Spinorama Hockey

The Spinorama Look at the 2017-18 NHL Season

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?

Central

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.

Pacific

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.

Metropolitan

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.

Atlantic

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:

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Metropolitan Division

1 Columbus Blue Jackets
2 Pittsburgh Penguins
3 Carolina Hurricanes
WC Washington Capitals
WC New York Rangers

Philadelphia
New Jersey Devils
New York Islanders

Atlantic Division

1 Tampa Bay Lightning
2 Montreal Canadiens
3 Toronto Maple Leafs

Buffalo Sabres
Boston Bruins
Ottawa Senators
Florida Panthers
Detroit Red Wings

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Central Division

1 Dallas Stars
2 Minnesota Wild
3 Nashville Predators
WC Winnipeg Jets
WC Chicago Blackhawks

Colorado Avalanche
St. Louis Blues

Pacific Division

1 Edmonton Oilers
2 Anaheim Ducks
3 Calgary Flames

San Jose Sharks
LA Kings
Arizona Coyotes
Vancouver Canucks
Vegas Golden Knights

A SHARP SIGNING FOR THE JETS

When talking about what needs the Winnipeg Jets have to fill in the off season most of it has been focused on goaltending or defence, and rightfully so. However, there has not been much discussion as to whether or not they should also add a forward. In the past two seasons, the Jets have traded away two key veterans in Andrew Ladd and Drew Stafford. The team has definitely shifted focus by icing one of the youngest teams in the NHL. With that also come the growing pains, which resulted in them missing the playoffs once again last season.
As I look at the players who are likely to hitting free agency, one player who I think they should consider is Patrick Sharp. Sharp only played in 48 games for the Dallas Stars in the 2016/17 season, registering 8 G and 18 PTS, due to a concussion that he had suffered during the season. This was his worst output since the lock-out shortened season in 2012/13, when he scored 20 points in 28 GP. Barring a last-minute signing with the Stars, he will likely become an UFA.

Prior to joining the Stars, Sharp spent 10 very successful seasons with the Chicago Blackhawks. He was a key contributor to their 3 Stanley Cup victories, winning it in 2010, 2013, and 2015. He was also an Olympic Gold Medalist, in the 2014 Winter Games, with Team Canada. However, with the Blackhawks being tight up against the cap, they were forced to trade Sharp and Johnny Oduya to the Stars.

With Sharp set to become an unrestricted free agent, could he possibly fit in with the Jets? Experience definitely counts, and Chevy knows that first-hand. In 2009, the Blackhawks signed UFA Marian Hossa to a contract. The next season they won the Stanley Cup. Now I’m not saying the Jets should sign the soon to be 36-year old Sharp to a 7-year deal, but he could be a good buy-low candidate on a short-term deal.
While his age and recent injuries may be a detraction, especially with the new youth and speed in the game, the importance of having a winner in your lineup is key and is so invaluable. Signing Sharp, who has 142 games of playoff experience, would be a great way for players like Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine, Nik Ehlers, Jacob Trouba, Josh Morrissey, and Connor Hellebuyck, to learn, first-hand, what it takes to be successful in the post-season.

It definitely would not make sense for the Jets to try and outbid other teams for his services. The deal would have to make sense for the team moving forward. I would say a 2 year offer, between $2-3 million per season (his previous contract was $5.9M/yr) could be in the ballpark of what might be doable for the Jets. In the past, Chevy has done a good job of signing UFAs (Perreault, Jokinen) to manageable contracts and terms. Those who may be concerned about his age and health can look at other players who have had decent years after they turned 35: Hossa, 39, who has had scored 20+ goals twice and 30+ goals once since then. Shane Doan, 40, and Jerome Iginla, 39, who have both scored more than 20 goals, 3 times each since turning 35. Then of course there is Jaromir Jagr. And yes, I realize that he is a one-of-a-kind, special talent. However, back in the first two years of the Jets return they were rumored to have been thinking about offering offered him a contract, as he was an UFA at the time. He was considered too old. More than 5 years later, Jagr is still in the league and is still producing.

The Jets do need to be cognisant of their upcoming RFAs they will need to sign, but they have freed up about $8 million, on expiring contracts. Sharp could still likely slot in on 2nd or 3rd line, with either Little or Lowry. The 7-time, 20-goal scorer would be a great addition on the power-play, which definitely needs to improve from last season.
There is no doubt that Chevy will need to make some key moves in the offseason to get the Jets back into the playoffs, and Patrick Sharp could be a shrewd signing.

SPINORAMA PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS 2017

If you thought our regular season picks were fantastic (not really), here is our 2017 playoff picks!

Western Conference

Nashville vs Chicago
Chicago’s young players combined with the experience of Toews, Kane, and company will be too much for the Preds to handle. Although Nashville may have the edge on defence, no position is more important in the playoffs than goaltending, and Pekka Rinne play is not what it once was.
Key Player: Artemi Panarin. The Bread Man delivers with some key goals.
Prediction: MD: Blackhawks in 5.
FZ: Blackhawks in 6 (Predators give them trouble, but too many clutch players to handle)

St. Louis vs Minnesota
Minnesota has struggled late in the season and St. Louis has been hot, thanks in large part to the easiest schedule in the final stretch. Playoffs also tends to reset everything. I like the Wild’s depth down the middle and on defence. I’m not sold on Jake Allen in net, and don’t think he’ll outplay Devan Dubnyk, who has had a strong season with 40 wins and a .923 save %.
Key Player: Devan Dubnyk. Although his playoff experience has been limited, he’ll show why he is the Wild’s MVP.
Prediction: MD: Wild in 6.
FZ: STL 6 (the Mike Yeo difference)

Edmonton vs San Jose
Oilers are back in the playoffs for the first time in over a decade and Todd McLellan faces his old team. They say teams need to lose in the playoffs before they can learn to win. I don’t think it applies in this round. San Jose has some key injuries to Joe Thornton and Logan Couture, which may be too much to overcome. Even though the Sharks have the experience, I can’t see them keeping up with the speed of McDavid and the Oilers.
Key Player: Patrick Maroon. One of a few Oilers with playoff experience. He’ll benefit with McDavid getting the extra attention.
Prediction: MD & FZ: Oilers in 6. (Lucicitis)

Calgary vs Anaheim
The Ducks are a team built for the playoffs. At least that’s what I’ve been told. Ryan Kesler always steps up his game in the playoffs by being a thorn in the opposite team’s side. However, the Ducks will have their hands full with the ‘new’ Kesler on the Flames, in Matthew Tkachuk. With Cam Fowler likely out most of the series, this gives the edge to the Flames on defence. Flames forwards have edge on speed, but Ducks forwards have edge on size and experience. If you’re looking for fireworks, this will be series to watch.
Key Player: Rickard Rackell. Led the Ducks in goals and continues to improve as the season goes on.
Prediction: MD: Ducks in (a hard fought) 7.
FZ: Flames in 7 (Too much Dmen & Johny Hockey)

Eastern Conference

Columbus vs Pittsburgh
Lots has been made about Pens chances due the Letang injury, but reality is they’ve been rolling along just fine without him, Evgeni Malkin, and a few other injuries. Mark Streit ends up being a nice pickup for the team at the deadline. For Columbus, they have been struggling in latter part of the season and have picked a bad time for their power play to fizzle. With their top rookie defenceman Zach Werenski hurting, it makes it tough for the Blue Jackets to pull this off. Too much firepower on the Pens for Bobrovsky to handle.
Key Player: Matt Murray. He’ll pickup where he left off in last year’s playoffs.
Prediction: Pens in 6.
FZ: BLUE JACKETS 7 (Torts & Bobrovsky in a shocker)

Toronto vs Washington
Another season, another President’s Trophy win for the Caps, and another ‘expected’ long run for the Caps in the playoffs. Holtby will need to step up and be the difference for the Caps if they have any hopes of raising the Stanley Cup. They shouldn’t have much trouble with the inexperienced Leafs in the first round (or will they?), but trouble lies ahead in the next round.
Key Player: Niklas Backstrom. The power play machine will keep motoring for the Caps.
Prediction: MD: Caps in 5.
FZ: Wash 7 (The eventual Champion always needs a scare in the first round)

NY Rangers vs Montreal
The Habs have found the top gear with new coach Claude Julien. GM’s Marc Bergevin’s trades were made to make the team bigger and tougher for the playoffs. Shea Weber seemed to slow down during playoffs for Preds last season, so his performance will be key if the Habs expect a long playoff run. Did I mention keeping Carey Price healthy will also be important? I’m not buying the New York Rangers much, especially with their questionable defence and average goaltending that King Henrik has provided in the last two seasons.
Key Player: Carey Price. Will lead the first round in GAA and shutouts.
Prediction: MD: Habs in 5.
FZ: Habs in 6 (The Weber-Julien-Price effect)

Boston vs Ottawa
Like the Habs, the Bruins have played well down the stretch with their new coach, winning key games to clinch a playoff spot. Plenty of playoff performer for the Bruins, including Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Krejci. Although Torey Krug is a big loss, this will give their other young defencemen to step up. While the Senators have the ability to pull this one off, I don’t think they will be able to handle the Bruins clutch forwards.
Key Player: Patrice Bergeron. Face-off juggernaut steps up big when he has to.
Prediction: MD: Bruins in 6.
FZ: Otta 7 (Hate picking this one agains Rask,Bergeron & Marchand but just a feeling)

Stanley Cup Prediction: MD: Penguins over Blackhawks in 6.

FZ: STL vs EDM, MTL vs WASH, WASH WINS CUP OVER OILERS

by massimo d

Winnipeg Goalie Giannuzzi makes Portland Winterhawks!

GOALIE: DANTE GIANNUZZI, Portland Winterhawks

2002, Rink Hockey Academy, Winnipeg, MB

As we predicted in the past, we knew there was plenty of upside for this young man.  As quoted in our previous “Spin Spotlight” column about this future NHL prospect,

“Giannuzzi is mentally tough and has tons of big game experience both nationally and internationally.  He is a shoe in to be a top goalie pick in the Western Hockey League draft. Take our word for it, the lucky team won’t be sorry…”

The Portland Winterhawks are definitely not sorry.  Voted the top WHL organization as surveyed by the Hockey News in 2017, Giannuzzi is showing them they made the right choice.  How many 16 year old goalies play in the CHL?  The answer?  Not many.  Well, you can add one to this year’s crop.  Working against the odds and just turning 16, this impressive young man has made the opening day roster and back up goaltending duties for the CHL’s pre season 7th ranked Winterhawks.  If you read the media around the team, it may not be to long before he challenges for the top duties.

As reported by Portland Winterhawks community blogger, Samantha Meese:

“Back-up plan: I was excited to see Shane Farkas on the NHL invite list. He has earned that opportunity with the Flames. That being said, I think his toughest competition this season may come from within. Based on his preseason performance, Dante Giannuzzi could very well end up as the starter this season.”

Nothing will surprise us anymore about Giannuzzi.  His unique drive, quiet confidence and dedication to his craft are just a few of the many positive attributes that WHL followers will soon find out and love about him if they don’t already know.

Spinorama Staff

 

 

10 Interesting Goalies The Winnipeg Jets Should Target

Coming into this season, one of the biggest questions the Winnipeg Jets had was goaltending.  Unfortunately while sitting at the bottom of the NHL’s goals against and save percentage stats nearly all year, the questions still remains,  which goalie do the Jets target going into the summer? There were many options going into this past season but head coach Paul Maurice as he has stated himself with the 3 goaltenders he was handed decided to go with Connor Hellebuyck & Michael Hutchinson while placing Ondrej Pavelec (his only veteran) on waivers.

We believe the Jets feel their young highly touted sophmore keeper Connor Hellebuyck can one day be a legitimate number one goalie for them. However, with his lack of experience, this perhaps was the biggest gamble the team made going into this season. It did not pay off. And yet again, the team is left on the outside of a playoff spot, looking in. So with the added pressure on the organization to get back to the playoffs next season, they cannot afford to have their goaltending be a question mark again.
Here are 10 goalies the Jets should try and target for the upcoming season.  Either as Unrestricted Free Agents or by trade:

 
Marc-Andre Fleury
With 372 career wins and 2 Stanley Cups, Fleury is a proven winner. However, with Matt Murray’s performance the end of last season, he was rumored to either be traded or selected by Vegas in expansion draft. Fleury also has a no-movement/modified no-trade clause, which may have also factored in him staying with the Pens. He would need to agree to waive it in order for him to accept a trade to the Jets. With the number of teams needing a #1 goalie, he may want to accept a trade to a team where he would not need to battle for playing time. Fleury is signed for 2 more years at a cap hit of $5.75 million, and it might be the perfect term for Jets to work with. The Jets could use him in a 60/40 split with Hellebuyck, giving Connor enough time to learn from Fleury in order to develop into a number one goalie.

 

Ben Bishop
In one of the more surprising deadline deals, the LA Kings acquired Bishop the same week Jonathan Quick returned to full health. The Jets had been rumored to have been interested in him, along with teams like Dallas and St.Louis, but his modified no-trade clause may have come into play. Add to the fact, that Bishop was traded for Peter Budaj and not much else, the Jets certainly could have made a better offer to the Lightning. This would have given them a chance to preview his abilities, and also the ability to have first crack at offering him an extension. Only 30 years old, Bishop has had some strong seasons with the Lightning, posting a 40 win season and two at 30+, along with some good playoff performances. The only knock on Bishop might be his injury history. However, he will definitely be one of the most sought after UFA goalies, and the chances of landing him with a term of less than 4 or 5 years are not very likely. If the Jets want him, they would have to make a bigger commitment, both in years and dollars.

 

Scott Darling
Darling has had a solid season as a backup to Corey Crawford, posting a 16-5-2 record with a .931 save percentage and 2 shutouts. Between Crawford’s injury earlier in the season and his strong play, the team has given him additional playing time. A great asset is his height. At 6’6, Darling is one of the tallest netminders in the NHL (Bishop 6’7). He is set to become an UFA at the end of the season, unless the Blackhawks can work out a deal to keep him. Like Bishop, he will be of the top goalies available, and teams will likely be lining up for his services. The only downside is that Darling, who is 28, has only played as a backup for 3 seasons, so he has limited experience in the NHL. He does have playoff experience, when he filled in for a struggling Crawford in the first round, two seasons ago. Darling went 3-1, with a 2.21 GAA and .936 save percentage. Despite his lack of experience, it will still likely take a long-term deal to sign him, but likely at a cap-hit lower than Bishop. The Jets could use both him and Hellebuyck as a solid 1-2 combination for years to come.

 

Corey Schneider
The former Manitoba Moose goalie, played a few years with the Vancouver Canucks before being traded to the New Jersey Devils. He has kept the Devils competitive, despite the clear lack of talent up front in front of him. Schneider owns a solid career save percentage of .923. Earlier this season, rumor had the Devils wanting to move on from Schneider, and at only 30 years old, he should still have a lot of good years ahead of him. Schneider has 5 more years remaining on his contact at $6 million per season, and the Devils would likely want a goalie in return, plus more. If the Jets were to trade a package including Hellebuyck, they would then need to decide whether to keep Hutchinson as his back-up (not recommended), or go out and sign a serviceable back-up goalie.
Corey Crawford
It seems like each year, Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman needs to find ways of having his team fit under the cap, as a result of the $10.5 million that Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane bring in. He does it so often that you can pretty much make a roster consisting of all the ex-players they have traded away over the last 7-8 years. This year, it could be Corey Crawford. If Bowman finds a way to get Darling to sign a team-friendly contract, this could lead to Crawford being traded. In previous years, the Jets have been included in these rumors. The Jets may want Chicago to eat up some of the 3 years he has remaining, at $6 million per year. With 3 Stanley Cup rings, Crawford’s winning pedigree would be a welcome addition to the team.

 
Brian Elliott
The former St.Louis Blues starter was signed to a 1 year contract by Calgary, and after a slow start has been recently playing well during Flames recent long winning streak and playoff push. Elliott also had a good playoff run last season with the Blues, up until they were ousted by San Jose Sharks. Elliott is 31 years old and has plenty of NHL experience, after first breaking into the NHL with the Ottawa Senators in 2008/09. The Flames decide not extend him, he could be a good value signing for the Jets on a short-term deal, while allowing Hellebuyck to continue to grow into the starting role.

 
Jaroslav Halak
Halak did not have great start to his season, and a much publicized spat between his agent, Allan Walsh, and the team did not help. He became available to all clubs in December, when the New York Islanders waived him. However, no team was interested in taking on his contract, which had this and next season remaining, at a cap hit of $4.5 million. However, since his demotion to the AHL, he has a record of 15-4-3 record with 2 shutouts and a save percentage of .931. He also has 206 career NHL wins, along with 40 shutouts. If the Jets could work out a trade with Isles, getting Halak to play for them for one year might be all the time needed for Hellebuyck to develop into their #1 goalie. Like Pavelec, Halak would also be playing for a contract and his pride. This might be the most ideal option available for the Jets.

 
Steve Mason
Playing in what appears to be his final season with the Philadelphia Flyers, Mason’s career has rebounded after a poor start with his original club, the Columbus Blue Jackets. Mason, who will be an UFA at the end of this season, has put up some decent stats, playing 50+ games each season since being with the Flyers. He has had a 30+ win season and has recorded a total of 14 shutouts. Even though this season appears to have been a letdown for both for himself and the team, it might be good time for the Jets to buy low on him. He may end up being a perfect candidate for a rebound season while also mentoring Hellebuyck.

 
Craig Anderson
Anderson has had 7 successful seasons with Ottawa Senators and will be in the final year of a 3-year contract, which will pay him $4.2 million. The Senators recently traded for goalie Mike Condon, who filled in well while Anderson was away from the team. While Anderson may not be a good candidate to be traded, due to his wife’s health issues, if the Senators do not plan to keep or extend him, he could become available. Anderson has put up some solid numbers with the Senators, including 22 shutouts over the past 4 seasons and a .916 career save percentage. He could be a great addition to help the Jets finally return to the playoffs.

 
Aaron Dell
The Jets have probably seen enough of Dell this season to be impressed with his play. Dell played in 2 out the 3 games that the Jets-Sharks have played this season, and he won both of them. Although he has not played much, he has made the most of his opportunity, with a 9-3-1 record, a 1.81 GAA, and a save percentage of .935. He may be a darkhorse player for the Jets to actually acquire, but if you think of other former backups, like Thomas Greiss and Cam Talbot, who made the most of their opportunities, Dell could be one of them. Although he is one of the shortest goalies, at 6’0, this hasn’t stopped him from making it to the NHL. He could be an ideal and solid backup for years to come.

Mass D