season. The only question mark going into the playoffs is the health of goalie Matt Murray, who has battled some injuries this season. Who will get in their way of a three-peat?
Got Me Under Pressure – ZZ Top
I’ll be the first to admit, this has less to do with the title song and more to do with the similarities of the groups look compared to Brent Burns and Joe Thornton. The Sharks aren’t really under pressure. They are flying under the radar with some solid play from their young players. Plus they pretty much got Evander Kane for free, and they could be the surprise team in the West during the playoffs.
Fade to Black – Metallica
On December 17/17 the Blues were tied for 1st place in the Central. Since then they have gone 15-15-3, which has dropped them to 6th in the division and out of a wildcard spot. One of the reasons has been shaky goaltending by Jake Allen, who sports a .907 save percentage. The shocking trade of Paul Stastny to the Jets didn’t help things either.
Smooth Operator – Sade
Stevie Y is slowly turning into David Poile-East of the NHL. How does he manage to continue making these great deals under a tight cap? The Lightning have also had a very strong season, led by Nikita Kucherov and strong goaltending by their new number one netminder, Andrei Vasilevskiy. A solid bet to unseat the Pens and make it to the Finals.
Born in the USA – The Boss
The ending of the Maple Leafs’ 50+ year Stanley Cup drought seemingly falls on the shoulders of a player who was born south of the border. And don’t we know it! The rest of Canada is force fed a daily dose of ‘What is Auston Matthews doing on his off day?’ Only thing worse is that it’s Mike Babcock delivering the updates. I can’t wait for the coverage during playoffs (insert sarcasm). Matthews has been injured a couple of times this season, so he has needed to enter the protective ‘bubble’ to heal up. On a side note, goalie Freddie Andersen has been their team MVP.
Hold On – Triumph
This title song mirrors what the Canucks have been doing with the Sedin twins. While they have some impressive young players on their roster and in their system, like Calder Trophy candidate Brock Boeser, they have been unable or unwilling to move on from Henrik and Daniel, who are in the last year of their contracts. It might have been a good move to trade them at the deadline, to continue with their rebuilding, but the Sedins may have not been interested. As much as they have given to the franchise, it would be a mistake not to move on from them next season.
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For – U2
Alex Ovechkin recently scored his 600th career goal. Very impressive. I’m pretty sure he would trade that in for a Stanley Cup. The good news for the Caps is the Pens have played a lot of hockey over the last two seasons, and they could be ripe for the picking. The bad news is they still don’t have a playoff built team. Maybe I’m wrong, but if it’s not this year the team may want to move in another direction. I’m really surprised that they gave GM Brian MacLellan an extension, with the way he has managed their cap and roster.
Break on Through – The Doors
It’s been a seemingly long wait for Jets fans but they have finally been able to enjoy the fruits of GM Kevin Cheveldayoff’s labor. Take your pick. Connor Hellebuyck, Patrik Laine, Mark Scheifele, Josh Morrissey, or Kyle Connor. They are indeed the envy of the league. Now it’s time to find out if this recent success can translate during the playoffs.
Have the Winnipeg Jets built a Stanley Cup Championship roster? This is the Stanley Cup question? How can you tell? We thought we would have fun with this. Let’s start by looking at what we and most people believe is a Jets franchise modelled after the Chicago Blackhawks! We thought the best way to do this is go back to when the current Hawks won their first Stanley Cup in 2010 and see how the roster player by player compares to this years Jets roster.
In a previous post we wrote about how the building of this current Jets team compared to the Blackhawks build over that 10-12 year span that had them raise Lord Stanley’s cup in 2010. We concluded a year ago that the building of the Hawk Stanley Cup championship years were eerie similar to what the Winnipeg Jets 2.0 were trying to achieve.
What we did for this exercise is analyze by age, regular season point totals and of course by the unpopular “eye test”. Row by row we placed the current Jets comparable to the comparable Blackhawk playoff roster player of 2010. We also included their point totals, position and age.
Our conclusion? We believe this current Jets roster holds up well against that team. Centre ice, forward depth, defence and goaltending in our opinion is an overall win or at the very minimum very close. The toughest player match in our opinion was Patrick Kane. We placed Patrik Laine for star power in this spot but could easily have placed Blake Wheeler there but thought we would match this category by age rather than points and playmaking ability. We placed Wheeler across from Marion Hossa as they were at similar points in their careers. Of course there are many intangibles that are hard to measure (coaching, will to win and environment) but nonetheless, here is our stab at it. Keep in mind that we are measuring points at the Jets 62 game mark of the current season and does not contemplate injuries or games played. Take a look and let us know what you think? Comments always welcome! Click the link below.
It’s finally that time of year for the Winnipeg Jets franchise? Yes, we can finally talk about what the Jets will need to push this team closer to Lord Stanley’s cup! Assuming of course there is no monumental collapse. Did I just say that? We offer our help to GM Kevin Cheveldayoff to achieve the ultimate goal…
Let’s start off by saying that in order to win in the playoffs, among other intangibles we believe you need two major things . Goaltending and center ice play. Let’s assume we have the goaltending part (we hope). Center ice play in the playoffs is crucial for match ups and overall depth!
Let us proudly say we have been on the Winnipeg Jets need a center thing since early December (See our twitter account @spinohockey or @frankzappia1). Seems pretty straight forward to us that an “impact center” is exactly what they need. Why you ask? First off, if coaching staff refuse to play Mark Scheifele with Patrik Laine, they will need to go out and grab a center who can consistently feed him the puck. Think about it? Leaf nation is getting on Mike Babcock for not playing Austin Matthews on the power play enough. Jet fans need to get on management and coaching staff to find a center to play with possibly the leagues most dangerous scorer. You may ask why? Laine has 20 goals (tied for 10th in the league). Looking at the numbers closer he has 11 on the power play (good for second in the league) but has only 9 at even strength? That doesn’t even register in the top 30 even strength snipers in the league. Please don’t take this as we are not Bryan Little fans or we think that Laine is not playing well enough. He is only 19 and is still learning NHL life. On the contrary we believe Bryan Little can be one of the best defensive/two way center’s in the league. Can you imagine him as your third line center going into the playoffs? Did I mention he can also pay wing? Remember in training camp a couple of years ago when PoMo tried to move him there permanently? It is interesting to note that Little had his most productive goal scoring year (31) playing right wing back in the Thrasher days. Nonetheless this is just another option.
Of course there is always the talk of keeping captain Blake Wheeler at center. If they can’t secure a Tier 1 centre (see below), we believe this will be the next best option. If it comes to this, this will mean that the opposing team will need to face either Wheeler or Scheifele at center ice for at least 40ish minutes a game in the playoffs. Sprinkle in Little, Lowry and Hendricks (who can also be moved to wing if you need him in the line up), the Jets would look extremely tough to beat especially if PoMo doubles up his centers on a need to basis in the playoffs. Ex: Playing Wheeler at center and having Little or Lowry on the wing for important face offs. Wheeler’s size alone becomes a very tough thing to contend with in the middle.
The Wheeler option at center will require the Jets to add another Right Winger and maybe another depth forward. Remember playoff time, rosters expand and room is made for depth. This will give PoMo many options including the chance to place Laine (a right winger) on his off wing (left wing) with Scheifele and Wheeler if he chooses to keep 55 and 26 together. On a similar note, Washington does this to much success with Alex Ovechkin. Enough said.
Depending on what type of tolerance level GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has, here is what we think are possible good targets for GM Chevy, prior to the NHL February 26th, 2018 trade deadline. Keep in mind we assume that current possible playoff teams fall out of the playoff race or feel that they will need to make a move based on their standing at the time (points, injuries etc.).
Centers (Tier 1):
Compensation: Most likely a roster player, a first round pick, a second pick and a prospect:
Derek Brassard, OTTA, UFA, 2019-2020 – This one makes a lot of sense. Ottawa is out of it. He has playoff experience. Seems to show up when you need him to. Very good playoff numbers for the Rangers in 2014-2015 (19-9-7-16).
Eric Staal, MIN, UFA 2019-2020 – Would be tough to trade with Wild but if Minnesota can fall out of contention this would be a huge addition to the Jets. Should have signed, this Thunder Bay product when he was a UFA in 2016. He is prototypically the player the Jets want to add. A big center that can play anywhere in your line up including all special teams and top 6. A proven winner with a 3.5 million salary cap hit and a Stanley Cup under his belt.
Joe Thornton, SJ, UFA 2018-2019 – gives you a big center that has been to the final recently and can feed Patrik Laine. “He will never come here?” For 20-30 games anyone will come to Winnipeg especially if it means playing with Laine and getting another chance to win. He had 21 points in 24 games in the Shark’s 2015-2016 run to the Stanley Cup. The Sharks would clearly need to be out of the playoff picture for this to have any chance to occur which is not likely.
Brandon Sutter, VAN, UFA 2021-2022 – Long contract at a reasonable cap hit of is $4,250,000. He like Joe Thornton because of his no move would have to agree to get traded. This would be like having another Adam Lowry except with experience. Never hurts to have a Sutter on your team come playoff time.
Centers (Tier 2):
Compensation: A pick or 2 and/or a prospect:
Brad Richardson, PHO, UFA 2018-2019 – Gritty and tough to play against. Would be useful in the playoffs.
Colin Wilson, COL, UFA 2019-2020 – Doesn’t seem to fit with the Avalanche quite right. From Winnipeg and has playoff experience.
Tomas Plekanec, MTL, UFA 2018-2019 – Has playoff experience, good in the face off circle & can kill penalties
David Desharnais, NYR, UFA 2018-2019 – though small he does create and has playoff experience. Could be a depth center in case of injury
Interesting Center Ice Mentions: Artem Anisimov, CHI, Nick Bjugstad FLA, Adam Henrique ANA, Henrik Sedin VAN, Valterri Filppula PHA, Jori Lehtera, PHA, Cody Eakin LV, Henrik Zetterberg DET, Ryan Nugent Hopkins EDM
Wingers and Depth Players:
Teuvo Teravainen, CAR, RFA 2019-2020 – Chevy has wanted him in the past and back to his Chicago roots this Finnish 23 years old would be welcomed by fellow country man Laine and Armia. This would cost the Jets quite a bit for the Hurricanes to consider trading him.
JT Miller, NYR, RFA, 2018-2019 – Solid, hits, can play center and is good in the face off circle. Not sure the Rangers want to move him but Jets interest has been rumoured in the past. He reminds me of a mature Andrew Copp.
Andrew Shaw, MTL, UFA 2022-2023 – Playoff guy just too long of a contract. Knows how to win. This one might be a tough contract to swallow unless Montreal takes some of the salary back. Plays on the edge. This is the type of center/winger that is needed come playoffs.
David Perron, LV, UFA 2018-2019 – Can play top 9 and has real good hands. This would help the Blake Wheeler move to center if that’s what the Jets intend on doing.
Justin Williams, CAR, UFA 2019-2020 – Doubt he will leave the Hurricanes. Never hurts to have someone that has won before and come up with the odd clutch goal even at the age of 36. Right handed shot.
Patrick Sharp, CHI, UFA 2018-2019 – Not having a great season but has won before and has a ton of playoff experience. Another depth forward with a right handed shot.
Interesting Depth Forward Mentions: Radim Vrbata FLA, Blake Comeau COL, Mark Letestu EDM, Lance Bouma CHI, Jamie McGinn FLA, Dale Weise PHA
We believe that the Winnipeg Jets are currently in a window, most likely the beginning of their window to bring the Stanley Cup to the Peg. Exciting times especially if they make the right deal that happens to push this team over the top. Good luck Chevy and at the very minimum it’s feels great to talk about the possibilities at this time of year…
Check out this story and more at
Comments are welcome
Who is on the hot seat you ask? Here in Winnipeg there has been quite a bit of talk about whether Paul Maurice should still be the head coach of the Winnipeg Jets, even after he received an extension before the season began. His job appears to be safe, for now, but there are other coaches and GMs around the NHL who might find themselves out of a job sooner than later. Here are some candidates:
Marc Bergevin – GM Montreal Canadiens
Ever since the PK Subban trade, things seem to have quickly gone downhill for Marc Bergevin and the Les Habitants. The debate is still on whether they are better off with Shea Weber on their team instead of PK. One thing’s for sure, Weber’s contract term is scary for a player that may soon be on the downside of his career. At 32, including this season, the Habs are on the hook for nine more seasons at a cap hit of over $7.8 million
Since that trade, Bergevin has failed to address the team’s number need, which is at centre. He may have had an opportunity to do so at the end of last season for a playoff run, by acquiring Matt Duchene from the Avalanche, but he insisted that he would not part with his top prospect on defence, Michael Sergachev. He said the same thing about Subban. The Habs then proceeded to make an early playoff exit, by losing to the New York Rangers. In the offseason, he changed his mind, and traded Sergachev to the Tampa Bay Lighting for Jonathan Drouin. While Drouin is considered one of the brightest young forwards in the game, the trade did not address the teams need up the middle.
Along with trading his biggest blue chip prospect, Bergevin allowed their most tenured defenceman, Andrei Markov, to sign in the KHL after not being able to come to terms on a contract. To fill the void, he then turned around and signed Mark Streit, who they have since waived and bought out. They also lost Alexei Emelin during the expansion draft, and prior to that he also traded Nathan Belieau to the Sabres for a 3rd round pick. In just one offseason, Bergevin somehow found a way to dismantle one of the team’s biggest strengths.
Not surprisingly, the Habs are off to their worst start in over 75 years. While owner Geoff Molson says he does not want to make any drastic changes during the season, he may need to before Bergevin claims that he will never trade Carey Price.
Jim Benning – GM Vancouver Canucks
It seems like forever since the Canucks were one game away from winning the Stanley Cup. Since then there has been a slow decline, with the team missing the playoffs three out of the four last seasons.
The Jim Benning era hasn’t been much different than the Mike Gillis era. They have traded away their veteran players, but have failed to replace them with young prospects through their system. The only player that has really panned out for them is 2014 draft pick Bo Horvat. Since then Benning has swung and missed at drafting players like Jake Virtanen, when they could have landed either Nikolai Ehlers or William Nylander. While 2016 draft pick Olli Juolevi has not played an NHL game yet, they may have been better off taking a player like Matthew Tkachuk.
Benning has also made some poor free agent signings. The most recent being signing Loui Eriksson to a 6-year, $36 million contract. The hope was that he would play with and revitalize the Sedin twins. He has been a bust thus far and is out for over a month with an injury. The other question that keeps coming up is what should with the Sedins. However, it appears that they will play out their contracts which expire at the end of this season.
The Canucks have also been unlucky in the Draft Lottery in recent years. Maybe this is the season they finally win it and land the Swedish phenom Rasmus Dahlin, and have the baton passed to him by the Sedins. That might be the only way Benning keeps his job.
Alain Vigneault – Head Coach New York Rangers
There’s an old adage that says coaches are hired to be fired. In the past four seasons, Alain Vigneault has led the New York Rangers to three 45+ wins seasons and one 50+ win season. So who would fire a coach with a record like that? In the past two seasons, the Rangers have had early playoff exits after reaching the Stanley Cup and Conference Finals before that. Add to that they have had a slow start to the season, and rumors have started that his message to the players is getting old and that he may have lost the room
In the offseason, the Rangers signed long-time head coach Lindy Ruff as an assistant coach, which immediately raised questions about Vigneault’s job security. They also have another assistant in Scott Arniel, who is patiently waiting another chance to be a head coach in the NHL.
If their struggles continue, Vigneault might be the first coach fired this season. However, with his track record he won’t be unemployed for long. Teams that may have been considering coaching changes, may jump at the opportunity to bring him in as their new head coach. Possibly even a second stint at coaching in Winnipeg (or Montreal).
Brian MacLellan/Barry Trotz – GM & Head Coach Washington Capitals
The Washington Capitals may have already won a Stanley Cup if it weren’t for Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and the Pittsburgh Penguins. Despite winning the President’s Trophy in the past two seasons, the Capitals have been unable to make it past the 2nd round. Both times they lost to the Pens.
Like his predecessor Bruce Boudreau, Barry Trotz has been able to compile great regular season records. However, despite being heavily favored to go all the way, he has not even been able to lead the Caps to a long playoff run. This was also the case when he coached the Nashville Predators.
Meanwhile, GM Brian MacLellan made some head scratching moves by signing TJ Oshie to an 8-year, $46 million contract, and even more surprising, Evgeny Kuznetsov to an 8-year, $62.4 million. In order to stay cap compliant, he pretty much gave away forward Marcus Johannson to the New Jersey Devils for two draft picks. Johansson was their third leading scorer last season. The combination the Caps not meeting expectations and MacLellan struggling to properly manage the cap and roster is a bad combination.
After losing some key players, it’s not likely they will win the President’s Trophy again, but the team still believes they have what it takes to win it all. Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals have started the season very strong, but it really doesn’t matter how well they play in the regular season. This team will only be measured as to how far they can go in the playoffs. If they falter, it might be time for the organization to go in another direction, from top to bottom.
Joel Quenneville – Head Coach Chicago Blackhawks
There’s an old adage that says coaches…okay never mind! Joel Quenneville has been head coach of the Blackhawks since Barack Obama was first voted President of the United States. Throughout his tenure the Blackhawks have won 3 Stanley Cups, 1 President Trophy, and have not won less than 44 games in a season (with the exception of the lockout in 2013-14). Over the past decade, this is an organization that has gotten used to winning.
While they have kept up their winning ways, ever since signing Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to identical 8-year $84 million contracts, every offseason since GM Stan Bowman is tasked with trading experienced players in order to fit under the cap. Each season, it seems more and more of the roster is made up of inexperienced rookies, but Quenneville has found a way to keep his team near the top of the league. In the past two seasons while still having solid regular season records, the team have made two early playoff exits. It is not something they are used to. This past season, not only did they lose in the first round but they went out in four straight after only scoring three goals.
Immediately after their shocking exit, began about what changes the team would have to make to right the ship. Would Bowman do the unthinkable and fire Quenneville? He did not go that far, but he did the next closest thing by firing Coach Q’s longtime assistant coach, Mike Kitchen. This would ignite rumors that there was a rift between Quenneville and upper management, regarding player and coaching personnel. These rumors were fueled even more on draft day, after Bowman traded Niklas Hjalmarsson to the Arizona Coyotes and then trading former Calder Trophy winner Artemi Panarin to the Columbus Blue Jackets in a deal for former Blackhawk Brendon Saad. Quenneville apparently immediately left the team meeting at the hotel, after hearing the news.
While the Blackhawks are off to a nice start this season, the situation between their head coach and management can change quickly with a long losing streak or another early playoff exit. If they do let him go, he will definitely not be out of work for long.
Chuck Fletcher – GM Minnesota Wild
The Minnesota Wild might be considered the Washington Capitals-West. Having made the playoffs the past five seasons and some strong regular seasons, the Wild have yet to make it to the Conference Finals.
Chuck Fletcher has been the Wild GM since 2009. While he has done well drafting and built a very competitive team, he has also made some bad moves and free agent signings, which have not worked out. One of his biggest trades was in 2011, when he traded a young Brent Burns and a 2nd pick to the San Jose Sharks for Devin Setoguchi, Charlie Coyle, and a 1st round pick. Burns has since been one of the top defencemen in the NHL.
The other big move he made was in 2013, when he signed UFA Ryan Suter and Zach Parise to identical 13-year $98 million contracts. The expectation was that, with Suter and Parise, the Wild would instantly become Stanley Cup contenders. Four years later they have had four early playoff exits. Add to that the fact that Parise has been battling a back injury for the past few seasons, which now requires and has sidelined him for about 2-3 months. While Suter has been a stalwart on defence for the Wild, the length of both of their contracts will be a problem for the team for years to come.
Fletcher also made some puzzling trades in the offseason. With the team having the most to lose in the expansion draft because of their depth on defence, he traded forward Erik Haula, and their 1st round pick Alex Tuch to the Vegas Golden Knights. This was so they could end up keeping defencemen Matt Dumba, Marco Scandella, and forward Eric Staal. However, shortly after, Fletcher traded Scandella and forward Jason Pominville to the Buffalo Sabres for forwards Marcus Foligno and Tyler Ennis. His moves during the last trade deadline, like acquiring Martin Hanzal for draft picks, also did not work out for the team.
There were rumblings that Fletcher was close to being fired in the offseason. It appears that his tenure as GM of the Wild could soon be over.
It’s been awhile but we are back!
Welcome to Spinorama Hockey’s annual NHL predictions for the 2017-2018 season. We see some really incredible first round playoff match ups with some cool historic relevance that include Winnipeg vs Edmonton, Dallas vs Chicago and Montreal vs Toronto! We also see some breakthrough playoff seasons from Carolina and Winnipeg plus some better than expected seasons from Buffalo and Colorado. But let’s start with our Division and Selected Team Watch Segments!
All 3 of these guys playoff bound?
Division Watch: The most complicated division. Chicago, Minnesota, Nashville, St Louis and Winnipeg can all challenge for the Cup or not make the playoffs. St Louis has some injury problems but still pretty deep. Dallas seems to be everyone’s favourite to win the division and how can they not be. It’s all up to you Ben Bishop.
Team Watch: The Winnipeg Jets seems to be “the pick” to rise out of the ashes with all the offence and young talent on the roster. Coach Maurice under any other organization would have about 25-30 games for him to prove he can take this team to the next level. Unfair you say but the truth of being a National Hockey League coach especially in the hotbed of hockey known as Winnipeg. Yes Jets fans, players will want to play and stay here. Win some games and see what happens. Ask the Green Bay Packers. PoMo needs to choose his roster wisely and light a fire under the team’s leadership and host of young players. Don’t think if the Jets make the playoffs that they can’t go all the way. Look at the conference, Chicago and Anaheim are not what they once were (suffering either by Cap or Age). A few key losses for the Sharks and by my count the biggest problems for the Jets are shockingly the Canadian teams of Edmonton and Calgary. Get this team in the playoffs, win around and I will be the first to sculpt the PoMo statue on Portage Avenue.
Team Watch 2: The Avalanche won’t make the playoffs but will be better than expected. Expect a big year from Nate McKinnon. Varlamov & Bernier could be an underrated tandem and expect JT Compher, Miko Rantanen & rookie Tyson Jost to make their marks. I know everyone who reads this will think we are off our rocker.
Division Watch: Who doesn’t love the Pacific division? The rivalry’s of Oilers-Flames and the California trio of the Kings, Sharks and Ducks. Don’t forget the new rivalry of Vegas & the Coyotes soon to be dubbed the Battle of the desert. This will change quickly to the battle of the deserted (in the stands of course) if winning doesn’t become a thing. The Ducks and Oilers are certain to be the class of this division. I have a feeling the Flames will disappoint. Not sure Mike Smith is the answer either for them.
Team Watch: The Jagr signing caught me by surprise but I believe makes Calgary better. You hear of the young guys have to learn from the veterans on how to be a pro. How about learning what it takes to win. Who better than 68? Showing young players how to win and what it takes for me is what many of the young teams are missing (a.k.a Winnipeg Jets). Talk about taking pressure off your young guys having big 68 around.
Team Watch 2: Anaheim will just not go away but the Oilers are determined to be the team to beat not only in the division but in the conference. Say what you want but Chiarelli seems to know how to put his team in a position to succeed. No one builds a team to win the cup by luck. Cam Talbot and that crop of veteran and highly skilled young forwards is a recipe for success. McDavid who has already come into his own should tear up the league. Defence looks calm and steady and that’s all they require. Take note that we picked them to go to the final last year.
Division watch: Pittsburgh is the favourite and Washington needs to win this year. Teams on the downside for me include the Caps, Rangers and the Islanders. Columbus should challenge for the division, the Devils have made some improvements and Philly is going young. Should be interesting in the leagues toughest division (yes ahead of the Central).
Team Watch: Is it just me or does every year someone say this is the year that Washington needs to win the Cup. This is it again. Maybe try having a mediocre season and barely make the playoffs, this usually bodes well for playoff success especially the last number of years.
Team watch 2: Carolina is on my mind. If they get goaltending (see: Scott Darling – this is still in the air), love the defence, love the coaching, love centre ice and just enough experience to make a serious push this year. Maybe they add Matt Duchesne. Doesn’t matter, like most teams, it’s all about goaltending.
Division watch: Tampa Bay is still the team to beat. I’m going with a step back for the Leafs, Bruins, Sens and Wings. Some upside from Buffalo (even with Evander Kane) and some trading from the Panthers.
Team watch: Why is everyone so down on the Habs? They lose Radulov and gain Drouin and all hell breaks loose? Claude Julien, Carey Price and Shea Weber on the same team will make the playoffs. All you Montreal haters need to stop
Team watch 2: Are the Leafs really as good as they are perceived to be? The media seems to think so. Is it too early for Babcock to wear off? Will they win this division? Can you say sophomore slumps? For pete sake Ron Hainsey is still on this team. Better hope Freddy Anderson stays healthy or this may be a long season in the centre of the universe.
Our picks for the upcoming season:
1 Columbus Blue Jackets
2 Pittsburgh Penguins
3 Carolina Hurricanes
WC Washington Capitals
WC New York Rangers
New Jersey Devils
New York Islanders
1 Tampa Bay Lightning
2 Montreal Canadiens
3 Toronto Maple Leafs
Detroit Red Wings
1 Dallas Stars
2 Minnesota Wild
3 Nashville Predators
WC Winnipeg Jets
WC Chicago Blackhawks
St. Louis Blues
1 Edmonton Oilers
2 Anaheim Ducks
3 Calgary Flames
San Jose Sharks
Vegas Golden Knights