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recap

NHL 2014 Preview: Complete NHL Recap

The NHL season has kicked off! FINALLY! But wait, are you ready? Have you read extensive previews? What about perfect predictions? What about mind blowing observations that will make you the smartest guy at the water cooler or the call-in show?

Behold! The 2014 total NHL Preview! Everything is perfect. Don’t believe? Then go read every article and see for yourself!

By: Adam Pyde - @Adam_Pyde

Enjoy all my hard work!

NHL 2014 Preview: Metropolitan Division Off-season Report Card
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Who’s going to make the playoffs? Who improved? Will the Penguins be actually good? Can the Isles or Devils return to the playoffs? Can the Rangers repeat their surprise run to the Stanley Cup Finals? Will Columbus or Philadelphia hold onto their playoff spots? Will the ‘Canes become relevant?

NHL 2014 Preview: Atlantic Division Off-season Report Card
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Can the Leafs or Senators return to the playoffs? Are the Bruins still top dog or will the Lightning take over? Can the Red Wings continue their playoff streak? Will Buffalo or Florida outsuck the rest of the NHL again? Can the Canadiens build off their deep playoff run?

NHL 2014 Preview: Central Division Off-season Report Card
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Have the Blues done enough to overcome the Blackhawks? Are the Stars for real this season? Can the Wild hold it together? Were the Avalanche smoke and mirrors? Will the new-look Predators take a playoff spot? Just how bad are the Jets going to be?

NHL 2014 Preview: Pacific Division Off-season Report Card
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Can the Kings do it again? Will the Ducks be able to overcome a roster overhaul? Was last season an aberration or the real Canucks? Which Albertan team will be better? Will the Sharks identity crisis make them better or worse?

NHL 2014 Preview: Top 5 Players to be Traded
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Who’s days are numbered where they are? Trade requests? Expendable? Are they worth trading for or are they overrated products of their systems?

You also get to read me totally whiff on Bobby Ryan.

NHL 2014 Preview: Top 5 Players Ready for Breakout Seasons
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What players are set to break out? Who will have a star making season? Who is coming up on make or break territory? What is missing from a few players chances to become that star?

NHL 2014 Preview: Top 5 Players to Take a Step Back
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What breakout players aren’t likely to repeat their terrific seasons? How hard will they fall back to earth? Why was last season all smoke and mirrors?

NHL 2014 Preview: Top 5 “Change of Scenery” Players
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Which players are going to benefit the most in a new city? Which new signings are going to prove their worth and rebound? Which trades are going pay off? What players are going to make their managers look savvy?

NHL 2014 Preview: Top 5 Bounce Back Players
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Take a quick look at players coming off bad years that should be primed to comeback and have good years. While the title says 5, I actually include 8! That’s 8 for the price of 5. How can you not read it now?

NHL 2014 Preview: Top 6 Stupid Myths in Hockey
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The NHL is full of myths. What are these dumb myths? This highly intelligent article will educate you and expand your brain thinking abilities in the realm of hockey so you won’t fall for shenanigans and silliness anymore!

NHL 2014 Preview: Top 7 New Signings Under Pressure
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Which players are under the most pressure? Who holds the most potential to bust and be an expensive waste of space? What hope do these players have? What was the general manager thinking?

NHL 2014 Preview: Top 10 Absolute Worst Contracts
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Which players hold the 10 worst contracts in the league? A better question… what teams were dumb and gave out the 10 worst contracts in the NHL? Just how bad are they? Is there any hope for these teams/players/fans at all?

NHL 2014 Preview: Made Up Summer Awards
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What teams are the winners of my completely fictional awards? Who is improved? Who is bad? Which teams are on hallucinogenic narcotics? Who looks the nicest?

NHL 2014 Preview: Preseason Awards Predictions
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Who is gonna get which piece of hardware? Who will score the most? Be the best defenceman? Stop pucks the best? Use the best coaching voodoo? Which team will be the absolute best and give fans eternal bragging rights?

I loved writing these! I hope you enjoy them too!

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NHL 2014 Preview: Summer Awards

So you’ve seen my awards predictions for the upcoming NHL season. But what about my own awards for teams for their activities this summer? Who am I gifting my own personal awards that I’ve made up and was able to completely decide the criteria for best signing, most delusional and best fashion among others?

By: Adam Pyde - @Adam_Pyde

Hint: The answers are below!

Best Signing
Contenders: Brad RichardsAnton StralmanChristian Ehrhoff
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The rich get Richards. (•_•) / ( •_•)>⌐■-■ / (⌐■_■) The Blackhawks have never been able to employ an actual second line center since pulling themselves out of the basement on the NHL about 7 years ago. But now, they have Brad Richards on a one year deal for low dollars and he’ll provide their best offensive weapon, Patrick Kane, a real centerman any time he isn’t playing with Jonathan Toews, which is a luxury that Kane has yet to have in his career. Richards is still a good hockey player, but he just wasn’t worth the ~7 million cap hit he had in New York. In Chicago he’ll thrive between Brandon Saad and Kane.

Now Tampa boasts a great defence that is as good, or better, than anyone else in their entire conference. What Stralman provides is the perfect player to complement Victor Hedman on the top pairing, or to act as the driver on the second pairing. That kind of utility is hard to find, and the Bolts only paid 4.5 million annually for it. In contrast, an equal player in Matt Niskanen got $5.75 million/year and significantly crappier Brooks Orpik signed for $5.5 million/year. The Lightning managed to get the second best defenceman available on the market for a pittance, especially considering that he’s only 28.

Ehrhoff was the best defenceman available in free agency and is an excellent offensive defenceman with an underrated defensive game. He’s great on the powerplay, an able penalty killer and can function as a one-man-breakout-machine with his skating ability. He was being wasted in Buffalo, but in Pittsburgh he’s going to have every chance to prove his worth and sign for a huge contract next season. The Penguins get a player more than capable of replacing Niskanen and who also serves as a better insurance policy to fill Kris Letang’s role in case of injury. All that for a paltry 4 million against the cap.

But I give my hat tip to the Lightning here. Stralman being on for another 5 seasons is what makes that deal so good, while the other two signings are one year deals.

Worst Signing
Contenders: Brooks OrpikDavid Bolland
worst signing
I feel like I need some puking emojis for these. I’ll keep this really short.

Both are getting paid anywhere from 4-6 times their worth. Orpik is bad, and old. Bolland is bad, and not quite as old.

That makes the Orpik deal worse and the “winner”, because at least there is a one-in-a-million chance that Bolland could make this look less awful.

Read the full article at Talking Baws

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NHL 2014 Preview: Preseason Awards Predictions

Oh boy is it ever coming close to the start of the NHL season. That means that its time for lists and previews and predictions of course! So why not combine all of them into one ingenious article detailing who will win all the big trophies and awards in the NHL before a second of play has even been played?

You’re in the right place.

By: Adam Pyde - @Adam_Pyde

VEZINA – Awarded to the league’s top goaltendervezina
Contenders: Pekka RinneCory SchneiderTuuka Rask

After a weird season where many of the usual contenders had poor seasons or struggled with injuries, we saw the emergence of a new batch of goaltenders. Ben Bishop, Semyon Varlamov, Corey Schneider, and Tuuka Rask all established themselves as truly elite goaltenders.

Rinne should be healthy this season after losing most of last season to an E.coli infection in his hip. He’s the most dominant goaltender in the Western Conference when healthy and if the new look Predators are to make the playoffs once again he’ll have to play like the two-time Vezina nominee he’s known for.

Schneider is finally getting his chance to prove he’s the elite goaltender he’s looked like in split duty so far in his career. In fact, had he played more than 40 games last season, say 50, he likely would have been good enough to get the Devils not only into the playoffs, but second place in the division.

Rask has established himself as an incumbent nominee and if Boston is to maintain their status as a Cup contender without last seasons leading goal scorer Jarome Iginla, a lot of responsibility will fall on Rask. He’s proven he’s up to the task.
My pick: Tuuka Rask

NORRIS – Awarded to the defencemen who demonstrates throughout the season the greatest all-round ability in the positionnorris
Contenders: Erik KarlssonVictor Hedman, Drew Doughty

Karlsson is a one man breakout machine. People like to harp on his defensive play mainly because he doesn’t play “classic” defence, but he’s incredibly effective at stripping attackers of the puck and immediately turning up ice and entering the attacking zone. If you asked some German engineers to construct a one-man breakout machine, he is the result. If defence isn’t getting the puck out of your zone and keeping it at the other end, then I don’t know what is.

Hedman is the best kept secret that is only kinda secret and on an improved Tampa defence corps he’ll only be better. The defensive burden will be greater spread around and allow him to only play better.

Doughty finally seemed to have his real coming out party last season. After a few years of being arguably the best defenceman in the Western Conference, he finally got his due during last years playoffs when the eastern conference media, about 68% of the awards voters, had their minds blown at his level of play.

It seemed every day there were 8 new “IS DOUGHTY THE BEST PLAYER IN THE WORLD?” articles from guys who usually go to bed before Western Conference games start, while most Western Conference fans/media were basically saying “Cute of you to catch up. He’s been this good for years.”
My pick: Drew Doughty

Read the full article at Talking Baws

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NHL 2014 Preview: Top 5 Change of Scenery Players

This off-season roughly 90 full time NHL players have switched teams. That is a lot of players to change scenery. So why not profile which ones will benefit the most? That sounds like fun. Who is going to make the biggest leaps forward or regain their form in their new city?

By: Adam Pyde - @Adam_Pyde

Honourable Mention: Olli JokinenDerek RoyMike Ribeiro - Nashville Predators, Centers
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I was considering giving a couple of these guys their own spots, but decided to lump them together since they are all on the same club and will be stealing minutes from each other. Makes it tricky to predict who will boom.

It’s safe to assume that at least one of them will be the new first line center and will play with James Neal. Likely one of Roy or Ribiero, and they stand to get a lot of minutes and opportunity to produce. The other two centers will likely anchor the second and third lines in some capacity, with some time on special teams.

New Predators coach Peter Laviolette has been known for more of an open system, and anything in comparison to Barry Trotz’s system will be more open, so you can expect to see some more offence coming out of Nashville. Ribiero and Roy should have extra motivation as well considering they are on one year contracts.

5. Radim Vrbata, RW, Vancouver Canucks

Things that the Canucks have desperately needed: right handed right winger with shooting ability.
Things that Vrbata, 17, brings to the table: being a right handed right winger with shooting ability.

The gameplan in Vancouver is to play him alongside the Sedin twins which should bode well for him. He’ll also get every opportunity to help improve Vancouver’s dreadful powerplay that was missing right handed options last season.

If he was able to score 20+ goals in Phoenix, he should be able to flirt with 30 this season. He just needs to learn to keep his stick ready and in preseason he has been doing just that.

He’d be higher on this list if he wasn’t coming off an okay offensive year.

Read the full article at Talking Baws

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NHL 2014 Preview: Top 5 Bounce Back Players

When you consider 700+ players play in the NHL, you have to figure there are some players coming off disappointing seasons. Stars having pedestrian years. Quality producers magically unable to score. Aspects of a players production completely disappearing. So let us take a look at five of the most likely players to bounce back this 2014 season.

By: Adam Pyde - @Adam_Pyde

Honourable Mention - Daniel SedinHenrik SedinAlex Burrows

These guys should honestly be higher up the list but since they’re all on the same team I put them together.

Here is the point-per-game totals for Henrik the last 8 years – 1.04. Last season? 0.71. Daniel Sedin? Last 8 years is 0.97 with last season being 0.64.

Granted, both players are now in their age 34 season but a drop off of .33 PPG is pretty steep considering they were basically point-per-game locks most of their careers. Will they have 90 point seasons again? Unlikely. But 70? You’d think so. Radim Vrbata is also about as ideal a linemate for them as you could find.

Burrows is in a similar boat. Goals per game from 2008-2013? 0.29 goals per game. Last season? 0.10, largely in part to injury struggles. He might not be taking 30 goals out to dinner again any time soon, but potting 20 shouldn’t be out of the question.

There is almost no way that all three of these players are as bad as they were last season which is good news for the Canucks.

5. Alex Tanguay, LW, Colorado Avalanche

Tanguay has always been a good offensive producer. Year-in and year-out he goes about his business, scores at about a 0.7 PPG rate and makes your powerplay effective.

Unfortunately, he struggled with health issues last season and was held to only 16 games. If he can come anywhere near 70 games he can be counted on for 50-ish points.

With the departure of Paul Stastny, there is an open spot in Colorado’s top-six, as well as a spot on the powerplay. His former Calgary linemate Jarome Iginla was added to the team this summer and if the two can replicate any of their old chemistry then both players may put up some surprisingly high point totals.

He’ll either slot next to Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan Mackinnon, or slide in with Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly/Iginla. As long as Colorado can get the puck out of their own end, he’ll prove he can still score.

Read the full article at Talking Baws

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NHL 2014 Preview: Top 5 Players to Take a Step Back

Continuing the NHL Preview Series, I bring you the top five players that are likely to take a step back this season. Every season a number of players over perform, and fans grossly inflate their expectations for that player. Then when that player “under performs” to their previous season, fans and fantasy owners alike are up in arms over that “bust”.

So to save your arms going up, you should check yourself before you wreck yourself with these players who are almost certainly going to put in far more pedestrian seasons than last year.

By: Adam Pyde - @Adam_Pyde

Tyler Bozak sucks. I’m not wasting 300 words on him.

Honourable Mention: Jaromir Jagr, Jarome Iginla
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Now, Jagr doesn’t quite meet the criteria above, as in he didn’t burst onto the scene, which is why he is only an honourable mention. Not because I think he’s a bad player, he most certainly isn’t. He’s about half a billion years old and still a top 20 scorer in the league.

His treads have already fallen off, and they’ve been gone for quite some time, which makes me wonder just how close the rest of his game is to tailing off too. Even if he’s “bad” he’ll still probably top 45 points which is quite good. At 42, he’s pretty well older than any other NHL player has been and still produced except Gordie Howe. But like I said, he’s gotta drop off at some point.

For Iginla, just read this. Poor Iggy no Iggy no!

5. Ryan Johansen
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If he potted 26 goals and 57 points I’m sure some people would look at that rather favourably. But there are a lot of people who think that his 33 goal season is a huge sign of things to come, and he’ll only build off it. Which it is likely true, but a little premature.

The big thing for me is that his shooting percentage was 16.45% at even strength last season accounting for 25 of his 30 non empty net goals. The league average shooting percent is around 8.2% and his previous seasons were both about 8.5%.

Also, his shooting percentage and shots generated per 60 minutes numbers at 21 place him in elite company with Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, Tyler Seguin, Eric Staal and Steven Stamkos, among elite others, and that is some pretty snazzy company. Nothing against Johansen, but I wouldn’t quite put him on those players levels. Not yet.

So did he become twice as effective at shooting the puck last year? Unlikely. He probably got better, but you have to believe a fair bit of luck was involved. He’s probably more a 11-12% shooter, and that is some cause for concern because it would drop him to about 20-24 goals on the season if he generates shots similar to last season.

Its good production, but not the elite level many people in Columbus will be hoping for.

4. Ben Bishop
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There was a lot to like in Tampa Bay last season, and Bishop was part of it. He finally seemed to emerge as the starting goaltender that many had hoped he would be since his time in St. Louis. He had a Vezina calibre season and posted 37 wins.

But, that was his first full season and while he posted Vezina calibre numbers for much of the season, he began to taper off after the trade deadline before getting injured. Now, was the dip because he was coming back to being an above average but not great goaltender? Was it fatigue because he never played more than 13 games in a season before appearing in 63 last year? Was he playing through his injury at the end?

I have no idea, but I’m leaning more towards the first option. I don’t think I’d pencil him in for another .924 SP and 37 wins. A .919 or .920 doesn’t seem like a huge dip, but that is easily the difference between home ice and missing the playoffs across a starting goaltenders workload.

Unfortunately for him, he won’t have much help at the backup position with the old and not-good Evgeni Nabokov slotted in behind him.

Read the full article at Talking Baws

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NHL 2014 Preview: Top 5 Breakout Players

The NHL Preview series continues with the players most likely to have break out campaigns. The kind of seasons that launch them from a regular player to a star player. Go from “a guy” to “the guy”.

So I set a little criteria for this. First, the player has to have not scored 20 goals or cracked 40 points in a season. Second, they had to be 25 or under.

By: Adam Pyde - @Adam_Pyde

Time to rock’n’roll.

Honourable Mention: Nail YakupovEmerson EtemRyan Strome
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Yakupov: Had the Oiler’s felt so inclined to drop a few spare pennies on someone like Derek Roy then you could pencil Yakupov in for a solid season. Right now, the second line centre looks to be Mark Arcobello or Leon Draisaitl. Mixed with a coach who seems to have no idea how to properly deploy the talented forward and you don’t have a recipe for success.

Etem: He hasn’t quite been able to break through and prove he’s got the scorers touch he showed in junior and the minors. Anaheim lost almost the entire middle of their forward roster this off season so a spot on Ryan Kesler’s wing would provide him with a great opportunity in the top six, but Kesler’s not known for sharing the puck. Things just don’t quite appear to be falling into place yet this year.

Strome: The talent and the ability is there but unfortunately for him, the Islanders added some quality players to their forwards with Mikhail Grabovksi and Nikolai Kulemin. All of a sudden playing time in the top nine has become a bit more sparse. Its not impossible to see Strome start the season in the AHL again and that keeps him from making the list.

5. Zack Kassian
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He proved last year to be a positive possession player, even without any real playing time with good players. He posted a points per 60 minutes and an individual points percentage that had him as one of the top players on the Canucks, and well ahead of former centre and “star” player Ryan Kesler.

On paper, the Canucks look to have only one other right handed shot in their top six, and with the proven futility of Jannik Hansen anywhere but the third line, you can pencil Kassian into the second line and second powerplay unit on opening night.

All that with a coach more committed to an open style should be indicative of success. If new Canucks’ head coach Willie Desjardins is willing to let Kassian go wild, even if it means some giveaways and bad penalties, then the stage is set for Kassian to prove why the Canucks traded for him.

Read the full article at Talking Baws

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NHL Preview: Pacific Division

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to part four of the flawless 2014 NHL preview. We end our divisional looks with the Pacific Division. Who’s new to the West? What playoff hopes are there? Well, it is a surprisingly strange place. Some teams have a lot of turnover, others are bad, some stayed exactly the same.

By: Adam Pyde - @Adam_Pyde

How will things shake out in the Canafornian division? Lets start at the bottom last year…

Edmonton Oilers
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Needs: Second and third line centers, actual depth players, actual defenceman, suitable team system
In: Benoit Pouliot, Nikita Nikitin, Teddy Purcell, Mark Fayne, Leon Draisaitl
Out: Sam Gagner

The team: is the best the Oiler’s have had in a while. Except at center where they employ two NHLers, a rookie and an AHL stud.

Pouliot and Purcell provide two good new wings. Pouliot is one of the best possession wingers in the NHL and Purcell has been a good second line and power play producer for most of his NHL career. The first line will be good considering Taylor Hall is the best left winger in the NHL.

Out are the buckets of #8 and #9 defenceman expected to masquerade as competent NHL players. In are Fayne and Nikitin who should be able to competently fill out the defence to at least have 6 NHL players on it. Fayne could be a steal or another Andrew Ference.

The goaltending should at least be league average this season and could provide the team with the best goaltending they’ve had since the days of Dwayne Roloson. That in itself will bring a few extra wins.

The biggest question mark is probably behind the bench with coach Dallas Eakins. He needs to find the right situations to get the most out of his players. Something he hasn’t nailed across the roster yet.

Will they make the playoffs? No.
Getting better but that center ice is paper thin now, let alone once Draisaitl or Mark Arcobello blow out a shoulder to become a true Oiler.

Calgary Flames
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Needs: Not laughably terrible depth wingers and defenceman, Starting goaltender
In: Mason Raymond, Brandon Bollig, Devin Setoguchi, Deryk Engelland, Jonas Hiller
Out: Michael Cammalleri, Shane O’Brien

The team: They Flames boast a handful of really good players, some regular good players and a bunch of terrible players.

The good players like Michael Backlund, Jiri Hudler, Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie are excellent. Players like Hiller, Raymond, Sean Monahan, Kris Russell, Lance Bouma, Dennis Wideman and Matt Stajan are perfectly fine NHLers.

But the rest of the roster boasts a whole lot of not good. Setoguchi might be able to reclaim some form, but players like Bollig, Engelland, David Jones, Brian McGrattan and Ladislav Smid are straight garbage. You can’t win in the NHL without actual depth, and bad players aren’t depth.

Jonas Hiller is a pretty good goaltender and is certainly providing an upgrade to last season.

On the bright side, Backlund, Brodie and Giordano are truly excellent players and will be able to push wins out almost by themselves. The team will probably win a few games just on sheer effort alone.

Will they make the playoffs? No.
You can’t punch pucks into the net no matter how well Bob Hartley coaches and deploys this group of players.

Vancouver Canucks

Needs: 1B goaltender, two top-six forwards, top players to regain form
In: Radim Vrbata, Nick Bonino, Ryan Miller, Luca Sbisa, Linden Vey, Willie Desjardins (coach)
Out: Ryan Kesler, Jason Garrison, David Booth, Mike Santorelli, John Tortorella (coach)

The team: The Canucks still aren’t a bad team, but they aren’t a great team anymore. They just about had everything go wrong that was possible last year.

You have to wonder if Vancouver ownership believes that the best way to sell tickets is to always have goaltending drama. First, Roberto Luongo and Cory Schneider. Second, Luongo and Eddie Lack. Now, Lack and Miller. A lot of people are skeptical of Miller’s abilities and Lack showed a lot of promise last season. Recipe for drama.

The defence still looks to have a real solid top-four, assuming Alex Edler doesn’t spontaneously combust or pretty well does anything but what he did last year. Chris Tanev is emerging as one of the better unknown defenceman in the NHL.

The first line looks fine with the Sedins flanked by Vrbata. The third and fourth lines look to be in good shape as well. But the second line is a mess. It appears to be Alex Burrows, Bonino and Zack Kassian. It is mainly that middle position occupied by Bonino that is cause for concern. The wingers are okay, but Bonino was a bottom sixer until a season of powerplay time with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Colour me unconvinced he’s got what it takes.

Will they make the playoffs? No.
They might be able to do it, and there is some uncertainty in Anaheim as well as some of the teams that may compete for a wild card. They may have a young kid or two surprise. Ultimately, the offence isn’t enough.

Read the full article at Talking Baws

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NHL 2014 Preview: Central Division

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls,  welcome to part three of the flawless 2014 NHL preview. We find ourselves in the Central Division today. Who’s new to the mid-West? Who has playoff hopes? What about Stanley Cup chances? This is by far the best conference in hockey after all the real teams in the division went and made themselves better.

By: Adam Pyde - @Adam_Pyde

Holy moly is Conference III ever the best conference in hockey.

Winnipeg Jets
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Needs: Staring goaltender, bottom-six depth players
In: Mathieu Perrault, T.J. Galiardi
Out: Olli Jokinen, Al Montoya, Devin Setoguchi

The team: This team is so mediocre its bad.

The forwards have potential. Evander Kane and Mark Scheifele could be something special together one day, but after that it is only five players deep: Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little for offence and Michael Frolik and Mathieu Perrault as quality depth players.

The rest of the forwards are pretty embarrassing though. Galiardi could be a decent depth forward.

The defence actually isn’t that terrible but it depends where Byfuglien plays. If he’s on defence, he’s a difference maker and they have a great top four. If he isn’t on D then its a little thin. Jacob Trouba and Tobias Enstrom are studs.

The goaltending is awful though. Just abhorrent. Ondrej Pavelec is an embarrassment to the city of Winnipeg and anyone who likes hockey. He single-handed cost the Jets the playoffs every season.

Will they make the playoffs? Not a chance.
They’re in a deep division and an equally deep conference. They’d need a godsend of a goaltending performance to make the playoffs. Almost by default they’ll find themselves in the McEichel sweepstakes.

Nashville Predators
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Needs: First line center, first line winger, second pairing defenceman
In: Derek Roy, Olli Jokinen, Mike Ribiero, James Neal, Peter Laviolette (coach)
Out: Patrick Hornquist, Nick Spaling, Michael Del Zotto, Mike Fisher (injury), Barry Trotz (coach)

The team: How many NHL teams do you know that have nine centers? Because the Predators do, and you don’t go anywhere in this league without quality centermen. And they have some skill now with Roy, Ribiero and Jokinen.

Neal gives them a talented finisher on the wing. Filip Forsberg will likely make the team in a scoring role. The top six in Nashville might actually be able to reliably score for a change.

The defence can’t be bad. It has Shea Weber. Roman Josi is a solid top four option and Seth Jones is dripping in potential. The d-core is rounded out nicely  by Mattias Ekholm in the remaining minute eating spots.

A new coach and a new system is going to be something to pay attention to in Nashville. After the adjustment period, a lot of guys could have some serious offensive numbers and you have to assume they’re breakout will be less garbage.

A full season of Pekka Rinne is a full season of Vezina goaltending.

Will they make the playoffs? Yes.
They’ve got the deepest set of offensive players since the days of Paul Kariya. The only issue is how quickly it takes the team to adapt to a new coach and system.

Dallas Stars
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Needs: A second line,  top-three defenceman
In: Jason Spezza, Ales Hemsky, Anders Lindback
Out: Alex Chaisson

The team: GM Jim Nill has done an excellent job. He’s taken a team without a top six set of forwards and built one of envy in two off-seasons.

First it was Tyler Seguin and Valeri Nichushkin to play with Jamie Benn. This year he has Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky to back them up as the Stars have a second line for the first time in ages. They already had a dynamite third line and a respectable group of grinders on their fourth line. Nice offence.

Kari Lehtonen gives Dallas the goaltending to win games every night. He’ll have to be as good as ever with the non-existent puck stopping abilities of Lindback in the backup position.

The defence is okay, but Brendan Dillon needs to be signed to give their top four any oomph. They’ll be looking to acquire another player to take some minutes from Goligoski. He played the role of a #1 defenceman well, but you want to support him. If Sergei Gonchar can regain any sense of previous form then offence from the defence won’t be as big an issue.

Will they make the playoffs? Yes.
They’ve addressed one of their two glaring weaknesses by having an actual second line. The defense still needs work but they can quite possibly slide up a spot in the standings with these moves and GM Jim Nill won’t be scared to make another move improve the team.

Read the full article at Talking Baws

Atlantic

NHL 2014 Preview: Atlantic Division

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you part two of the the flawless 2014 NHL preview, now for the Atlantic Division. Who’s came and gone? What does the playoff picture look like? Well, its a four tiered division of good, alright, okay and garbage teams. It makes things simple.

By: Adam Pyde - @Adam_Pyde

So who will rule the Flortheast? Lets start at the bottom of last year…

Buffalo Sabres128753008_slide
Needs: Everything
In: Matt Moulson, Brian Gionta, Josh Gorges, Andrei Meszaros, Sam Reinhart
Out: Ville Leino, Christian Ehrhoff

The team: This is a bad hockey team.

They’re rebuilding, so being bad is to be expected. And they have a host of promising young players working their way up: Sam Reinhart (C), Mikhail Grigorenko (C), Marcus Foligno (LW), Joel Armia (RW), Mark Pysyk (D), Nikita Zadorov (D), Rasmus Ristolainen (D), and Matt Hacket (G) are the core of their future. If even half those players can reach their potential then Buffalo will eventually have one heck of a team.

Cody Hodgson, Tyler Ennis, Zemgus Girgensons and Tyler Myers lead the veteran-youth movement. Hodgson and Girgensons both have futures in the NHL as number two-three centermen, Ennis can play in the top-nine, and Myers looked to be reclaiming some of the form he showed earlier in his career.

But the rest of the roster is just so bad. Gionta, Moulson and Gorges are still capable hockey players, but many of the other “veterans” and players filling out the roster aren’t much above replacement level players. And the goaltending looks like it could contend for worst in the NHL.

Will they make the playoffs? Lord no!
This team sucks. They have some marginal improvements, but they’re really counting on a whole bunch of recent draft picks to complete the roster. That isn’t a recipe for success – at least not this season.

Florida Panthers
pantherspre
Needs: Everything but goaltending and more bad players
In: Al Montoya, Shawn Thornton, Derek MacKenzie, Dave Bolland, Jussi Jokinen, Willie Mitchell, Aaron Ekblad, Gerard Gallant (coach)
Out: Tom Gilbert, Peter Horacheck (coach)

The team: Well, it’ll be hard to be worse than last year so I guess they have nowhere to go but up.

Roberto Luongo, despite what anyone says, is an elite goaltender and the best goaltender of his generation. He’s still excellent and should be able to steal more than a few wins this season on top of providing wins just by being better than what the Panthers called goaltenders last year.

The defence and forwards aren’t much improved, which means they’re hoping for development progression. Last years first overall Ekblad stands to make the roster out of camp and will learn the NHL in a bit of a trial-by-fire situation, but he should have enough rope to make mistakes. Brian Campbell will continue to be one of the best and most ignored NHL defenders.

Sasha Barkov, Nick Bjugstad, and Jonathon Huberdeau are all going to have to take leaps forward to help the team. They’ll be cushioned by Jussi Jokinen and Brad Boyes, who are both criminally underrated. Thomas Kopecky isn’t terrible either.

All of their other fancy new signings suck.

Will they make the playoffs? No.
They have actual NHL level goaltending. Thats important. If their younger players can continue development and Gallant doesn’t play big minutes to all the bad players he was given, maybe they aren’t completely hopeless. But they look pretty hopeless.

Toronto Maple Leafs
kessel
Needs: New coach, first line center
In: Leo Komarov, David Booth, Daniel Winnik, Mike Santorelli, Roman Polak, Stephane Robidas
Out: Nikolai Kulemin, Dave Bolland, Mason Raymond, Carl Gunnarsson, Tim Gleason, Mason Raymond, Jay McClement

The team: This is a team that should be better than it is on paper. They’re pretty well sunk by terrible coaching and systems play that amplifies their deficiencies instead of hiding them.

Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul, James van Riemsdyk and Nazem Kadri make up 2/3rds of a really solid top-six. Komarov, Booth, Winnik, Santorelli, Matt Frattin and Peter Holland make for a strong bottom half of the roster. But David Clarkson makes anyone he plays with awful, and Tyler Bozak had a career year and still was only average.

The defence made a lot of lateral moves. If the top-four this season is Dion Phaneuf, Cody Franson, Morgan Reilly and Jake Gardner then the Leafs will be able to play fast hockey, and actually get out of their own end. Neither Stephane Robidas and Roman Polak are as good as Carl Gunnarson, but they should be better than Tim Gleason.

They’ll be relying heavily on James Bernier having another near Vezina season and James Reimer continuing to be one of the best “back ups” in the NHL. The Leafs got some of the best goaltending in the NHL last year, but couldn’t do anything with it. I’d be worried about things in Leafland if things don’t improve defensively and the goaltending falls off even a little.

Will they make the playoffs? No-ish.
If they can bring in a coach that is good to replace their bad one then they stand a solid chance at the playoffs. The pieces are there, but they need someone who knows how to use them.

Continue reading the full article at Talking Baws