NHL MID OFF-SEASON REPORT:
A LOOK AT ALL 30 NHL TEAMS
< A-B >
Due to Francois Beauchemin and Sean O’Donnel departing through free agency over the last two years, Chris Pronger being traded to Philadephia (last summer), the trade of James Wisniewski to the NYI (this summer) and the recent retirement of Scott Niedermeyer (this summer), the Ducks once elite defensive unit has seen better days. Lubomir Vishnovski is a second tier defense men who is quite capable of running a power play and dishing the puck as well as playing 20-24 minutes a night, but could use some more physicality to his game.
After him it begins to fall off quite steadily. Luca Sbisa and Toni Lydman will end up bearing more load than should really be placed on their shoulders, Lydman will bring much needed veteran puck moving experience that will especially help the developing Sbisa. B. Festerling and/or B. Mikkelson will also be placed into the hot seat, this will either allow them to shine or they'll crash and burn under the pressure and expectation but the Ducks have to know what they have on the blue line going forward. S. Brookbank is a great character guy that can move the puck decently as well as laying on the physical punishment.
Make no mistake however, this d-unit will be a far cry from that which the Ducks have been able to put out in the past 4-5 years, and the whole team will suffer accordingly. With Wisniewski being traded, look for rookie (D) Cam Fowler to get a long look to make the team, his offensive instincts and calm under pressure would go miles for this defensive group, but another year of seasoning in the OHL won't hurt.
The forward corps stats will continue to suffer from both lack of secondary scoring and blue line downgrades. They could get a boost if Teemu Selanne decides to return, and if the rumours he wants to bring Paul Kariya back with him are true, but could also loose Bobby Ryan to a very Phil Kessel (Summer 2009) type situation.
A look at the Ducks pipeline show you that Peter Holland [C] (Their only Blue chip prospect outside of newly acquired and Emerson Etem [C]) is not really ready to make the jump and that there are no other elite prospects besides Sbisa ready to make the jump (Etem makes huge strides over the summer), the Ducks aren’t going to receive any internal help either.
Hiller will still be stellar and while a top line of Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry isn’t too shabby, head coach Randy Carlyle’s lack of a bona-fide checking line (a staple of their 2007 cup run) has put him in a position where he has to employ his top line (RGP) as his checking line, which limits their scoring potential dramatically. All in all, the Ducks of the 2010-2011 will again be flightless, due to a change in the defense regime and a lack of help for Ryan, Getzlaf and Perry on the offensive side, although they have proved resilient before, they just don’t have the guns to do it this time around.
Ryan - Getzlaf - Perry
Blake - Koivu - Lupul
Bodie - Marchant - Sexton
Beleskey - ? – Parros
Lydman - Vishnovski
Mikkelson - Brookbank
Sbisa – Festerling
Leading Scorer: C. Perry (29G, 53A, 82pts) , R. Getzlaf (23G, 58A, 81PTS)
Team Standing: 9-12th in the West
Needs: A new 3rd line (Checking/Shutdown), 4th Line C, No.1 Defensemen, better secondary scoring (A new 2nd line)
“Big Buff”, B. Eager, A. Ladd and B. Sopel will add some things that has been sorely missing from Atlanta’s lineup since… well forever, “Championship Pedigree” and “Winning Attitude”. They still lack a true No.1 defensemen but Z. Bogosian looks like he can take further steps towards becoming that in the near future.
The Power play and PK will be much improved thanks to their new additions and with continued growth from N. Bergfors, E. Kane, B. Little as well as a bona-fide Goaltender (without an injury history) in Chris Mason could see the Thrashers vault into serious playoff contention this year, or we could have yet another season ending in disappointment.
Rick Dudley has done a fantastic job of re-tooling the Thrashers in his first summer and with his aggressive track record (Over 40 years of combined player/coach/executive experience and five years of past GM experience, including setting up many of the core pieces of the Tampa Bay Lighting's 2004 cup winning team), look for many more moves to follow. The Thrashers will hopefully begin to move out of the limbo the franchise has so often found itself in under the management of D. Waddell. It finally looks as if the South East Division will soon be able to shed it’s title of “Weakest Division in the League”.
Peverley - Antropov - Little
Kane – White - Bergfors
Ladd - Slater – Byfuglien (Will swap between first three lines, but he’ll get 1st unit PP time)
Eager - Thorburn - Boulton
Enstrom - Oduya
Bogosian - Hainsey
Sopel – Valabik
Leading Scorer: B. Little (34G, 25A, 59PTS) , N. Antropov (21G, 49A, 70PTS)
Team Standing: 6-10th in the East
Needs: No.1 Dman, 2nd Line C, 4th Line C
Boston has an unenviable logjam at centre with proven NHLers M. Savard, P. Bergeron, D. Krejci and with young prospects T. Seguin and J. Colbourne looking to make the jump, meaning that more likely than not, one or two of them will be dealt. They addressed their need of a bigger scoring winger with the acquisition of Horton and with a bit of luck and some good health will be a much higher scoring team this season (along with Seguin and Colbourne, the Bruins also have Caron and Marchand ready to ply their trade at the next level, meaning the Bruins will have no shortage of competition for jobs come training camp).
Defense is a little spotty but with improvement from youngsters Boychuk and Hunwick (with McQuaid looking to push for a permanent spot) as well as health for Stuart, Ference and Seidenberg, it will be a very formidable unit. This is especially true when the team is backstopped by the spectacular Tukka Rask (and former Vezina winning) Tim Thomas. Special teams should all be improved simply with health and the natural improvement that will come with so much healthy competition for jobs. The Bruins are projecting to be an absolute force in the East, now lets see if they can actually have the season they seem destined too.
Lucic - Savard - Horton
Bergeron - Krecji - Reechi
Sturm - Seguin - Wheeler
Paille - Campbell – Ryder
Chara - Boychuk
Seidenberg - Ference
Leading Scorer: M. Savard (20G, 63A, 84PTS), N. Horton (32G, 37A, 69PTS)
Team Standing: 1-5th in the East
Needs: Health, Veteran Puck Moving Defense men
For a team that got bullied out of the playoffs by bigger teams and more mobile defenses, they did little IF anything to improve their team, relying on internal improvement yet again to solve the franchises long standing problems. Rob Niedermeyer provides some decent size with valuable grit and most importantly a reliable checking line Cup winning veteran, but the lack of a physical force in the top 6 is a big issue. If Buffalo can get another 70+ healthy game season from Tim Connoly and playoff sensation Tyler Ennis continues to steam roll into the regular season, then the Sabres patented small but fast tactics could yet again get them to the NHL’s second season.
On defense, besides rookie sensation Tyler Myers (Who is going to have another big season in Buffalo), the Sabres don’t have a lot going on for them on their side of the blue line especially after the off-season loss of two of their top four in Toni Lydman (To Anaheim) and Henrik Tallinder (To New Jersey). Besides T. Myers, free agent import Jordan Leopold is the only other proven puck handler on the roster, as young guns Chris Butler and Andrej Sekera are un-seasoned and Craig Rivet and Steve Montador (although both have blistering shots) are more stay at home defense men. All this adds up too yet another season of Sabres’ fans praying all-star goalie Ryan Miller doesn’t get injured because if he goes down, so do the Sabres’ playoff hopes.
Ennis - Roy - Pominville
Vanek – Connoly - Stafford
Hecht - Niedermeyer - Grier
Kennedy - Gaustad - Kaleta
Montador - Myers
Butler - Rivet
Leopold - Sekera
Leading Scorer: D. Roy (24G, 48A, 72PTS) , T. Ennis (26G, 38A, 64PTS)
Team Standing: 6-10th in East (If Miller + Connolly stay Healthy)
Needs: Top six forward with size, Top pair defensemen, 3rd Line LW, Backup goalie capable of spelling 15-20 games for Miller
Again these are just my gut feeling and heavily researched based facts swirled together and are to be taken with a grain of salt like any sports related predictions of any kind, as well all know, anything can happen over the course of a season.
Thanks for reading and feel free to comment, agree or disagree below.