10 Knee-Jerk Reactions to the Start of the NHL Season

Steve Silverman@@profootballboyFeatured ColumnistOctober 8, 2013

10 Knee-Jerk Reactions to the Start of the NHL Season

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    Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

    The NHL season is a week old, so it's time for coaches to be fired, players to be traded or demoted and awards to be handed out.

    In other words, it's all about immediate impressions and knee-jerk reactions.

    In actuality, one week of the season probably doesn't mean a thing. If you listen to hockey expert and TSN analyst Bob McKenzie, perhaps the sport's most respected information provider, the first two weeks of the season mean nothing, and you need at least a month to get a fair read.

    Try telling that to Peter Laviolette, who is now the former head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers after his team got off to an 0-3-0 start.

    If Paul Holmgren and Ed Snider can react so quickly by firing Laviolette, we can also. Here's our knee-jerk reactions to the start of the season, along with the more realistic conclusions that will be provided during the 82-game regular season..

Kyle Turris Is an All-Star

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    Best possible case: Kyle Turris becomes a dominant player

    Turris has had star potential since he was the third overall pick in the 2007 NHL draft. Turris turned out to be a disappointment for the Phoenix Coyotes, and he was eventually traded to the Ottawa Senators.

    While he had a few highlight moments the last couple of seasons, Turris has never scored more than 12 goals in a season, and he has been an ordinary player.

    Not any more. Turris has scored one goal and three assists in his first four games and he is averaging 18:57 of ice time per game. Turris is making a positive contribution every time he is on the ice and has become a star.

    Most realistic outcome: Turris has become a more confident player and will provide the Sens with solid play throughout the season. He should reach his career high in goals (17-20) and points (55-60).

    That's a solid contribution to the Senators, but it doesn't make Turris an all-star.

Jaroslav Halak Becomes an Elite Goalie

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    Best possible case: Jaroslav Halak becomes a Vezina Trophy finalist.

    Look at the way Halak has gotten out of the gate. He has given up two goals in the Blues' first two games, and he has stopped 47 of the 49 shots he has faced. His .959 save percentage and his shutout means he will be a dominant goalie who will lead the Blues to first place in the Central Division, ahead of the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. 

    Most realistic outcome: While Halak and Brian Elliott have basically split the Blues' goaltending chores the past two seasons, Halak is the No. 1 goalie this season, and he is likely to keep that job most of the year. Despite his sharp start, it will be difficult for Halak to pass Henrik Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick, Tuukka Rask, Pekka Rinne and Corey Crawford among the league's elite goaltenders.

    The Blues will be a playoff team and may cause problems for the Blackhawks, but they won't be ahead of them in the standings by the end of the season.

    Halak will not become a Vezina Trophy winner or finalist.

Silfverberg Makes Ducks Forget About Bobby Ryan

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    Best possible case: Silfverberg scores 35 goals and becomes a dependable star.

    Silfverberg has scored two goals and one assist in the Ducks' first three games and he has been very aggressive with his new team. After being traded for Bobby Ryan from Ottawa, it would have been reasonable to assume that the 23-year-old Silfverberg would go slowly with his new team and feel his way until he got comfortable under head coach Bruce Boudreau.

    Silfverberg has come out firing. He has 10 shots on goal through the first three games and has been driving to the net.

    Most realistic outcome: Silfverberg has excellent tools and he is a first-rate skater who has been playing hard on both ends of the ice. His skating allows him to do an excellent job of forechecking. He will stay involved all season and score 20-25 goals and 60 points. He will be a good and productive player, but he won't exceed the 30-goal mark that was Ryan's regular benchmark.

Explosive Avs Become a Playoff Team

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    Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

    Best possible case: The Avs have gotten out of the gate with an impressive 2-0-0 start, scoring nine goals in the process, and their shaky defense (on paper) has allowed just two goals.

    That means that new head coach Patrick Roy and potential rookie of the year Nathan MacKinnon will lead this team to the playoffs in their first season.

    MacKinnon has scored three points in his first two NHL games—all assists—and is averaging 16:22 of ice time per game. His skating and his passing have been dazzling, and his star qualities are obvious. 

    Most realistic outcome: The Avs will be an exciting team this year, and they will be tough to beat when their young forwards are putting the puck in the net. However, there are too many question marks on the blue line and in goal. 

    They will be competitive, but they won't make the playoffs.

Zach Parise Becomes One of the League's Top Goal Scorers

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    Best possible case: Zach Parise breaks through the 50-goal mark in 2013-14.

    Parise is one of the hardest working and best all-around players in the NHL, and when the Wild signed him as a prized free agent in the summer of 2012, they though he would help lead them to the top of the Western Conference.

    While the Wild got to the playoffs as the eighth seed last year, they were not a great team by any stretch. They need Parise to become more of a leader by becoming a dominant scorer. He has put the puck in the net twice in his first two games, and he has averaged 7.0 shots on net per game, second in the league to Washington's Alex Ovechkin (8.0 per game).

    Most realistic outcome: Parise has one 40-plus goal season to his credit. He scored 45 for the New Jersey Devils during the 2008-09 season. He can score if he puts his mind to it, but there is so much more to his game at this point. He is a solid all-around skater who will play both ends of the ice. He will up his scoring total and possibly reach the 40-mark, but he won't beat out Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos and Sidney Crosby.

Justin Abdelkader Will Emerge as a Star

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    Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    Best possible case: Justin Abdelkader will become a dominant player for the Red Wings.

    Prior to this season, Abdelkader has never scored more than 10 goals in a season. He has been a solid two-way player but has never approached stardom. However, he has never played on the same line with Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk before.

    That's going to give Abdelkader opportunities he never dreamed of having before. Abdeldkader has a goal and an assist in his first three games, and he will be a consistent factor on the scoreboard all season.

    Most realistic outcome: You are only as good as the company you keep, and Abdelkader is keeping a dynamic company this year. He will have the best year of his career by a wide margin. He has a chance to score 20 goals or more and 50 points. While that's good, it's not star level.

    Abdeklader will become a highly functioning team player who plays a vital role for head coach Mike Babcock, but he is not a star.

Torey Krug Helps the Bruins Turn Around Their Power Play

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    Best possible case: The Boston Bruins have been one of the best teams in the NHL since the 2008-09 season. They have won one Stanley Cup and have also been to the Stanley Cup Final. However, there has been one constant negative over a majority of that period.

    They have had an awful power play. It was at its worst during the their 2011 Stanley Cup run, and it was on the same path last year until they brought up Torey Krug prior to the second round because they had a number of injuries on the blue line.

    Krug helped change things. He scored four goals in five games against Henrik Lundqvist and the New York Rangers and his skating speed, puck handling and blistering shot helped changed the look of the Bruins' power play.

    He is on the first power-play unit this season, and the Bruins will have a top-10 team with the man-advantage this year. They have scored on two of seven power-play opportunities and their 28.6 percent success rate is sixth in the league.

    Most realistic outcome: The Bruins will have a much-improved power play and Krug's presence will be a big reason. However, a top-10 power play is too big of a jump. The Bruins will be a top-16 team in that category and rank in the league's upper half, but they won't reach the top 10.

Jonathan Bernier Emerges as Maple Leafs No. 1 Goalie

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    Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sport

    Best possible case: It seemed clear in training camp that James Reimer was not going to roll over and let Jonathan Bernier simply take over as the Toronto Maple Leafs' No. 1 goaltender.

    The battle appeared to be on even terms in training camp, and head coach Randy Carlyle gave the opening start of the year to Reimer, and he came out feeling good about himself as the Maple Leafs beat the Montreal Canadiens. Bernier got the second start and defeated the Philadelphia Flyers.

    Carlyle went back to Reimer in the team's third game against the Ottawa Senators. Reimer gave up four goals on 21 shots and was replaced by Bernier. The former Kings goalie did not allow another goal, and the Maple Leafs came back to win the game in a shootout.

    As a result of the early-season work, Bernier will emerge as the team's top goalie.

    Most realistic outcome: Carlyle is a veteran who realizes that there are likely to be many ups and downs through the season. While Bernier has struck the first blow, Reimer is a fighter.

    One of the two goalies will emerge as the eventual No. 1, but it likely won't be until March when the playoffs are around the corner.

Taylor Hall Is Not an NHL Center

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    Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

    Best possible case: Taylor Hall was emerging as one of the game's brightest young stars a year ago. He scored 16 goals and 50 points during the lockout-shortened season, and he gave the Oilers hope for the future.

    However, with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins sidelined until the team's 5-4 shootout win over New Jersey Monday night, Hall had been playing center. That move was a disaster as he recorded a minus-four night in the Oilers' 6-2 loss to Vancouver Saturday night. He was minus-five at the position in the first two games.

    With Hopkins' return, Hall moved back to left wing and scored a third-period goal in the win over the Devils. Hall should remain at left wing and should not go back to center.

    Most realistic outcome: Hall made a slew of mistakes at center and the Canucks made him look foolish. He is a much better performer at left wing, but that's to be expected because it's not as difficult a position to play. Don't expect Dallas Eakins to give up on Hall at center. He is a dynamic skater, and he doesn't have to be written off just yet. 

    Eakins was happy to have Hall back on left wing with Nugent-Hopkins, but he refused to say that Hall's days as a center are over.

    Look for Hall to get some time at center as the season progresses.

Marc-Andre Fleury Is Back in Form for the Penguins

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    Best possible case: The Pittsburgh Penguins have a loaded roster once again, and they were one of the preseason favorites to fight for the Stanley Cup this season.

    Nothing new there. They have been at or near the top of the list since they won the Stanley Cup in 2009. They have not won the Stanley Cup since, and their unsteady goaltending has been an issue. Marc-Andre Fleury has had two consecutive poor postseasons, and he is determined that won't be the case at the end of this season.

    Fleury is 2-0-0 with a 0.50 goals against average, a .979 save percentage and a shutout in his first two games. That means he is going to have a dominant season and the Penguins will be unstoppable.

    Most realistic outcome: That's not likely. No goaltender proves himself in the first half of the season, let alone the first two games. 

    Fleury is going to have to demonstrate solid fundamentals to regain his self-confidence and win over his teammates and coaches.

    He has much more work to do, and it's likely he will be tested by poor games and slumps. By the time the playoffs start, the Penguins' goaltending will be questionable once again.