Archive for the ‘Offseason’ Category

2013-14 Season Preview

Posted: September 28, 2013 in Offseason

With the NHL season just days away, I figure it’s time to preview all 30 teams, make playoff predictions, and over/under regular season points predictions. The over/under numbers came from Here we go!
Retired #'s

Predictions for Final Divisional Standings: Scroll down for individual team season previews

Atlantic Division:
1. Boston Bruins
2. Ottawa Senators
3. Toronto Maple Leafs
4. Montreal Canadiens *Wild Card Winner
5. Tampa Bay Lightning
6. Detroit Red Wings
7. Florida Panthers
8. Buffalo Sabres

Metropolitan Division:
1. Pittsburgh Penguins
2. New York Rangers
3. Washington Capitals
4. Philadelphia Flyers *Wild Card Winner
5. New York Islanders
6. Carolina Hurricanes
7. New Jersey Devils
8. Columbus Blue Jackets

Central Division:
1. Chicago Blackhawks
2. St. Louis Blues
3. Minnesota Wild
4. Nashville Predators *Wild Card Winner
5. Colorado Avalanche
6. Dallas Stars
7. Winnipeg Jets

Pacific Division:
1. Los Angeles Kings
2. Vancouver Canucks
3. Anaheim Ducks
4. Edmonton Oilers *Wild Card Winner
5. Phoenix Coyotes
6. San Jose Sharks
7. Calgary Flames

Anaheim Ducks: The Ducks surprised almost everyone last season, finishing second in the west, but went through some drastic changes this offseason. The biggest move was trading Bobby Ryan to Ottawa for Jakob Silfverberg, prospect Stefan Noesen, and a 1st round pick. The Ducks also brought Dustin Penner back via free agency on a 1 year deal, and Temmu Selanne announced he was coming back for one final year. They’ve done well this offseason, Jonas Hiller and Victor Fasth provide solid goaltending, and Bruce Boudreau has proven over and over again he knows how to win in the regular season.

Prediction: 3rd in the Pacific
Over/Under (90.5 Points): Over

Boston Bruins: The Bruins made a surprising run to the Stanley Cup Finals last season, and lost a heatbreaker in game 6 to end their year. The signed Jarome Iginla, gave Tuukka Rask an 8 year extension, and let Jaromir Jagr, Nathan Horton, and Andrew Ference walk in free agency, but the storyline for Boston in the offseason was when they traded Tyler Seguin, and Rich Peverley to Dallas for Loui Eriksson and 3 prospects. Eriksson, who never received much attention in Dallas, will finally be able to showcase his skill in a hockey market. Eriksson is going to have a huge year. Boston lost a lot in the offseason, and while I think they’ll easily make the playoffs, they’ll take a step backwards from last season once they get there.

Prediction: 1st in the Atlantic
Over/Under (102.5 points): Under

Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres officially began to re-build last year when they traded away their captain Jason Pominville to Minnesota. As a rebuilding team, Buffalo remained relatively quiet in free agency, and let fan favorite Nathan Gerbe sign with Carolina in the offseason.In another related note, the Sabres traded Andrej Sekera to Carolina for Jamie McBain and a 2nd round pick. The question with the Sabres this season is going to be if and when the Sabres are going to trade Ryan Miller, and Tomas Vanek, both who are in the last year of their contract. Another intriguing storyline with the Sabres is going to be Tyler Myers. The Calder winning defenseman has underperformed the last couple of years. I don’t know why, but I think Myers has a solid year and give Buffalo fans hope that he can anchor the blue line for years to come.

Prediction: 8th in the Atlantic
Over/Under (83.5 points): Under

Calgary Flames: Calgary is another team that is rebuilding. Some would say it’s a couple years later than they should have been, but that’s an argument for another day. The Flames have undergone massive roster change in the last 9 months. Gone are Jarome Iginla, Jay Bouwmeester, Alex Tanguay, Miikka Kiprusoff, and Cory Sarich. There is plenty of new blood in Calgary too; David Jones and Shane O’Brien joined the Flames, along with goaltended Karri Ramo, who came back from the KHL after a very solid couple of seasons in Russia. TJ Galiardi and Kris Russell also made the move to Canada. They drafted Sean Monahan 7th overall in the 2013 draft, and he could crack the roster. But I don’t think anyone expects the Flames to be any good this year, and neither do I.

Prediction: 7th in the Pacific
Over/Under (74.5 points): Under

Carolina Hurricanes:
The Canes are an unpredictable as any team in the NHL. The brought in many veterans in the offseason including Joe Corvo, Nathan Gerbe, Aaron Palushaj, Mike Komisarek, and goalie Anton Khudobin. They still have the Staal brothers up front, along with Jeff Skinner and Alex Semin. Defenseman Justin Faulk is underrated, and could provide some nice fantasy numbers. The x-factor for Carolina is Cam Ward. Can he stay healthy? And can he return to being the goalie that won the Stanley Cup in 2006? Unfortunately for the Hurricanes, they’re in a tough division, and Cam Ward is just not as good of a goalie as everyone thinks he is, which spells for another season of missing the playoffs in Raleigh.

Prediction: 6th in the Metropolitan
Over/Under (84.5 points): Over

Chicago Blackhawks: The cup champs did a good job keeping their core intact unlike the last time they won the cup. While the losses of Michael Frolik, Dave Bolland, Viktor Stalberg, and Ray Emery are going to hurt more than most people realize, the leadership and star power they have up front will help Chicago be near the top of the standings next spring again. It was the perfect storm for the Blackhawks last year, and I certainly don’t expect them to be AS dominant as they were this year. Keep in mind, the last time the Blackhawks won the cup, the next season they didn’t qualify for the playoffs until game 82.

Prediction: 1st in the Central
Over/Under (105.5 points): Under
Avs-Sharks 041

Colorado Avalanche:
The Avs have been a fun team to follow in the offseason. They brought in Patrick Roy to coach the team, drafted Nathan MacKinnon first overall, and traded for an Avalanche hero in Alex Tanguay. They traded away David Jones, and Shane O’Brien, waived Greg Zanon and Matt Hunwick, and told longtime great Milan Hejduk they won’t be offering him another contract. They’ll get Steve Downie back in the lineup after missing all last season with an ACL injury, but the team didn’t address their defensive needs. They’ll be better, but I don’t think it’ll be enough to make the playoffs. If you want a fantasy sleeper: TYSON BARRIE.

Prediction: 5th in the Central
Over/Under (86.5 points): Over

Columbus Blue Jackets:
The Blue Jackets surprised almost everyone (except me) last year by making a run at the playoffs. Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky had an amazing year, capped off by winning the Vezina trophy. The Jackets added a big name free agent by giving Nathan Horton a 7 year, $37 million contract. They added Marian Gaborik at the trade deadline, but other than that, they remained essentially the same team. Everyone is high on the Blue Jackets this season, but I am not. There is no way Bobrovsky can repeat the kind of season he had again, and they are moving into an incredibly tough division. It will be interesting to see if Ryan Murray cracks the Columbus roster, and what impact he will have. But on a positive note, they have one of the best jerseys in the league.

Prediction: 8th in the Metropolitan

Over/Under (85.5 points): Under

Dallas Stars: The Stars made one of the biggest offseason trades, bringing in former #2 overall pick Tyler Seguin from Boston. They gave up a quality player in Loui Eriksson, but are banking on Seguin breaking out and becoming a franchise player. They also brought in former Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff via trade, and goaltender Dan Ellis to back up an underrated Kari Lehtonen. They also brought in Sergei Gonchar to bolster the blue line, which is the biggest question for Dallas heading into the season. They’ll be better, and fight most of the season for a playoff spot, but ultimately fall short.

Prediction: 6th in the Central
Over/Under (86.5 points): Over

Detroit Red Wings:
The Wings had to scratch and claw for their playoff spot last year, led by Olympic hopeful Jimmy Howard. In their first season without Nick Lidstrom in a long, long time, the Wings defense struggled at times, but found a way to get into the playoffs, and pushed the eventual champs to the brink in the second round. Detroit brought in longtime Senator John McCain Daniel Alfredsson, and Stephen Weiss, but lost Damien Brunner, Valtteri Filppula, Dan Cleary, and Ian White. The Wings are going to have to rely on young guns Tomas Tatar, Gustav Nyquist, and Danny DeKeyser to step up and help them out. But they still have Kyle Quincey, so they’ll finally miss the playoffs.

Prediction: 6th in the Atlantic
Over/Under (97.5 points): Under

Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers were a sleek pick to make the playoffs last year, but faltered down the stretch, leaving them on the outside looking in. They’ve had a lot of roster movement, like their rivals in Alberta. They’ve lost Shawn Horcoff, Magnus Paajarvi, and Nicolai Khabibulin, but brought in David Perron, Andrew Ference, Boyd Gordon, Jason Labarbera, and Richard Bachman. With new coach Dallas Eakins, this will be the year the Oilers crack the playoffs. Devan Dubnyk is going to have a stellar year, overcoming a shaky defensive core, and leading Edmonton to a wild-card spot.

Prediction: 4th in the Pacific
Over/Under (89.5 points): Over

Florida Panthers: Florida had a relatively boring offseason, up until a few weeks ago. They drafted Alexsander Barkov 2nd overall in June’s draft, signed veteran Scott Gomez, but lost winger Peter Mueller to Switzerland and Stephen Weiss to Detroit. They gave Tim Thomas a tryout, and then a contract. No doubt Florida be heavily leaning on Calder trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau this season. The Panthers are just one season removed away from a playoff appearance, and it will be up to their young core if the Panthers are going to get back to there. I’m betting Thomas, and fellow goalie Jacob Markstrom have good years, and the team will be better, but not good enough to get back to the promise land.

Prediction: 7th in the Atlantic
Over/Under (75.5 points): Over

Los Angeles Kings: The Kings avoided a Stanley Cup hangover, thanks in part to the lockout, and made it back to the Western Conference Finals, before falling to the Blackhawks in 5 games. The Kings finally traded away backup goalie Jonathan Bernier, but got a less than stellar return of Matt Frattin, Ben Scrivens, and a 2nd round pick. They also lost Rob Scuderi and Dustin Penner, but Slava Voynov and Tyler Toffoli look to fill the roles nicely. They will also get Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene back from injury on the blue line, which cannot be overlooked. They’re a little weak at LW, but the defensive core, and Jonathan Quick will lead the Kings to their first Pacific Division/Conference title.

Prediction: 1st in the Pacific
Over/Under (98.5 Points): Over
Avs-Wild 3-6-12 040
Minnesota Wild: The Wild continued to bring in big names during the season acquiring Jason Pominville at the trade deadline. Minnesota squeezed into the playoffs, but Nicklas Backstrom got hurt, and eventually lost in 5 to Chicago. This season, Minnesota will be looking for some of their prospects to step up and contribute. Minnesota traded Cal Clutterbuck to the Islanders for former 5th overall pick, and amazing name Nino Niederreiter. They also traded Devin Setoguchi to the Jets, meaning Charlie Coyle and Mikael Granlund will be together on the second line. They still have the big names of Koivu, Parise, and Suter, but the Wild’s season will hinge on whether the young players can provide depth.

Prediction: 3rd in the Central

Over/Under (94.5 points): Just over

Montreal Canadiens: The Habs won the Atlantic Division last year, and PK Subban brought the Norris trophy back to Quebec, but questions remain in eastern Canada. Can Carey Price find his form from a couple of years ago? A good first half could land him between the pipes for Canada in the Olympics. They replaced Michael Ryder with Danny Briere, but it’s winger Max Pacioretty who is going to have a big year. The Canadiens overachieved in the shortened season last year, but if Price can put together a Vezina like season, they will contend for the Atlantic again.
Prediction: 4th in the Atlantic
Over/Under (94.5 points): Under


Nashville Predators: The Predators fell off a cliff at the end of the season last year, and ended up picking highly toughed defenseman Seth Jones 4th overall in the draft. Pekka Rinne had offseason hip surgery, but should be ready to go for the start of the year. Viktor Stalberg, and Matt Cullen were brought in to help the depth and offensive abilities of the defensively minded Preds, and Filip Forsberg, who was brought in for Martin Erat figures to add some size and skill up front. Of course, they still have Shea Weber, and with a full season, and a full training camp, I think Nashville rebounds after a tough year last spring.

Prediction: 4th in the Central
Over/Under (84.5 Points): Over

New Jersey Devils: The Devils might have had the most interesting offseason in the NHL. They lost Ilya Kovalchuk to the KHL retirement. They made a huge trade at the draft to bring in Cory Schneider, and needing to replace Kovalchuk’s production (and David Clarkson, 7 years, $36.75 Million from the Leafs), brought in Jaromir Jagr, Michael Ryder, Ryan Clowe, and Damien Brunner. I love the Ryder signing, and wouldn’t be surprised if he scores 30-35 goals, but the Metropolitan division is sooo good, that Martin Broduer and the rest of the Devils are going to have a tough season.

Prediction: 7th in the Metropolitan
Over/Under (79.5 Points): Under
New York Islanders: The Islanders shocked many by not only making the playoffs last year, but taking the top seeded Penguins to 6 games. I believe they benefited from the short season, but it was still an impressive accomplishment. They added even more toughness with Cal Clutterbuck, and brought in Pierre-Marc Bouchard in free agency. They lost their captain Mark Streit to Philadelphia, but quickly turned that role over to John Tavares, who proved last year that he is one of the best in the league. If you’re looking for a fantasy sleeper, look no further than Travis Hamonic, who is quite underrated. I don’t think the Isles makes the playoffs this year with a questionable blue line, but they’re taking steps in the right direction.

Prediction: 5th in the Metropolitan

Over/Under (89.5 Points): Under

New York Rangers: The blue shirts biggest offseason move was not on the bench, but behind the bench, firing John Torterella and bringing in Alain Vigneault to coach the squad. They didn’t buy out Brad Richards, who will have something to prove this season, and I think he’ll have a big year. They were able to sign Derek Stepan, but I believe the biggest offseason re-signing was Ryan McDonagh who is my sleeper pick for the Norris trophy. I think the Rangers could go all the way this season. And of course, they still have Henrik Lundqvist in net. It is the last year of Lundqvist’s contract, and he hopes to have a season somewhere as spectacular as this Swedish commercial he appeared in:

Prediction: 2nd in the Metropolitan
Over/Under (98.5 Points): Over

Ottawa Senators:
The Sens completed a big offseason trade of their own, bringing in Bobby Ryan from Anaheim. He’ll join an explosive first with with Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek. Erik Karlsson is healthy, and so is Craig Anderson. It is going to be interesting to see how the teams reacts to losing longtime captain Daniel Alfredsson to the Red Wings. I think Ottawa could take the next step this season and really contend in the playoffs, but it’s going to require the Ottawa Craig Anderson, and not the Colorado Craig Anderson. Kyle Turris is going to take another step forward, and I think Mika Zibanejad (who rivals Niederreiter for best name) will also impress fans.

Prediction: 2nd in the Atlantic
Over/Under (93.5 Points): Over

Philadephia Flyers: Paul Holmgren certainly likes to keep things interesting in the offseason by throwing out big contracts. This summer they were to Vinny Lecavalier, and Mark Streit. Holmgren also made some quality financial moves, specifically Ray Emery and buying out Ilya Bryzgalov (who didn’t deserve it, but financially it made sense). I think the Flyers are going to be a better team this year. I look for Jakub Voracek to have a big year, and I think the Ray Emery – Steve Mason goalie tandem is going to surprise a lot of people.

Prediction: 4th in the Metropolitan
Over/Under (92.5 Points): Under

Phoenix Coyotes: The Coyotes are now a year removed from their surprise Western Conference Finals appearance, and have made a number of changes this offseason, but the best news the Coyotes got was that they’re staying in Phoenix/Glendale for at least 5 more years, and are under new ownership. They brought in Mike Ribeiro, the 33 year old center who acts like he’s 8. Ribeiro’s ego is going to be an interesting fit with the team first attitude Dave Tippett has installed. Mikkel Boedker is going to be a fantasy asset this year, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson could, and should be a Norris candidate this season. However, I’m not a Mike Smith believer, and I think Phoenix falls short of the playoffs for a second straight year.

Prediction: 5th in the Pacific
Over/Under (85.5 Points): Under

Pittsburgh Penguins: Marc-Andre Fleury and the Penguins struggled again in the playoffs, and are snug against the cap as the season is set to begin. I love that they brought Rob Scuderi back from Los Angeles to help the defense, but I think they made a mistake in not trading Kris Letang, but rather re-signed him to a huge contract (8 years, $56 million). They traded Tyler Kennedy, and signed a bunch of veteran, cheap players to become cap compliant. I will be interested to see what Beau Bennett brings to the table, but I have a feeling he won’t meet the high expectations Pens fans have for him. Bottom line though, Pittsburgh will go as far as their goalies take them.

Prediction: 1st in the Metropolitan
Over/Under (108.5 Points): Under
Avs-Sharks 037

San Jose Sharks:
Last season, I thought San Jose was going to start re-building, but Antti Niemi single-handedly kept them afloat. They’re moving Brent Burns from defense to wing (Joe Thornton’s wing) and they’re counting on some young players to make an impact, specifically Tomas Hertl. If Hertl and Tyler Kennedy can’t provide an offensive spark, and Niemi can’t continue his play from last season, it’s going to be a long season for the Sharks. The feeling I get, is the organization isn’t sure if they should give the cup one more go, or start to re-build. The lack of direction in the organization is going to spell trouble for the Sharks, who will fail to make the playoffs.

Prediction: 6th in the Pacific

Over/Under (94.5 Points): Under

St. Louis Blues: The Blues right now, are the sexy pick to win the Stanley Cup. I’m just not attracted to them, it must be the personality. In all seriousness, the Blues have been busy this offseason. They traded David Perron to Edmonton for Magnus Paajarvi and a pick. They signed free agents Derek Roy and Brendan Morrow. They were able to sign stud defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (again, sweet name), and both Jaroslav Halak and Brain Elliott remain in St. Louis. The Blues probably have the best defense in the league, but for some reason it feels like the Blues are trying to force it. I don’t like the Roy or Morrow signing, and the vibe I’ve gotten from the offseason is that St. Louis has been pressured into making moves by the media/fans. They’ll be good, but they won’t win the cup.

Prediction: 2nd in the Central
Over/Under (99.5 Points): Over

Avs-Lightning 085
Tampa Bay Lightning:
The Lightning went through some drastic changes in the offseason, most notably buying out their captain Vinny Lecavalier. They attempted to replace him with Valtteri Filppula (name=awesome), and drafted arguably the most talented player in the draft at #3 in Jonathan Drouin. I look for defenseman Victor Hedman to put up 40-45 points this year, and Radko Gudas will become a more well known name as he provides a physical force on the Bolts blue line. Of course they still have Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis, but like Pittsburgh, the Lightning will go as far as their goalies take them. It is going to be interesting to see if they lean on Ben Bishop, or Anders Lindback between the pipes. I think both are going to have surprisingly good years.

Prediction: 5th in the Atlantic
Over/Under (88.5 Points): Over

Toronto Maple Leafs: The Leafs finally made the playoffs last year, and gave the Boston Bruins all they could handle, and then some, but ultimately fell short in a heartbreaking loss. They bought out Mikhail Grabovski, and brought in Dave Bolland and David Clarkson to make up his production. They signed Tyler Bozak to a big deal, but now he needs to prove his worth. In a very surprising move, the Leafs traded for Jonathan Bernier despite a great seeason from James Reimer in net. I get the feeling Toronto to going to be the new Vancouver for goalie controversies. The biggest offseason move was being able to re-sign Nazem Kadri and Cody Franson, but are in a tough cap spot heading into the season. I look for Phil Kessel to have a big year, and the Leafs to once again, make the playoffs.

Prediction: 3rd in the Atlantic
Over/Under (96.5 Points): Under

Vancouver Canucks: The Canucks shocked the hockey world by trading Cory Schneider this summer, instead of a frustrated Roberto Luongo. They drafted Bo Horvat with the pick they got from the Devils in the trade, and scooped up Hunter Shinkaruk later in the first round, both will start the season in Vancouver. If David Booth and Ryan Kesler can stay healthy I think the Canucks could surprise a lot of people, maybe making a playoff run. If the Luongo storyline wasn’t enough, the Canucks brought in John Tortorella to coach the team on how to block shots, even saying “so be it” if the Sedin’s get hurt blocking shots. It’s going to be an interesting season in BC.

Prediction: 2nd in the Pacific
Over/Under (95.5 Points): Over

Washington Capitals:
The Caps really found their stride in the second half of the season under Adam Oates. They lost Mike Ribiero, and fan favorite Matt Hendricks, but signed Mikhail Grabovski late in free agency to slot into the #2 center spot. They brought in Martin Erat at the trade deadline to add another scoring touch, and rookie Tom Wilson should be a nice fit on the third line. The defense will make or break the Caps this season, but we all know what they’re capable of in the regular season, it is the playoffs that will define their year.

Prediction: 3rd in the Metropolitan
Over/Under (93.5 Points): Over

Winnipeg Jets: Lastly are the Winnipeg Jets. A few years ago, I was in Phoenix playing golf with a couple from Winnipeg, and they mentioned how the Jets are always in contention, but ultimately leave fans disappointed. I think this will be the case yet again this year. They made a couple of nice trades, bringing in Devin Setoguchi and Michael Frolik to add winger depth. If Jacob Trouba can crack the lineup, I expect him to be right there for the Calder Trophy, even more-so than teammate Mark Scheifele. I don’t think Winnipeg is strong enough down the middle to contend for a playoff spot, and once again the fans will be disappointed come early April.

Prediction: 7th in the Central
Over/Under (82.5 Points): Under


It’s Over!

Posted: January 6, 2013 in Offseason

Oh, this is amazing. It’s like a combination of Christmas morning, and waking up to find that your pet that ran away has come back home. I’ve never been so excited for school to start, because the NHL is back! Without further adieu, lets preview the season.

50 in 50 for Stamkos?

50 in 50 for Stamkos?

Lets start with the Western Conference.

Pacific Division

Anaheim Ducks: Can the Ducks rebound from a poor 2011-2012 season? That answer is going to hinge on two things- a happy Bobby Ryan, and their secondary scoring. Ryan’s name has been heard in trade rumors for over a year now, and even asked to be traded before the lockout. The man who was picked right after Sidney Crosby has been a steady scoring force for the Ducks, and if they were to trade him, they had better get a lot in return if they want to make the playoffs. The Ducks secondary scoring will also be huge. Everyone knows about Getzlaf, Perry, Ryan, and Selanne, but they need other players to step up if they’re going to have a good season. They need an aging Saku Koivu to have another solid year and overall more contributions from the 3rd and 4th lines in 2013. My Prediction: 12th in the West.

Dallas Stars : The Stars are one of the more interesting teams for me. They made big additions in the offseason, bringing in Jaromir Jagr, Ray Whitney, and Derek Roy. I love all these moves, and with a core of Jamie Benn, Loui Eriksson, and Michael Ryder, they look to be a big threat offensively. But can Dallas’ defense hold up and can Kari Lehtonen stay healthy? They lost Sheldon Souray in July, leaving a rather nonchalant group of defensemen. With the defense being nothing special, can Lehtonen stay healthy and get the Stars back to the playoffs? He’s had a history of injury, and I believe the Stars are only going to go as far as he takes them this year. My Prediction: 9th in the West.

Los Angeles Kings: The Kings are largely the same team that won the Cup last June. They didn’t really lose anyone to free agency, and didn’t really sign anyone either. Having said that, the Kings were very average during the regular season last year, and Jonathan Quick is the only reason they won it all. I’m looking forward to seeing what Slava Voynov can do this season. He was quietly very good for the Kings down the stretch last year. But how much of a cup hangover will they have? The lockout certainly will have helped with that, but a pattern of recent cup winners the following year has been of disappointment. Anze Kopitar recently hurt his knee playing in Europe, and while the extent of the injury is not known yet, that would certainly been a huge loss for them. My Prediction: 3rd in the West.

Phoenix Coyotes : The Coyotes made the Western Conference Finals last year, lets not forget that. They are always solid defensively, and somehow find a way to win a lot of their games. But to continue a tradition, I’m going to undervalue the Coyotes this year. They lost Ray Whitney, Shane Doan is a year older, and there is just no way Mike Smith can do it again. They did make a solid acquisition of Zbynek Michalek from Pittsburgh, and I believe Oliver Ekman-Larsson could still be the best player drafted in 2009, a class which includes John Tavares, Matt Duchene, Brayden Schenn, and Victor Hedman. I’m really high on Ekman-Larsson, but I don’t know if Phoenix has enough offensively to get the job done. My Prediction: 13th in the West.

San Jose Sharks : I think the Sharks are done. If it were up to me, I would start rebuilding the Sharks right now. Despite them having a number of good players, I think there core is too old to compete for a Stanley Cup. Does anyone think they have what it takes to compete with the best teams in the league? Trading Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Dan Boyle now certainly wouldn’t be very popular amongst Shark fans, but they could still get a lot of talent in return, and build around Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Brent Burns. They’re a good team now, but if they want to win a cup, I think they need to consider trading some of their older stars. My Prediction: 11th in the West.

Northwest Division

Calgary Flames
: What can I say about the Flames that hasn’t already been said? They insist on trying to win a cup for Iginla and Kiprusoff, but are nowhere close to having a cup contending team. Do I think they have a chance at making the playoffs? Sure, everyone has a chance. They have a better team than I think they get credit for. I simply think they are going to struggle because the Western Conference is going to be very competitive, not because they are poor. Everyone knows about Kiprusoff and Iginla, but Jay Bouwmeester is still solid, despite the criticism he gets based on his salary. Adding Wideman and Hudler were decent moves, if you don’t look at the contracts they signed. And I think they have decent 2nd tier scoring. Having said all those nice things, yes, it’s time to rebuild. My Prediction: 15th in the West.

Colorado Avalanche
: The Avs will be an interesting team this year too. They’re so young they should get better simply by having aged over the summer and lockout, and they signed PA Parenteau, which was a very good move in my opinion, but did they do enough? It seems like a number of teams in the Western conference improved more the Avs in the offseason (Dallas, Columbus, Edmonton, Minnesota) and those are all teams that didn’t make the playoffs last year. I think losing Jay McClement is really going to hurt the Avs, and I think it was a mistake not signing Peter Mueller. However, Semyon Varlamov is having a great year in Russia, and Duchene is healthy, but like I said, I’m just not sure they did enough to get into the playoffs. My Prediction: 8th in the West.

Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers had the #1 pick again this summer, and are looking pretty strong going into the shortened season. So many good, young players: Hall, Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins, Yakupov, Gagner, Paajarvi, Lander, and then if healthy Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff will be solid contributors, and to top all of that off, they luck into signing Justin Schultz after his classless move in Anaheim. The consensus seems to be that the Oilers will be much better than previous seasons, but I’ll take it a step further, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this team make a run in the playoffs. If Devan Dubnyk can have a solid year, this team is going to be dangerous. My Prediction: 6th in the West.

Minnesota Wild : The Wild received a lot of talk during the lockout after signing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to huge contracts. The Wild are going to be better next year with the signing of those, and they have a very solid prospect base coming up, but they still have their holes. After Suter, there is not a ton of talent on the blue line, and if goalie Niklas Backstrom struggles for any reason, their other options are not great. I do really like what they have going offensively with Koivu, Parise, Heatley, and Setoguchi, but I’m not convinced they are a lock for the playoffs like a lot of people seem to think. My Prediction: 10th in the West.

Vancouver Canucks: The Canucks should continue to be one of the best teams in the Western conference this season. The biggest change will be in goal, where they will be turning to Cory Schneider in favor of Roberto Luongo. I’ve always thought Luongo received a lot of unfair criticism and it will be interesting to see if Vancouver ships him to another team, or maybe uses one of the amnesty buyouts on him. I still think it was a poor decision to trade Cody Hodgson, but Vancouver is in win now mode, and they look at strong as ever. They did spend a lot of money on Jason Garrison over the summer which I don’t think was a great move, but I don’t see a lot of weakness on their roster. I believe Ryan Kesler is going to have a bounce back year too, which will help them make a run at a 3rd straight Presidents Trophy. My Prediction: 1st in the West.

Central Division

Chicago Blackhawks: A year ago, people were talking about how the Blackhawks were poised to make another run at the Stanley Cup, but shaky goaltending led to a first round exit from the playoffs. I still believe in Corey Crawford, and I think the Blackhawks could be a bit of an under the radar team to win the cup this year. They’ve got the talent offensively, they have a strong defense, a lot really just depends on how well Crawford holds up between the pipes. I think Patrick Kane is going to have a big year, I’m also high on Duncan Keith this year, and of course you still have Toews, Hossa, Sharp, Bolland, and Seabrook. The Blackhawks should be a very dangerous team this year. My Prediction: 2nd in the West.

Columbus Blue Jackets
: I actually think the Blue Jackets are going to be better this year. I like the moves they made in the offseason. To start, I thought bringing in Sergei Bobrovsky was a great move. He’s underrated in my opinion, and he has a solid defense around him. I’m a big believer in Jack Johnson, I think James Wisniewski is going to have a better year, and Fedor Tyutin, and Nikita Nikitin are both underrated. That’s a solid defensive core. I think they did decent in the trade with the Rangers, and I liked the trade for Nick Foligno. Overall, I don’t think Columbus is going to be the worst team in the league this year. My Prediction: 14th in the West.

Detroit Red Wings: And the post Nicklas Lidstrom era begins. The Wings really struggled without Lidstrom in the lineup last year, so it will be very interesting to see how they fare this year. They did get better by bringing in a better backup goalie (Jonas Gustavsson) and Carlo Colaiacovo, but there is no way to replace what they’re losing. They still have Datsyuk and Zetterberg and a strong supporting cast, but I’m fulling expecting a dip in the number of wins. The team is getting older, and with what I would imagine is going to be a lot of back to back games, that could hurt them in the shortened season. And if there you were thinking about rooting for them, remember, they still have Todd Bertuzzi. My Prediction: 7th in the West.

Nashville Predators: It was quite the offseason for the Preds. They lost Ryan Suter, and almost lost Shea Weber. Nashville retained their captain after matching a huge 14 year, $110 million offer sheet from the Flyers. They also have one of the best, if not the best goalie in the NHL, in Pekka Rinne. They are a lot like the Coyotes, you always tell yourself this is the year they have a bad year, and are going to miss the playoffs, but come April they always seem to make it. They lost some nice players with Suter, backup goaltender Anders Lindback, and Jordin Tootoo, but it’s too hard to bet against them. They don’t really have a star on offense, but Barry Trotz just continues to get the job done. My Prediction: 5th in the West.

St. Louis Blues: The Blues were the biggest surprise in the Western Conference last year, after firing their coach early and bringing in Ken Hitchcock, they quickly rose to the top of the Central division. Look for Alex Pietrangelo to continue to become one of the best defensemen in the NHL, as well as for Kevin Shattenkirk to continue to improve. The Blues have a lot of solid offensive players as well: David Backes, TJ Oshie, David Perron, Andy McDonald…and the list goes on. However, maybe the strongest part of the team is the goaltending. Halak is one of the best in the league, but look for Brian Elliott is have a drop in production. I’m not saying he can’t be effective, but I expect his numbers to come back down to earth. In fact, I expect the Blues as a whole to come back down to earth a little. They’re still a very good team, but I think they overachieved a little in the regular season last year. My Prediction: 4th in the West.

Eastern Conference

Southeast Division

Carolina Hurricanes
: I get to start off the Eastern Conference with probably the most interesting team in the conference this year. They made some bold moves in the offseason, trading for Jordan Staal, and signing Alex Semin. Add in Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner, Chad Larose, and Jussi Jokinen and you understand why Caneiacs are excited to see the offensive show this team could put on. But the big question for the Hurricanes is will the blue liners hold up. The defensive core of this team is nothing to write home about, and while Cam Ward will keep them in games, I don’t know if they can make the playoffs with their current D. My Prediction: 10th in the East

Florida Panthers: The Panthers won the division last year. That’s almost hard to believe. They are another team that made some interesting moves over the offseason. They lost Jason Garrison, but for what he got in Vancouver, I can’t say I blame them. I love the Peter Mueller signing. He is finally healthy, and easily could turn into Tomas Fleischmann 2.0. I’m also excited to see what happens in goal for the Panthers. Jose Theodore was solid last year, but everyone knows Jacob Markstrom’s time is coming. I’ve been hearing about this kid for a while, and really am looking forward to seeing what he can do. But will that permanent role on the Panthers come in 2013? The Panthers are a tough team to forecast, they are going in the right direction, but there are a lot of teams that have improved in the east. My Prediction: 8th in the East.

Tampa Bay Lightning
: The Southeast division is full of intriguing story lines! I’m very interested to see how Tampa fares this year. I love the Anders Lindback trade, I think he’s going to be a very good goalie for them. They also solidified the blue line by bringing in Matt Carle and Sami Salo. And of course they still have Steven Stamkos, Marty St. Louis, Vinny Lecavalier, and Victor Hedman. This also brings me to my annual, “This is the real Lecavalier returns to form” prediction. He’s due, and has a good supporting cast! It’ll be interesting to see how Teddy Purcell continues to develop, and if Ryan Malone can stay healthy. This team was a game away from the Stanley Cup finals 2 years ago, and with the defensive and netminding additions, they could make another playoff run. My Prediction: 3rd in the East.

Washington Capitals: The story lines just continue with Washington! Can Braden Holtby become the #1 goalie we saw in the playoffs last year? How will Mike Ribeiro fit in on the 2nd line? Will the Capitals finally make a run in the playoffs? The Southeast is not the cakewalk it was for them a couple of years ago. I don’t like the Ribeiro move, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it works out really well. I think throwing another guy on that team with a big ego could be a very bad decision, but they really needed a 2nd line center, and he should be productive. An under the radar signing is Wojtek Wolski. Another guy with a big ego, but after the trade to Florida last year, he was semi productive, and I think he will have a chip on his shoulder. The biggest question mark for the Caps is what kind of goaltending they’ll get. If Holtby regresses, they could be in some trouble. My Prediction: 5th in the East.

Winnipeg Jets: Winnipeg is the least interesting team in the division by far, for me. They didn’t make any huge splash in free agency but I don’t think the Olli Jokinen signing will be too bad. I think the biggest hurdle for the Jets could be there work ethic/decision making. The offseason was a rough one for some of the Jets biggest names. Evander Kane was cut from his KHL team, there were questions about Dustin Byfuglien’s physique (Kane’s too), and goaltender Onderj Pavelec was arrested for DUI in the Czech Republic. Those are not the kind of offseason updates I would want to hear if I was a Jets fan. With the improved division, I can’t see the Jets making the playoffs. My Prediction: 14th in the East.

Atlantic Division

New Jersey Devils: The winner of the Eastern conference last year was in the headlines quite a bit during the offseason, but mostly for the loss of captain Zach Parise. The Devils really didn’t get anyone of note in the offseason either making the Parise loss even worse. I do believe the Ilya Kovalchuk is going to have a big year, much like some of his in Atlanta, but with Martin Brodeur getting another year older (see Dwayne Roloson) and the Devils playing so many tough division games, it could be a long, short season for New Jersey. I am interested in how Adam Larsson, and Adam Henrique continue to develop, and a lot of the Devils success this year could depend on them, and the health of Travis Zajac. My Prediction: 7th in the East.

New York Islanders: The Islanders also made some nice additions. They made a nice trade for Lubomir Visnovsky, and picked up Brad Boyes. They also have some decent pieces in place with Tavares, Matt Moulson, and Michael Grabner. But Boyes is going to have to return to his 40 goal scoring self, and guys like Moulson, Grabner, and Kyle Okposo are all going to need huge years if the Islanders are going to see the playoffs this year. The future is bright on Long Island (and Brooklyn) though, and it will be interesting to see how prospects Ryan Strome, and Nino Niederreiter factor into the 2013 squad. My Prediction: 15th in the East.

New York Rangers: The biggest move of the offseason was Rick Nash going from the Blue Jackets, to the blue shirts. Nash, for the first time in a while, maybe even his NHL career, will be surrounded with all star talent and a winning team. Nash will join Brad Richards, Marian Gaborik, Ryan Callahan, Chris Kreider, Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, and Henrik Lundqvist to form one of the most lethal all around teams in the NHL. The shortened season could hurt the Rangers as the chemistry with Nash will probably not be there right away, but adding Nash to a solid offensive group, a strong defensive core, and maybe the best goalie in the league means the Rangers are prime for a long playoff run. My Prediction: 1st in the East.

Philadelphia Flyers: The powerhouse teams in the Atlantic division just keep coming. The Flyers biggest offseason move was bringing in Luke Schenn to join forces with his brother and add depth at defense. The questions for the Flyers are not about their offense, which sports a solid group including: Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, Danny Briere, Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, and Matt Read, but rather the defense and goaltending. Schenn certainly will help, and if they got Chris Pronger back (unlikely) they would be all but set for a playoff run. Some (all) Flyer fans seem to question Ilya Bryzgalov in net, but he will be fine! He actually had a much better year than people give him credit for (2.48 GAA, .909 save percentage) and really had a strong end to the season before that odd playoff series with Pittsburgh. My Prediction: 6th in the East.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Healthy Sidney Crosby, check. Add him to a team that includes Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Chris Kunitz, Brandon Sutter, Pascal Dupuis, Kris Letang, Brooks Orpik and Marc-Andre Fleury, and you get one of the best lineups in the NHL. When this team is healthy it makes you wonder who is going to stop them. And that is a very valid question. Fleury is nowhere near at bad as everyone makes him out to be after the Flyers playoff series. He could come into the season with a chip on his shoulder too. I don’t really see a weakness on this team, they have the biggest stars in the NHL, and quality role players (Kennedy, Sutter, Niskanen etc.) When healthy, I feel like this is the last team another team would want to play in the playoffs. My Prediction: 4th in the East.

Northeast Division

Boston Bruins: Boston won the cup 2 years ago, and really haven’t lost that many pieces from that team. Tim Thomas decided to quit on his team, but Tuukka Rask is more than capable of being the starting goalie. Tyler Seguin will have another year under his belt for the B’s, and I think David Krejci will have an even better year, toss than in with “Mr. Everything” Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara on the blue line, and Boston could be as dangerous as ever. I think Boston’s biggest strength is their depth. I’ve named 5 players already and haven’t even named Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, Nathan Horton, or Johnny Boychuk. The Bruins have the defense and physicality to match up with any team, but can they keep up with a Pittsburgh, New York or Philadelphia offensively? I don’t think so, but solid years from Seguin, Krejci and Lucic could make it a lot closer. My Prediction: 2nd in the East.

Buffalo Sabres: Before last season started, people were talking about Buffalo as a potential Stanley Cup team, well 1 season, and 1 Ville Leino contract later and the optimism has vanished. Sure, the Sabres could buy out Leino free of the cap space charge, but I don’t know if Buffalo got any better in the offseason. Steve Ott was their biggest offseason acquisition, and will certainly add toughness and grit in response to some soft play last year *cough Lucic/Miller* but I don’t like the trade. I’m big on Derek Roy, and I don’t see where Buffalo’s offense is going to come from. I think Jason Pominville overachieved last year, and Vanek also had a decent year. Cody Hodgson will help, and Drew Stafford needs to bounce back, but with many quality teams in the east, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them miss the playoffs again. Also, will the real Ryan Miller please stand up? The hero of the 2010 Winter Olympics probably wouldn’t even make the team if the games were this year (Jimmy Howard, Jonathan Quick, Cory Schneider). My Prediction: 9th in the East.

Montreal Canadiens: After a very disappointing campaign last season, the Canadiens didn’t change much. I think there biggest move was drafting Alex Galchenyuk. Injuries did influence the poor results last year, but couldn’t you say that about every team? They should be able to rid themselves of the infamous Scott Gomez contract, and young players like PK Subban, Lars Eller, Max Pacioretty, David Desharnais, and Louis Leblanc should continue to improve simply by aging and developing their skills, but I’m not sure that will be enough for the Habs to contend for the playoffs. Simply put, they will go as far as Carey Price takes them. My Prediction: 12th in the East.

Ottawa Senators: The Senators were supposed to be in rebuilding mode, but fought their way into the playoffs last year, and took the Rangers to the brink in a 7 game series, but will they continue to improve? They lost some decent defensive players from last year (Filip Kuba, Matt Gilroy, Matt Carkner) and didn’t replace them with much better (Mike Lundin, Marc Methot) but Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson is coming back, and so is Jason Spezza, who was 4th in the NHL in scoring last year. Who is going to play goalie for the Sens? Craig Anderson is the easy choice, but Ben Bishop and Robin Lehner both deserve a shot in my opinion. If Kyle Turris can keep improving and put up a 50 or 60 point season, I think they have a real shot at returning to the playoffs. My Prediction: 11th in the East.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Is it an omen, that without planning it at all, the Maple Leafs are the last team on this list? All kidding aside, I like the most the Leafs made…after all, this is their year, right? I like the trade that brought in JVR, but I think playing him at center would be a mistake. Also bringing in Jay McClement was a good move for the Leaf’s PK. The biggest question the Maple Leafs have is in goal. Will they trade for Luongo? Maybe they give Scrivens a chance at the starting role. I’m also looking forward to seeing how Phil Kessel continues to develop. He takes WAY too much flack for something that he had no control of. AND HE’S A GOOD PLAYER. By no means, right now, has Boston won that trade. Kessel was 6th in the NHL in both goals and points last year, without a #1 center! If nothing else, it is always fun to watch the Toronto media overreact to everything the team does. My Prediction: 13th in the East.

If you are keeping track of the lockout on playing cards, it’s about time to open a new pack. As the lockout enters its 52nd day, more and more people seem to be swearing off the NHL for good. All November games have been canceled, the Winter Classic has been axed, and both sides have barely met in the past month. But you’ll be back, you’ll all be back, and it’s because of the Stanley Cup.

It’s easy to see why fans are growing frustrated with the NHL. And with the World Series ending quickly, the lack of hockey is becoming more and more prevalent. But where will hockey fans turn? The NBA? But do more points really equal more fun?
While there might be some allure to a hockey fan of a game between the Blue Jackets and Islanders (Still getting to see Tavares, Jack Johnson, Rick DiPietro sitting in the press box, hurt) That same allure is not going to be there for a game between the Milwaukee Bucks and Charlotte Bobcats. And watching the Lakers, Heat, and Thunder is better, is it really that fun to watch 10 players not play defense for 75% of the game? The bottom line is I don’t think NBA players have the heart on a night to night basis to attract hockey fans for good.

How about the NFL? It is the most popular sport in the US after all. But when roughly 85% of games fall on 1 day of the week, that leaves the average fan a lot of time during the week without competition. How are fans suppose to fill that void? You can tweak your fantasy lineups, talk about how great your team’s kicker is and what kind of toothpaste Tim Tebow uses all you want, you are still going to have time on your hands. The 6 day gap of no competition is quite the gap for a traditional hockey fan. The biggest adjustment for hockey fans to football however, is the lack of action. You might see a 4 hour game, but you’re probably getting 20-30 minutes of actual, plays are being run, football. I think for a casual hockey fan, the overall lack of action in football, and the 16 game season would be too many/big negatives to keep a fan away from the NHL for good.

But lets say all of this happened. This casual fan decides to become a Memphis Grizzlies fan, and becomes the 8th Jacksonville Jaguars fan, and decides to take up a hobby; coin collecting, perhaps. Well, say this all happens, and then a collective bargaining agreement is reaching. However, this casual fans stays strong to his word and focuses on other things. Well, come June, when hockey highlights find there way onto Sportscenter, I believe this casual fan will see them, hear about them, wonder about them, enough to turn on a game. It is the finals after all.

And what will they see? They will see 2 teams, 46 players, give their all to win a 35 pound cup. They will play hurt, they will put their bodies in the way of 100mph slapshots, all for a chance to win the Stanley Cup. There is a dedication level in hockey, that is unparalleled in sports, and that is no better shown, then during the Stanley Cup Finals. I believe the casual fan sticks around for the finals, to see the one moment, where the captain finally can grab the cup, and hoist it above their head in victory. There is no comparison is sports for that moment. You can’t replace that moment with something else. The ultimate challenge of your physical and mental abilities is capped off with one of the most iconic moments in any given sports year. A perfect example of this: 2003 Stanley Cup Finals, Paul Kariya, Scott Stevens. This is a great 4 minute video, and it is something you don’t see in any other sport.
That is exactly why the casual fan will be back.

Lets face it, the NHL is like cigarette company. You know they are exploiting you for your money, they don’t care about your feelings or your health, as long as they have your money. You know the relationship is bad, but you just can’t get away. The only way to get of cigarette companies is to stop smoking. Not smoke once a week, not smoke once a month, but just stop.

I know the people saying they are swearing off the NHL will be back, because there are too many influences to go back. The fact that they are telling people they are going to stop supporting the NHL just shows that they still care about the NHL. It’s like buying stock in a cigarette company, and then saying you’re going to quit. Sure it might happen, but I highly doubt it.

Fans are angry, and rightfully so, the lockout sucks, but lets be honest, when the puck does drop, and the cup is raised, you’ll be watching. Lets just hope we don’t burn through another deck of playing cards.

With an NHL lockout less than a week away, the collective bargaining agreement has been a hot button topic lately. A lot of fans are behind the players and their fight for an equal share of money, but I can’t say that I am. Having said that, I’m not backing the owners either, I am simply rooting for an agreement.
Let me ask you this question: If you heard right now that an agreement was reached, and the season was going to start on time with no lockout, would you care what the deal was? Honestly, other than if the new CBA had longer entry level contracts, and 10 years until unrestricted free agency, both of which I think are bad ideas, I don’t think I would really care what the deal is. But even if lengths of contracts and free agency changed, I would get use to it, and wouldn’t complain about it because I would be able to watch hockey in October. Lower salary cap, lower percentage of revenues for the players, less guaranteed money…it doesn’t matter to me, every team has to abide by the same rules.

I don’t know a ton about the big issues with the CBA, but I feel like the percent of revenue going to each side, and revenue sharing throughout the league are what is keeping a deal from being done. I know this sounds like an uninformed way to argue, but what it boils down to is millionaires arguing with billionaires over money. Lets say every NHL player had to play for a salary of $1 Million every year, something the players would never agree to, as fans and players of the game, wouldn’t you switch jobs with them in an instant. The bottom line is, I don’t care where the money goes, I just want to see hockey being played.

Here is another question for you: If you could choose between missing another full NHL season, but having the players win the “CBA battle” next summer, or have the owners win right now, which one would you pick? For me it is easy, I want to see hockey, I want to see the winter classic, I want to see playoff hockey, and next June I want to see someone lift the Stanley Cup above their head in joy.

Going into every season there are story lines, but this season in particular there are so many intriguing stories. How will the Red Wings fare without Nick Lidstrom? What kind of seasons will the new look Wild and Hurricanes have? Will the Blue Jackets reach 10 wins (I kid, I kid)? Will the Stars make the playoffs with the additions of Jagr, Whitney, and Roy? Will Edmonton show progress after having the first overall pick in the draft for the last 3 years? Can Sidney Crosby stay healthy? These are just the biggest ones too! I many so many questions! And what about fantasy hockey and the challenge and pleasure of sculpting the best team in your league, what if that doesn’t happen because there is no NHL this year?

The question you have to ask yourself is, do you really want the players to get the best possible deal, or do you just want a hockey season this year?

As July 1 nears, Avs fans everywhere are waiting for the team to start throwing money into the free agent pool. It is an exciting time to be a fan. In one day, your favorite team can add key pieces without giving up any players or prospects. But I personally am hoping the Avs wait one more year before going after any big free agents.

Many Avs fans are hoping the team makes a serious run at Zach Parise. There is a lot to like about him: his age, his ability, and what position he plays, but if the Avs are going to spend $7 Million+ for one player, I’m hoping they wait one more year.

To be honest, the free agent class of 2012 is pretty weak in my opinion. After Parise, Ryan Suter, and Alex Semin, there are really not too many team changers out there. Sure adding someone like Shane Doan, Ray Whitney, or PA Parenteau would be nice, but they are not going to change the team into instant contenders for the Stanley Cup.

I do hope the Avs go out and sign a second tier player like Whitney, but the one thing I don’t want to see, is the Avs waste a lot of their cap space on this free agent class. Since it is unlikely that Parise, Suter, or Semin sign with the Avs, I don’t want to see the Avs throw money at the problem, and overpay second tier players, like the Buffalo Sabres did last summer.

If you take a look at the 2013 unrestricted free agent list, you will see names like Jarome Iginla, Patrik Elias, Ryan Getzlaf, Corry Perry, Andy McDonald, Joffrey Lupul, Scott Hartnell, Derek Roy, Jordan Staal, Travis Zajac, and Nathan Horton, and those are just the forwards. Now I know that some of those players will likely reach a deal with their current teams over the next 12 months, but you know that some are going to see the open market in a year. Most (if not all) of those players would be upgrades over the current UFA’s that the Avs have a chance of signing in a couple of days. That is why I think the Avs should once again be around the cap floor come October.

Notable defensemen include: Kimmo Timonen, Lubomir Visnovsky, Mark Streit, Ryan Whitney, Tobias Enstrom, and Alex Edler. Once again, some players will resign sometime in the next year, but some will wait to see what everyone has to offer.

How great would it be to see a 28 year old Corry Perry in an Avs uniform next summer?

All in all, the 2013 class is much deeper than the current crop of UFA’s. The Avs should also be one year closer to contending for a title as players like Matt Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly, Erik Johnson, and Semyon Varlamov will have another year of development and growth under their belt. This should mean that it would be easier to attract UFA’s to Colorado than it currently is, which means it might not be as expensive as it would be this year.

There is another big reason why the Avs should wait another year to sign a big name free agent, and it is the collective bargaining agreement ends in September, and no one knows what the new one will look like. There could be changes to how player contracts work, especially the contracts with a lot of money and years involved, which is exactly the kind of contract the Avs would have to throw out there in order to land Parise, Suter, or Semin this year.

I know it is frustrating to see your team not spending money on free agents, but I believe the smart thing for the Avs to do is to add a piece here and there, but wait one more year before they rise from the cap floor and start trying to sign big name free agents.

A lot has happened since my last post, but the biggest has been the Avs resigning Matt Duchene.

The question was not, would Duchene be back, but rather, for how much? 2 Years, and $7 Million was the contract Duchene signed, and it certainly was a great one. I have been pretty critical of Duchene over the past 12 months, but this contract is making me rethink things.

I was certain that Duchene was going to demand a huge contract, as an entitled feeling, cocky prodigy, 21 year old, but wow, he surprised me. He could have looked at John Tavares’ contract and asked for $5 Million a year, but Duchene took less because he wants to earn it. He had a bad year last year, and I think he figured he should want to earn his big contract. This single contract has completely changed my opinion of Duchene…for now.

Duchene’s contract also helps the Avs for a couple of different reasons. First, the cap hit is low which allows the team to surround him with talent. Second, and more importantly in my eyes, when the contract is up, Duchene will still be a restricted free agent, which means if the Avs want, there will be at least one more contract with the Avs after this one expires. He will ultimately not have a choice of teams for at least one more contract after his current one expires.

As smart as the Duchene contract was, the Avs seem to have canceled it out with dumb decisions regarding Jay McClement and Peter Mueller, but we’ll start with McClement.

The Avs have made the decision not to resign Jay, which is just a terrible move in my opinion. He was a huge reason why Colorado’s PK went from 30th to 12th this past year, and was a great third/fourth line center. Unless McClement was asking for WAYY too much money, I can’t understand why the Avs wouldn’t bring this guy back. There is no way any prospect within the organization can bring to the table what Jay Mc brought, and I don’t think there is anyone in free agency who would be an upgrade from McClement in that roll. Don’t be surprised if McClement goes back to St. Louis. It was tough for him after the trade to Denver, and I would guess he misses the gateway arch.

This next news just came out today, and it’s a tough pill to swallow for me, and I believe most Avs fans. Peter Mueller was not given a qualifying offer. What does that mean? It means that he will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Does that mean the Avs won’t resign him? Not necessarily, but I have a bad feeling. We saw this happen last year too, an injury prone winger is not resigned, and goes on to thrive in a different enviroment…Tomas Fleischmann anyone?

Peter Mueller was a rallying point for Avs fans over the past 2 years. However the team was doing on the ice, winning or losing, Avs fans were rooting for Mueller to get back on the ice. Not only to help the team, but for himself to be able to continue to do the thing he loves. After a year and a half, he finally comes back and has puts up 16 points in 32 games. Avs fans said, “Just wait until he has a whole summer to train and is healthy, and see what he does next year.” Now it appears that whatever happens, it won’t be in an Avs uniform.

The best analogy I can think of, is an author writing a book where the protagonist wants to accomplish something, but some “demon” is holding him back, finally the protagonist defeats his foe and…..the book ends. BUT WHAT ABOUT HIS GOALS? WILL HE SUCCEED? That’s a terrible way to finish a story, it’s sad, but it looks like the final chapter has been written in Peter Mueller’s Avalanche career.

I’m going to hit the sack now, but I’ll be writing a post soon about why the Avs should NOT spend money on free agents this offseason, so keep checking back for an update!

Since the offseason has started, the Avs have begun to sign their free agents, but still have a lot of decisions to make. Colorado first opened their checkbook to the captain, Milan Hejduk. He signed a 1 year deal worth $2 Million. It was a quality move for the Avs, and I’m glad to see Hejduk coming back.

Next, the Avs signed Cody McLeod, signing him to a 3 year, $3.45 Million contract. McLeod had a decent year for the Avs, but I think 3 years is a bit excessive. I can’t imagine that 2 or 3 years from now there will be a roster spot for him, so it makes me wonder why they would sign him for that long. The cap hit is so small however, that I do not think it is a big deal.

The Avs continued spending and made a couple of bold moves by signing David Jones to a 4 year, $16 Million contract, and followed that up by giving Matt Hunwick a 2 year, $3.2 Million deal. Both deals initially came as a surprise for different reasons, but I like both signings. Lets start with Jones’ contract…

At first, I thought $4 Million dollars a year for David Jones was a bit excessive, but he has averaged 23.5 goals a year over the past two seasons and is still only 27 years old. And then I looked at unrestricted right wingers that the Avs could sign, and I thought it was an even better deal. The slim pickings at RW include: Teemu Selanne (Not happening), Shane Doan (Not happening), Brad Boyes, Jamie Langenbrunner, and PA Parenteau. Realistically, because the Avs have no chance at Selanne or Doan, I would rather have Jones over most (if not all) the unrestricted RW’s out there. I wouldn’t mind seeing the Avs make a run at Parenteau, but making sure they got Jones back with this free agent class is important.

I like the Matt Hunwick signing because…well, he was actually pretty good last year. People were quick to point out how bad Hunwick was after the trade first happened, myself included, but he was solid this year, and you can never have enough NHL caliber defensemen. I hope and believe that Hunwick will spend a lot more time in the starting lineup next fall.

But, the Avs still have A LOT to do. They have a ton of restricted free agents to sign that will shape the team for years to come. The list of RFA’s includes:

Matt Duchene: 5 years, $25 Million/ Whatever O’Reilly Gets
Ryan O’Reilly: 5 years, $25 Million/ Whatever Duchene gets
Peter Mueller: 2 years, $5 Million
Steve Downie: 3 years, $8.5 Million
Jamie McGinn: 3 years, $8.5 Million
Erik Johnson: 5 years, $25 Million

Those are clearly just guesses at this point, but I think those 6 players are locks to be signed for next year. The Avs also have a couple unrestricted free agents they could sign. Jay McClement and Shane O’Brien are the two remaining players that could sign anywhere they please, and I’m sure the Avs will try and bring them both back.

Jay McClement added soooo much to the Avs. Not only was he a leader on the ice (wore an “A”, great penalty killer) but also helped a lot of the players grow off the ice. The Avs really need to resign this guy.

Shane O’Brien on the other hand, is rather disposable in my opinion. I hope the Avs re-sign the guy for next year, but I also hope they then proceed to trade him sometime during the season. I know what you’re saying, “But he’s a great guy in the locker room, stands up for his teammates on the ice, everyone loves him.” But the Avs already have 6 defensemen I would rather see out there: Johnson, Hejda, O’Byrne, Wilson, Hunwick, Elliott/Barrie. I was not a fan of Elliott or Barrie last year, but after a year of development I expect them to be a lot better come October. I do think the Avs should sign Shane O’Brien, as an insurance policy, but I would also not be too upset to see him traded during the season.

I would love to see Ray Whitney wearing the burgundy and blue next fall

After signing the 6 RFA’s, roughly $23.25 Million to the cap next year, and then adding another $10? Million for the 2 UFA’s and the rest of the RFA’s (Wilson, Olver, Porter?) that leaves the Avs roughly $8 Million below the cap for free agency. Wow, that adds up quickly. I don’t think the Avs should waste is all on a guy like Parise or Semin, but here are a few players I would like to see the Avs go after, for the right price:

Ray Whitney: 2 years, $3-4 Million per year
Steve Sullivan: 1-2 years, $2.25 Million per year
Jiri Hudler: 2 years, $2-3 Million per year

The Avs need to add veterans to help out their young guys, and I would be stoked to see the Avs land any of those players. It should be an exciting next couple of weeks for the organization with the draft coming up, players getting next contracts, and of course free agency. Stay tuned, it should be fun!