Spinorama Hockey

NHL TRADE DEADLINE EXCLUSIVE – MATCH GAME

With the NHL Trade Deadline fast approaching, playoff-bound teams need to decide whether they will go into the playoffs with their existing roster or if they will try to add one or two pieces to help them make a long run. Teams that are out of the playoffs are looking to get the most they can for players on expiring contracts or even major deals to unload some contracts. Then there are the teams in the middle, who might decide to both buy and sell.

There are some teams who have been out of the playoff picture for quite some time and teams in the Western Conference that have recently climbed back into the playoff picture. While most fans love to see the big blockbuster player deals, all it could take is a minor deal to put a contending team over the top. Buyers will be looking for that difference maker that will put them over the top.

Here are my predictions the destination of players who have been rumored to be traded and match them up with the teams who I think will be the buyers.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Calgary

The surprise team of the West are contending for top spot in the Pacific with a rookie goalie.  They may want to trade for a proven goalie, as Mike Smith continues to falter. If they also land a solid top 6 forward, it could make them an even more dangerous team in the playoffs.

Possible Options:James Reimer (FLA), Cam Ward (CHI), Matt Zuccarello (NYR), Kevin Hayes (NYR)

Long Shot:Mark Stone (OTT), Jimmy Howard (DET)

Chicago

GM Stan Bowman has done a great job of trading already this season, especially since they face such a tight cap situation. The acquisition of Dylan Strome has helped the Blackhawks claw their way back into the Western Conference playoff picture. Still, Bowman likely has his eyes set on trying to dump some salary.

Possible Options:Kasperi Kapanen (TOR)

Long Shot:Artemi Panarin (CHI)

Colorado

After a quick start, the Avs have recently been in a free-fall. GM Joe Sakic may need to find some secondary scoring help in order to help keep their playoff hopes alive. They could be both buyers and sellers.

Possible Options:  Kevin Hayes (NYR), Gustav Nyquist (DET), Andrei Burakovsky (WSH)

Long Shot:Eric Staal (MIN), Charlie Coyle (MIN)

Dallas

It seems like CEO Jim Lites lit the horses behind since his crass comments about Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. The Stars have been winning and will likely be shopping for some secondary scoring to help the stable.

Possible Options:Wayne Simmonds (PHI), Artemi Panarin (LAK)

Long Shot:Matt Duchene (OTT), Micheal Ferland (CAR)

Minnesota

The Wild are a bubble team in both making the playoffs and whether they will be buyers or sellers. Earlier this season, word was Charlie Coyle was on the trade block, with new GM Paul Fenton looking to make some changes to the roster. Other teams are also salivating at the possibility of upcoming UFA Eric Staal possibly becoming available.

Possible Options: Kevin Hayes (NYR), Matt Zuccarello (NYR)

Long Shot:Jonathan Huberdeau (FLA)

Nashville

David Poile always seems to have something up his sleeve when it comes to pulling off a surprise trade. The Preds are built to win now and it may take one more move to accomplish that. Team to watch to make first big move.

Possible Options:Wayne Simmonds (PHI), Jakob Silfverberg (ANA)

Long Shot:Mark Stone (OTT), Matt Zuccarello (NYR)

San Jose

The Sharks already made their big move when they acquired Erik Karlsson at the beginning of the season. Now it may just be a matter of adding some character and depth to their lineup for a possible long playoff run.

Possible Options:  Alex Chiasson (EDM), Carl Hagelin (LAK), Drew Stafford (NJD)

Long Shot:Charlie Coyle (MIN)

St. Louis

It wasn’t long ago that the Blues were last place in the Central, but they have since turned things around and are right in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race. Despite this, it is not likely that GM Doug Armstrong will make a big splash. 

Possible Options: Marcus Johansson (NJD), Jakob Silverberg (ANA)

Long Shot:Ryan Dzingel (OTT)

Vegas

After a slow start, the Golden Knights were quickly back in to their first year expansion form, but have recently tailed off again. After reaching the finals last season, GM George McPhee will likely be looking to hit a homerun with a big deadline acquisition.

Possible Options:Mark Stone (OTT), Matt Duchene (OTT)

Long Shot:Jeff Carter (LAK), Ryan Getzlaf (ANA), Duncan Keith (CHI)

Winnipeg

After their surprising acquisition at the deadline last year, the biggest question being thrown around is “Who is the next Paul Stastny?” After being thwarted a couple of times, Chevy pulled a rabbit out of his hat by trading with a Central rival. This season their needs appears to be up the middle. What does Chevy do for an encore?

Possible Options:Kevin Hayes (NYR), Mark Stone (OTT) 

Long Shot: Eric Staal (MIN), Marcus Johansson (NJD)

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Boston

The Bruins are in a similar position as the Preds are in the West. With the veterans they have in their lineup, they are in a win-now mode. If they want to get past the Lightning and Capitals, they will likely need make some key additions.

Possible Options: Wayne Simmonds (PHI), Derick Brassard (FLA)

Long Shot:Mark Stone (OTT), Wayne Simmonds (PHI)

Buffalo

One of the surprise teams of the East, the Sabres find themselves in an unusual position of not being a Trade Deadline seller. However, I don’t expect GM Jason Boterill to be very active unless it is for a player with term. 

Possible Options:Jesse Puljujarvi (EDM), 

Long Shot:Kasperi Kapanen (TOR)

Columbus

Next to Ottawa, the Blue Jackets are the team to watch to see whether they will trade or keep both upcoming UFAs Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky. 

Possible Options:Matt Duchene (OTT), Vlad Namestnikov (NYR)

Longshot:Jonathan Huberdeau (FLA), Artemi Anisimov (CHI), Duncan Keith (CHI)

Montreal

One of the biggest surprises in the East this season, the Habs have quickly turned things around thanks to some healthy bodies, trades that have panned out, and the play from their rookie forward Jesperi Kotkaniemi. 

Possible Options:Niklas Kronwall (DET), Nikita Zadorov (COL), Patrik Nemeth (COL)

Long Shot:Cam Fowler (ANA), Derick Brassard (FLA)

New York Islanders

The biggest surprise in the NHL this season, Head Coach Barry Trotz has done the unthinkable after the Isles lost their franchise player. They have a few players who will become UFAs at the end of the season, but that may not stop GM Lou Lamareillo from adding a few key pieces to try and continue their surprise run into the playoffs. Is there another David Volek moment in the cards?

Possible Options:Matt Duchene (OTT), Gustav Nyquist (DET)

Long Shot: Sergei Bobrovsky (CLB), Micheal Ferland (CAR)

Pittsburgh

You never know what Jim Rutherford has up his sleeve as he is not scared of making a big move. Sid and Geno are not getting any younger and like he did in the beginning of the season, Rutherford may want to kick-start the Pens again as they are fighting for a playoff spot.

Possible Options:Eric Staal (PIT), Gustav Nyquist (DET), Alex Martinez (LAK)

Long Shot: Ryan Dzingel (OTT), Jeff Skinner (BUF), Micheal Ferland (CAR)

Tampa Bay

The Lightning have been the runaway team during the regular season. However, as we all know, that goes out the window as soon as the playoffs start. Pressure is on for this team to go all the way after some disappointing results in the last couple of playoff runs. Likely looking for some help on the back end.

Possible Options:Adam McQuaid (NYR), Alex Martinez (LAK)

Long Shot:Cody Ceci (OTT), Justin Faulk (CAR)

Toronto

The Leafs already made a big splash when they acquired highly coveted defenceman Jake Muzzin from the LA Kings. They could still add a forward or a depth defenceman, as they were originally looking for a RHD.

Possible Options: Jakob Silfverberg (ANA), Ben Lovejoy (NJD)

Long Shot: Wayne Simmonds (PHI), Micheal Ferland (CAR)

Washington

Just like last season, I don’t expect the Caps to make a big splash at the trade deadline. They may make a few minor moves to shore up their depth.

Possible Options: Troy Brouwer (FLA), Patrick Maroon (STL)

Long Shot:Alex Chiasson (EDM), Marcus Johansson (NJD)

@Mass_insight

Trade Deadline: What players will put the Winnipeg Jets over the top!

If the Wild continue to falter, the Winnipeg Jets should make Center Eric Staal their number one focus

            Last season, the Winnipeg Jets were in an unfamiliar situation during the NHL trade deadline. Instead of being on the fence as to whether they would be buyers or sellers, their position in the standings clearly reflected that of being in a position to be a buyer. For GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, this was uncharted territory. Coming off a franchise best Season (no matter which franchise you are talking about – Winnipeg or Atlanta). The pressure to win is fast approaching.

            Fast forward to this season and the Jets are currently looking good at the top of the Western Conference and Central Division. While things can change quickly, it looks as though the Jets are ready to make another playoff run in 2019. With that being said, we’re taking a look at what players the Jets could possibly target, on or before the upcoming trade deadline. What has mostly been suggested (as we suggested very early last year) is for the team to try and find another centre, like last year’s Paul Stastny, to once again help galvanize the top lines. As we have said numerous times before centre depth and goaltending is a must to win the Stanley Cup. We realize the key to any playoff run is to ensure you have enough depth in your organization, as with the long grinding season and the intensity of the playoffs, there are going to be injuries.

            Here are the players we believe the Jets should target at the deadline. Keep in mind, in most cases players would most likely be from teams who are out of playoff contention and either preferably be an upcoming UFA or they would need to have little term remaining on their contracts.

Forwards

C Eric Staal (MIN)– This a player we had identified when he first became an UFA three seasons ago. No one checks off the boxes more than this player. He is a big strong center, can take face offs and play power play or can penalty kill. Not to mention a proven winner who has been there before. Staal has rejuvenated his career in Minnesota, after previously spending his entire career with Carolina. He has once again found his scoring touch and has also played for Paul Maurice when he was with the Hurricanes. Staal could be a perfect fit in a top six role and could even be better than Stastny was last year. Minnesota started off strong but are now currently out of a playoff spot. This would need to continue in order for the Jets to possibly acquire him. But if he is, we are all in on him.

C Marcus Johansson (NJD)– So far, things haven’t quite worked out for the New Jersey Devils like it did last season. Johansson, an upcoming UFA who originally played for the Capitals, was a good pickup for the Devils, but was injured most of last season. A great skater, playmaker and setup man, Johansson could be just what the Jets need to help feed Laine the puck. They could also use a good Swede, as they currently do not have a Swedish player on their roster.

C Derrick Brassard (PIT)– Here we go again! As mentioned before, the Jets were interested in trading for him at last year’s deadline, but they were thwarted by Vegas. Brassard hasn’t quite worked out for the Penguins and even though Pittsburgh will likely be playoff bound, we all know how Jimmy Rutherford likes to wheel and deal. Brassard has put up some real good stats in the playoffs before when playing for Ottawa and the New York Rangers and could be a key cog for the Jets for a long playoff run. Chevy may end up circling back on Brassard.

C Kevin Hayes (NYR)– With the NYRangers rebuilding, Hayes name has already been in the rumor mill earlier this season with the Jets reportedly showing interest. Hayes, who is scheduled to become an UFA, is a 6’5 centre who has good hands and can also play all three forward positions. There is also a previous connection with Chevy as he was originally drafted by Chicago in 2010. His play has picked up recently with the NYRangers and being a former Boston College player, he could fit in nicely with the current US-heavy Jets roster.

C Matt Duchene (OTT)– Duchene is a long shot as the Senators are actively trying to sign him to an extension. If he does become available, he will be the most expensive rental players as GM Pierre Doiron will try to recoup as much as possible based on what they gave up when they acquired him last season. Duchene would make the Jets even more dangerous than they already are, but we don’t think Chevy will want to give up the assets it will take to obtain his services.

W Micheal Ferland (CAR)– While he is not a centre, Ferland has a great combination of being a scoring power forward and is tough as nails, which is always great to have for a long and grueling playoff run. One thing we think was missing in their series vs Vegas was a rugged tough forward to combat against the likes of Scott Hartnell and Ryan Reaves. Ferland is a local boy (from Swan River), which is also a nice bonus too. 

W Matt Zuccarello (NYR)– Another player the Jets were reportedly eyeing during last season’s deadline, Zuccarello is now even more attractive as a rental, as he too will become an UFA at the end of the season.  He is considered to be somewhat of a Marty St. Louis-type player due to his size, quickness, and having a nose for the net, and like St. Louis, he could be the difference-maker for the Jets in the post season.

Other possible forward options – C Jori Lehtera (PHA), W – Wayne Simmonds (PHA), C Marcus Kruger (CHI), C/W Brian Boyle (NJD), C Brock Nelson (NYI), W Michael Raffl (PHI), W Gustav Nyquist (DET), W Patrick Maroon (STL)

Defence

Jake Muzzin – LD (LAK) – Muzzin is a hard-nosed, mobile d-man who can score, and comes with a winning pedigree as a result of his two Stanley Cup wins with the Kings. With LA out of the playoff picture, Muzzin, who has 1 year remaining in his contract, could be exactly what the Jets need to add some toughness on the blue line and solidify their d-core. If the Jets were to be interested 1) Muzzin won’t come cheap and 2) the Jets will likely need to send a contract back as they will have a few high-priced players to re-sign in the offseason.

Alex Edler (VAN) – LD – An upcoming UFA, Edler will likely be the most sought after rental on defence this season. A solid all-round defenceman, Edler would add another dimension to the Jets back end. He also has valuable playoff experience with some long playoff runs with the Canucks.

Niklas Kronwall – LD – (DET) – While Kronwall is getting up there in age (37), he is still a key cog on the Red Wings blue line. Kronwall can add some toughness and, while not recent, also has great playoff experience with his previous Cup wins with Detroit. Imagine teams having to lineup against Kronwall and Big Buff.

Adam McQuaid – RD – (NYR) – On the right side, the Jets would be a good position depth-wise if it weren’t for the injury to Tucker Poolman, who is currently out indefinitely with an injury. McQuaid could be a solid acquisition as he is a good shot blocking, defensive defenceman and could replace the spot normally occupied by Poolman.

Ben Lovejoy – RD – (NJD) – Like McQuaid, Lovejoy is a right handed d-man who could be a good depth add. Lovejoy also had playoff experience under his belt in playoff runs with the Penguins.

Other possible options – Michael Del Zotto (VAN), Jan Ruuta (CHI), Luca Sbisa (NYI), Nate Prosser (MIN), Robert Hagg (PHA), Jay Bouwmeester (STL)

            

           

           

NHL COACHING JOBS! WHO’S UP NEXT?

Can you imagine showing up at work one day and your boss tells you that we don’t like how our business is performing and we need to let you go.  You were great last year but this year isn’t working out.  Oh and by the way we are replacing you with your assistant.

It may be early in the NHL season, but already there are rumblings as to which current head coach might be close to being replaced. Last season was the first time since 1996-97 that a coach was not fired during the hockey season. However, there were a few teams that made changes in the offseason, including Calgary, Carolina, Dallas, and the New York Rangers.

It’s no secret that head coaches of professional sports teams have a limited life span. In the NHL, head coaches have one of the highest turnover rates in major sport, averaging about 3.4 years. With the high turnover, successful coaches can maybe get 3-4 chances of being hired by a new team (or even the same team that once fired them). One coach who has, until now, seemed to have bucked that trend is Joel Quenneville, who has been the head coach of the Chicago Blackhawks since 2008. Also, the new up-and-coming coaches from other leagues like the AHL or college ranks put in their time and wait for their chance for a job in the major league. 

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Granted teams that have recently hired a new coach will not likely be candidates for making any changes. It’s the teams who have had a coach for around three years or more and their team is not meeting expectations that may possibly be looking to make a change.

Teams that are more likely to make a coaching change during the season include: Chicago, Detroit, Edmonton, LA, Minnesota, Philadelphia, and St. Louis. If I were to choose dark horse team to make a change it would be Tampa Bay. Expectations are high for this team to win the Cup and with Julien BriseBois recently taking over from Steve Yzerman, he may want to bring in his own coach. 

Here are a list of some of the top coaching candidates that you might see behind an NHL team bench this coming season:

The Recycled

  1. Alain Vigneault – he’s had two strong runs with the Canucks and NY Rangers, coming within a game of winning the Stanley Cup with Vancouver. Excellent regular season track record with 648 wins and his teams have only missed the playoffs twice in his 12 seasons as head coach. Has to be considered the front-runner for teams looking for a replacement, but he won’t come cheap.
  2. Michel Therrien – in what seems like ages ago, Therrien led the Montreal Canadiens to a 50-win season back in the 2014-15 season.  Surprisingly, he was fired by the Habs when their record was 31-19, which they’ve had difficulty getting back to since his departure. You think that was rough, this is the same guy that got fired from the Pittsburgh Penguins only to see his team go on to win the Stanley Cup!  Currently a scout for Montreal, a proven winner,  he should get another shot at leading a team.
  3. Dave Tippett – the former longtime coach of the Arizona Coyotes is now working as a special advisor for the Seattle group looking to land the next NHL expansion team. Shrewd move by him, as this will likely land him a permanent job with Seattle either in management or as their first ever head coach. 
  4. Paul MacLean – while probably a dark horse, the former Jack Adams Trophy winner surprisingly has not been given another HC opportunity after his short stint with the Ottawa Senators. The long-time NHL assistant coach most recently worked in that position with the Anaheim Ducks could get one more shot at being head coach.
  5. Darryl Sutter – I know, I know, he’s retired. But the last I checked Stanley Cup winning coaches do not grow on trees. Two Stanley Cup wins and a great regular season track record may entice a team like the Edmonton Oilers, if they decide to move on from Todd McLellan. While often criticized for his tough coaching style, it very well could be what the Oilers need to get them back on track. The chance at coaching a player like Connor McDavid and with the team so close to home, might be the only job Sutter will ever consider.

The New Kids on the Block 

  1. Sheldon Keefe, Toronto Marlies (AHL) – has been a top candidate for head coaching jobs for about the last two seasons. Considered the Jon Gruden of hockey, putting in long hours in order to perfect his craft. Led Marlies to Calder Cup win last season.
  2. Pascal Vincent, MB Moose (AHL) – entering his third season as coach of the Moose, Vincent has been with the Jets as an assistant coach before that.  Led the Moose to a big turnaround last season and a playoff berth after team had third worst record in the AHL the season before. Has been talked about as one of the top up-and-comers in the coaching ranks.
  3. Jay Leach, Providence Bruins (AHL) – Leach is a fast rising young star in the coaching ranks. He has had success leading the Bruins both as an assistant and as their HC since the start of the 2017 season. Previous to that he was an assistant with Scranton-Barrie. 
  4. Nate Leaman, Providence Friars (NCAA) – odds are good that Leaman joins the growing list of college coaches making the jump to the NHL. He has spent the last 7 season as coach of the Providence Friars, winning the NCAA championship in the 2014-15 season, and his college head coaching career dates back to 2003.
  5. John Madden, Cleveland Monsters (AHL) – the former 3-time Stanley Cup champion with the New Jersey Devils has been the head coach of the Cleveland Monsters since 2016, after taking over from Jared Bednar.   Previous to that, Madden spent 3 seasons as an assistant for the Florida Panthers.

The Over-the-Shoulders 

  1. Dan Bylsma, DET – with Jeff Blashill entering his fourth season and with Red Wings continuing to struggle, he could be next in line if team decides to make a change.
  2. Kirk Muller, MON – also a former head coach of the Hurricanes, Muller has been an assistant with a couple of teams while waiting for his next opportunity.
  3. Jack Capuano, FLA – former Isles bench boss should get one more chance as a HC after a long tenure with the Islanders. In his previous two seasons before getting fired, Capuano led the Isles to 47 and 45 win seasons. He should get another shot.
  4. DJ Smith, TOR – like Keefe, Smith has been mentioned as possible HC candidate during the last round of coaching hires. With Mike Babcock entrenched behind the bench in Toronto, DJ will likely need to take his music elsewhere in order to become a head coach.
  5. Kevin Dineen, CHI – as an assistant coach with the Blackhawks, he might be in the perfect spot for an opportunity, due to Coach Q’s long and seemingly endless tenure. Rumors had Quenneville parting ways with the team during the 2017 draft, and being fired at end of last season. He could be a losing streak away of being replaced.
  6. Todd Nelson, DAL – spent a short stint as head coach of the Oilers, until Todd McLellan became available. Since then he’s had a successful run coaching in the AHL and now in his first year an assistant in Dallas. He will probably get another chance as head coach after having the plug pulled prematurely during his first season.
  7. Marc Crawford, OTT – veteran coach who previously had four NHL head coaching jobs and a stint overseas, he helped bring the Sens within one game of SC Final. This season, with seemingly nothing to work with, the team if off to a surprising start. Could be due for one more chance.
  8. Luke Richardson, MON – once considered the heir to the Ottawa Senators HC job, Richardson was snubbed and he left the organization for other opportunities. Currently, he is in his first season as an assistant in Montreal, he spent last season in same position with Isles. 
  9. Lane Lambert, NYI – Lambert has been a Barry Trotz mainstay since 2011 as an assistant coach with the Nashville Predators. He helped Trotz lead the Capitals to their Stanley Cup victory last season and has since followed him to the Island. His coaching career dates back to 2002 in the WHL. Lambert’s name has been brought up quite a bit as candidate for a HC job and he has definitely put in his time. 
  10. 10.Ian Laperriere, PHI – Ian’s career ended abruptly after suffering from concussion symptoms in 2010. Now entering his 6th season as an assistant coach for the Philadelphia Flyers, he could be the future Flyers HC if the rumours of firing David Hakstol ever end up becoming true.

Coaching in any league is a tough business especially when everyone is gunning for your job in a results based environment.  Point of advice, if you things aren’t looking good the next morning, call in sick.

@Mass_insight

@spinohockey

 

NHL 2018-2019 Spinorama Hockey Preview…

Glad the NHL is back?  So are we.  We thought we would start with our yearly predictions and things that we are most likely to see in this upcoming season:

Most overrated teams: Bruins, Blue Jackets, Vegas

Teams most likely to surprise: Sabres, Habs, Islanders

Best Offseason Acquisition: J Tavares – Leafs, M Pacioretty – Vegas, J Skinner – Sabres, E. Karlsson – Sharks (if he can hack the Western Conference), M. Hoffman – Panthers

Worst Offseason Overpay: Paul Stastny – Vegas

A Star is Born: M. Rantanen – Avs


Young players not being talked about enough:
T. Chabot – Sens, R Donato – Bruins, I Provorov – Flyers, T Jost – Avs

Breakthrough years: B. Horvat – Canucks, J Eichel – Sabres, A. Mantha – Wings, C. White – Sens, N Patrick – Flyers, PL Dubois – Blue Jackets

Most unlikely team goaltending to surprise: Wings – J Howard & J Bernier, Islanders – T Greiss & R Lehner

Stanley Cup Champion: Winnipeg defeats Toronto

Conference Semi Finalists: Winnipeg vs Los Angeles, Toronto vs Pittsburgh

 

NHL AWARD WINNERS:

Calder Trophy: E. Petterson – Canucks

Vezina Trophy:  F Andersen – Leafs, A. Vasilevskiy – TB, J Quick – Kings

Rocket Richard: Tie 48 Goals: A. Matthews – Leafs, P Laine – Jets

Art Ross: C McDavid – Oilers

Norris: J Carlson – Capitals

Hart: N McKinnon – Avs

Jack Adams: John Hynes – Devils, Honourable Mention: Travis Green – Canucks

Lady Byng: V Tarasenko – Blues

Frank J Selke: A. Barkov – Panthers

 

My 2018-19 NHL Standings Predictions:

EASTERN CONFERENCE:

Metropolitan Division

@frankzappia1:  New Jersey, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, WC-Washington, Out: NYI Islanders, Columbus Blue Jackets, New York Rangers, Carolina

@Mass_Insight:  Washington, New Jersey, Pittsburgh, WC-Philadelphia, Out: Columbus, NY Rangers, Carolina, NY Islanders

Atlantic Division

@frankzappia1:  Toronto, Tampa Bay, Boston WC-Florida Out: Montreal, Buffalo, Detroit, Ottawa

@Mass_Insight:  Boston, Toronto, Tampa Bay, WC-Florida Out: Buffalo, Montreal, Detroit, Ottawa

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Central Division

@frankzappia1:  Nashville, Colorado, Winnipeg, WC-St Louis Out: Dallas, Minnesota, Chicago

@Mass_Insight:  Winnipeg, Nashville, Colorado, WC-Dallas,  Out: Minnesota, St Louis, Chicago

Pacific Division

@frank@zappia1: LA, San Jose, Edmonton, WC- Calgary:  Out: Vegas, Vancouver, Anaheim, Arizona

@Mass_Insight:  San Jose, Vegas, Calgary, WC-LA, Out: Edmonton, Anaheim, Vancouver, Arizona

 

WINNIPEG JETS PREVIEW – Is it New Altitude, New Attitude?

When I first saw the “Rise Together” tag last year as the Winnipeg Jets theme slogan, I was thinking this is bold.  I guess they new something that we didn’t or maybe it just worked out better than they could have ever imagined.  There is nothing better than welcoming a new season, except welcoming a new season with actual expectations.  Great for the fans, maybe not so much for the team.  But if one actually wants to get to the next level (ex: winning the holy grail of hockey, Lord Stanley’s Cup), it will be something the team will eventually look forward to.  It’s called confidence.  Not cockiness but a confident attitude is a must.  It’s amazing what that can do for a team.  Jets 1.0 had a slogan one year and it was “New Attitude, New Altitude”.  Interesting as this may be what the Jets require this season except reversed “New Altitude, New Attitude”.  Some would say, act like you have been there before.  Well the Jets now have been there before.

Let’s dissect what we believe are the three key factors to the 2018-2019 NHL season that the Hockey News predicted would be the year your Winnipeg Jets would win the Stanley Cup!

Goaltending: 

Do you want to predict who will make the playoffs each year?  Just look at the goaltender.  If your goalie plays well so does your team.  How is your coach doing?  Or how is the team defence this year?  Ask your goaltender.  Unfair but reality.  I don’t think this area is talked about enough.  Connor Hellebuyck nearly won the Vezina trophy and the Jets finally made the playoffs with basically the same team they had the year before.  Yes, I realize everyone is a year older.  If your main man has a down season, an injury or maybe has a back up that can’t pick up the slack, your team will most likely find themselves in big trouble.  Ask Cam Talbot and the Edmonton Oilers who went from everyone’s pick to contend for the cup to not making the playoffs last year.  Even with the best player in the world on your roster, Connor McDavid.  If this doesn’t tell you how important your goalie is, I’m not sure what does.  No pressure Connor, Laurent Brossoit or Eric Comrie is your back up.  Though we predict that Chevy knows something about Brossoit that we don’t.  Highly touted goalies that don’t pan out immediately are a dime a dozen in the NHL.  Though, there are many examples of this working out.  Look at Mike Smith or Devan Dubnyk.  Sometimes the right situation means everything.  Especially when you play in front of a confident team.

 

One More Year Experience:

Generally one more year of experience for a roster like the Jets (young, fast and strong) is a good thing.  I can’t imagine what another year for the likes of J. Roslovic, K. Connor, A. Copp, J. Morrissey and many others will do for this team.  Unless of course there is, the dreaded sophomore jinx or the, I have signed a new contract and can’t live up to expectations curse.  I really believe the way the NHL is going, by players getting younger each and every year, the Jets should be fine in this area.  Remember when you are on a good “confident” team bringing in young players is a hell of a lot easier for them to develop and thrive in this type of environment.  Confidence breeds confidence.  We expect Roslovic in particular to step up and work that 3rd line centre role to his advantage.  I thought when Paul Maurice inserted him in the Las Vegas playoff series last year, he may have been the Jet’s most dangerous player.  As we said numerous times last year, centre ice and goaltending is a must to win in this league.  No one needs to step up more than Jack Roslovic this year.  It wouldn’t hurt either if Brian Little has a comeback season, most specifically in the offensive stats area.

Opening Day Roster Depth:

Forward Depth:

Connor, Sheifele, Wheeler

Ehlers, Little, Laine

Vesalainen, Roslovic, Perrealt

Copp, Lowry, Tanev

Dano, Petan, Lemieux

Defensive Depth:

Morrissey,Trouba

Morrow, Buff

Kulikov, Myers

Chiarrot,Poolman,Niku

Goalie Depth:

Hellebuyck, Brossoit, Comrie

The Winnipeg Jets may have the most talented roster in the NHL with so many choices to make.  The easy choice is to send Niku, and Poolman and either Lemieux or Vesalainen to the AHL and you don’t lose anyone to waivers.  I have a feeling that Vesalainen will be pushed to make the team.  If this happens, Lemieux gets sent down and neither Dano or Petan will face waivers. If Lemieux is feisty enough to make the team a trade or more likely an injury to Petan or Dano will surface. All good problems to have.  A team does not win the cup without depth.  Vesalainen’s interesting clause option to go back to Finland in year one of his contract may not be good for the team as he would need to be convinced to join the Moose.  In my opinion, joining the AHL’s Moose would be the better option for his development. Though I’m sure the Finish Elite League (Liiga) would be close to being just as effective.  As for goaltending Eric Comrie is waiver exempt and most likely will be sent down to the Moose at least to start the season.

The only question left in this category is, do the Jets need anything else?  Team toughness is there but at the very minimum last year they had Matt Hendericks to drop the gloves just in case a message needed to be sent or Laine was being attacked.  Yeah, I know the NHL is not like that anymore but that isn’t entirely true as long as this element is allowed to be in the game.  You still don’t want the likes of Buff, Lowry or Wheeler dropping their mitts or taking roughing penalties when someone takes a run at Ehlers.  Most likely player in this category would be on the border of the roster and that is Brendan Lemieux.  The kid can score and drop them if he has to.  I’m a fan.  He needs an injury to get a sustained opportunity in this line up.  I think Lemieux’s time will come at some point this season and could be a key ingredient for a possible playoff run.  Even though I was certain the Jets wanted Morrissey (who had no rights except to sit out) signed to a long term contract, they worked themselves some much needed cap space for potential playoff run additions by having him sign a low AVV bridge contract.  If all stays the same, a depth center, a gritty scoring winger, some lunch pale grit forwards and a veteran back up goalie may be some of the items required to put the icing on this roster’s cake.  Assuming that they actually make the playoffs.  But if we learned anything from last year, the Jets are ready.  And just like last season the team will need to play confident as I noticed that for most of the season they were playing with a chip on their collective shoulders, lead by their captain Blake Wheeler.

Veteran Coach: 

Coach Paul Maurice went from one of the most likely coaches to be fired in the media, to hero & genius in the span of a few months.   There is no one smarter in the organization than this man.  If you think that this isn’t true you are not paying attention.  No one has his experience nor the pulse of this organization more than him.  Until he arrived, the organization was spinning.  He has brought much to the Jets organization but NHL legitimacy and professionalism to hockey operations has to be at the top of the list.  Not saying the Chevy or Chipper has not done this as well.  Actually, I don’t think there is a better trio of coach, GM & owner in the league.  Just that it’s different from the guy that interacts with all the players in the organization on a daily basis.

Now in the matter of coaching this is a different subject and not necessarily related.  Maurice has been with the Jets as head coach for what is deemed in professional sports, a long time.  He has the third longest tenure in the NHL behind Joel Quenneville in Chicago and Jon Cooper in Tampa Bay.  This is usually not a good stat for coaches as it usually means your time is coming to an end.  But Paul Maurice is a spitfire.  Literally as he used to play for the Windsor Spitfires in the OHL as a junior and started his coaching career there when he retired.  But I regress.  I am only stating facts and they may not even be Coach Maurice’s fault (see goaltending above) but Po Mo has only made the playoffs as a coach back to back years once in his NHL career.  Keep in mind that year they went to the final after losing in the conference quarterfinals the year before with Carolina.  Let’s face it, he is great at analyzing and his players seem to really like him.  Let’s just hope that Hellebuyck plays well and doesn’t get injured and everything should be okay.

As for expectations, a word of advice.  It’s okay to be confident in your team as long as they are confident in themselves.  Rise Together was bold.  The team has definitely achieved a new altitude that should provide a confident attitude.  Great teams are great teams for a reason.  Will the Jets be a great team this season?  At the very least, act like you have been there before.  Be it team slogans, goalies, coaches, young and older players confidence is everything…

Frank Zappia @spinohockey

 

 

 

NHL Draft 2018 Coverage: The Bloodlines

As we head into the upcoming NHL Draft in Dallas on June 22-23, we take a look at a recent trend in recent drafts where the last names are familiar ones that we have watched when we were growing up. Second and even third generation players have become more and more common as each and every year goes by.

Here is a list of some recognizable last names who, along with their older relatives, may soon become household names.

 

Brady Tkachuk (LW/C)

Son of former Winnipeg Jet Keith and brother of current Flames forward Matthew. Both of them were drafted in the 1st round of their respective drafts, Keith was drafted 19th overall in 1990 and Matthew was drafted 6th overall in 2016. At 6’3, Brady is projected to be more skilled and even nastier than both his father and brother. He is ranked 2nd for North American (NA) skaters, and will very likely be taken in the top 5. Could you imagine the Battle of Alberta if he were to be selected by the Edmonton Oilers?

Possible fit: OTT, ARI, VAN

Mattias Samuelsson (D)

Son of former Flyers defenceman Kjell. Like his dad, his 6’4 frame makes him attractive for NHL teams looking for a big, physical d-man. He is considered a good skater who makes smart decisions with the puck in his own end. Ranked 21st for NA skaters, he is projected to be a late 1st or early 2nd round draft pick.

Possible fit: PIT, STL, WSH

Jack Drury (C)

Jack’s father, Ted Drury, played his NHL career with the Bruins and Ducks and he is also the nephew of Chris Drury. Similar to his father’s game, Jack is a smart versatile smallish forward who also excels at playing special teams. He rose from 60th in the mid-term rankings to 27th in the final rankings for NA skaters.

Possible fit: ANA, BUF, COL

Nikolai Kovalenko (RW)

Nikolai’s father was known as the ‘Russian Tank’ Andrei Kovalenko, who played 9 seasons mainly with the Nordiques/Avalanche, Habs, and Oilers. Just like his dad, being 5’11 Nikolai has the same stature and playing style, which will likely be attractive to some teams looking for some Russian grit. His final rank as European skater was 33rd and is projected to be taken in the 2nd or 3rd round.

Possible fit: BOS, DET, NSH 

Jack McBain (C)

Son of former Jets forward Andrew McBain, who was selected 8th overall in the 1983 NHL entry draft. Jack possesses great hands and shooting skills but it’s his skating that he needs to work on and is the big question mark. Playing this past season for the Toronto Jr. Canadiens, he was voted Ontario Jr. Hockey League’s top prospect. He is ranked 35th for North American skaters. 

Possible fit: MON, LA, NYI

Jonathan Gruden (C)

Son of new Raiders Head Coach…actually he is the son of the other John Gruden, who had a brief NHL career with the Bruins and Capitals. Jonathan is a smart, strong skater who can also play the wing. His final NA ranking was 46th.

Possible fit: CHI, PHI, TB

Kristian Reichel (C)

Son of former Flame Robert. At 20 years old, Kristian is a 3rd year eligible draft pick. He only started playing in North America last season, with the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL, after starting his career in Europe. His passing and on-ice awareness are considered his strengths. He also attended Winnipeg Jets prospect camp in 2017. Ranked 53rd as NA skater, he could step in for a team sooner based on his age.

Possible fit: ARI, DET, WSH

Adam Samuelsson (D)

Yet another Samuelsson in the same draft. Adam’s father Ulf (one of the most hated players of all time – see image) had a lengthy NHL career as a former Whaler/Penguin/Ranger defenceman. At 6’6, 240 lbs. Adam is even bigger than his father was and he will have teams drooling at the prospect of landing a mobile, shutdown, Chara-like d-man. Projected to be a mid-round pick, he is ranked 77th for NA skaters.

Possible fit: BUF, DAL, WPG

Riley Sutter (RW)

Son of former Flyer/Blues forward Ron. Riley is considered a two-way player with good size and hockey sense (which as a Sutter I believe you’re born with). Needs to work on his skating. He may not have great offensive upside and is projected to end up in a checking role, should he makes it to the NHL. He is ranked 80th overall for NA skaters.

Possible fit: CAL, MIN, NJ

Max Paddock (G)

Max is the nephew of former AHL/NHL player, and more notably, Head Coach of the Winnipeg Jets, John Paddock. A native of Brandon, Manitoba, he came out of nowhere after taking over as the starting goalie for the Regina Pats early last season. He helped lead the Pats to a Memorial Cup Final, which they just missed out winning. Things are looking up for Max, including his chances of being selected in this year’s draft. He finished 22nd in the final rankings for NA goalies.

Possible fit: FLA, NYI, VGK

Other notable mentions, including their final North American rankings:

-Jacob Pivonka (C) (Michal) is ranked 105.

-Cole and Christian Krygier (D) (Todd) are ranked 149 & 205, respectively.

-Ethan Manderville (C) (Kent) is ranked 165.

-Jack DeBoer (C) (Peter) is ranked 166.

-Erik Middentorf (LW) (Max) is ranked 195.

-Ben Sanderson (LW) (Geoff) is ranked 208.

-Philipe Lapointe (RW) (Marty) is not ranked.

-Ryan Savage (RW) (Brian) is not ranked.

Mass DiGeronimo @spinohockey