2014-15 NHL Season Predictions


2015 NHL PredictionsEvery year around this time, hockey poolies convene in annual drafts to select their players who will earn them bragging rights for hockey pool supremacy.  Also during this time, hockey fans and so called hockey experts throw their two cents in and make their pre-season NHL predictions.  Well the new NHL season is days away from starting. The Hockey Fanatic again joins the mass array of hockey fans predicting the best of  the best and who will be the also rans of the next NHL season.   Here’s our educated guess as to who will finish at the top of each division, and ultimately who will win the Stanley Cup.

2014-15 NHL Season Predictions

First off, the Hockey Fanatic feels that we will again see dominance in the West and unlike previous seasons, we expect some unexpected falls from grace with a couple NHL teams who have dominated in recent years.  Here is our predictions for how each of the NHL divisions will finish.

Eastern Conference

Metropolitan Division

  1. New York Rangers
  2. Pittsburgh Penguins
  3. Washington Capitals
  4. New York Islanders
  5. New Jersey Devils
  6. Philadelphia Flyers
  7. Columbus Blue Jackets
  8. Carolina Hurricanes

Pittsburgh needs goaltending, they could be one of the teams that begins their fall from grace although a healthy Sidney Crosby may say otherwise.  We expect the Washington Capitals to perform much better under new head coach Barry Trotz.  Has Ovie checked out?  Columbus and Philly are two teams that cold fluctuate the most.  The Islanders could have a nice season with a healthy John Tavares and a good start to the season.

Atlantic Division

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

We think that this is the year that Detroit misses the post season in like forever.  Many are liking how Tampa Bay looks, but it remains to be seen how Stamkos will perform without Marty St. Louis by his side for a full season.  This could be the year that Montreal brings a Cup back to Canada.  This will be the year of Carey Price and PK Subban.  Toronto will be better but we think Randy Carlyle will be fired by December.  Ottawa will play tough but just doesn’t have all of the pieces they need to contend with the big boys.  Boston is just a hardworking team that may surprise some by offering up Zdeno Chara as trade bait at some point in the next couple of seasons.  Florida should be better but won’t, even Booby Lu won;t help them win enough games to get into the post season.

Western Conference

Central Division

  1. Chicago Blackhawks
  2. St. Louis Blues
  3. Dallas Stars
  4. Colorado Avalanche
  5. Minnesota Wild
  6. Winnipeg Jets
  7. Nashville Predators

The Blackhawks are awesome.  If they stay injury free they will have a tremendous season and we’ll be hearing a lot of Cheslea Dagger.  Could this finally be the year of the St. Louis Blues?  They have a lot of the key components of being a contender.  For our money the team that made the greatest improvements in the off season were the Dallas Stars.  We think that Jamie Benn is still underrated.  Dallas could be a dark horse come playoff time.  On paper the Avs look stacked, however we think that their goaltending will be less than stellar this season.  Jarome Iginla is a nice addition but he played on a good Bruins team last season, hard to say how much he’ll help the Avs this season.  Minnesota will be tough to play against but goaltending could be an issue.  The poor Jets will be  a hardworking bunch but they simply lack the superstar player and top notch goalie top get them to the post season.  The Preds will not score a lot of goals and with Barry Trotz gone may be in a transition year.

Pacific Division

  1. Anaheim Ducks
  2. Los Angeles Kings
  3. San Jose Sharks
  4. Arizona Coyotes
  5. Vancouver Canucks
  6. Edmonton Oilers
  7. Calgary Flames

Man the Canadian teams are in tough in this Division.  The Anaheim Ducks are going to be a tough team to beat this season as are the defending champions the Los Angeles Kings, but when you are the Stanley Cup champs everyone is gunning for you every night.  This is a do or die year for the San Jose Sharks, not only do they have to get into the playoffs but they have to win at least two rounds.  They were our pick to win it all last year but their colossal collapse to the Kings in round one last spring put an end to that.  Do they have something to prove or will they dismantle by mid-season?  Will Joe Thornton be a Ranger by the trade deadline?  Vancouver could finish as worse as sixth if they get off to a slow start.  How will Ryan Miller perform in the fishbowl?  He’s not Roberto Luongo.  What has Miller won in his pro career?  A couple of silver medals?  Will it be enough.  No Kesler means less grit.  You have to think that the Sedins will have a better year but they will again need to be point per game players if the Canucks are to make the playoffs, which we are predicting they won’t.  We are a long-time fans of the Edmonton Oilers but the management team in that town is terrible.  The Oilers have better goaltending and have gotten a little bigger, but they have a porous defense and lack a bonafide #2 centerman.  This could be another long season.  They should be a little better and at least shouldn’t be out of the playoff picture five weeks into the season, but it will take a minor miracle for these boys to make the playoffs this season.  In fact I am so superstitious that this is the first time in 8 seasons that I am not getting the Center Ice package to watch all of the Oiler games.  I can’t stand to watch a team lose so much.  The Flames are on the downswing and although they are a hard working bunch they will have little fizzle this season.  Could be in the running for the Connor McDavid sweepstakes come June.

As for Stanley Cup predictions.  Our final four picks are:  From the East:  Tampa Bay and Montreal, From the West:  Chicago and Los Angeles.  Out pick for the Stanley Cup winner:  Chicago Blackhawks.

Enjoy the season hockey fans.

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20 NHL Players to Watch in the 2014-2015 Season


With training camps set to open later this week and with rookie camps under way, we thought that we would evaluate some of the players to watch this upcoming NHL season.  Being based in the West we get a little tired of hearing about the Eastern based teams all of the time so our list may be a little biased towards players based on Western teams.  Quite honestly the West has provided the greatest entertainment value in recent years with multiple Stanley Cup championships for both the Los Angeles Kings and the Chicago Blackhawks.

20 NHL Players to Watch

There is some great young talent in the game.  Here is a look at some of the players to watch in the 2014-2015 NHL season.  For all of you hockey poolies out there, these are the players you might want to take a risk on if they are available in your hockey pool.

  1. Tyler Seguin – Dallas Stars -  Boston gave up on this guy way too early.  Yes he is a bit of a free spirit and yes he may have a slight ego, but he’s also got the skills to back it up.  84 points in 80 games last season with the Stars, Seguin could even score more than the 37 goals he potted last season.  With the addition of forwards Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky, Dallas has definitely improved their offensive capabilities.
  2. P.K. Subban – Montreal Canadiens – it is always interesting to see how a player performs after signing a big contract.  We like P.K. Subban.  He’s got some great skills, has even better quotes and while his charismatic personality sometimes gets him in trouble, this guy is pure entertainment.  Either love him or hate him, there’s no denying that you’d love to have him on your team.
  3. Ryan Miller – Vancouver Canucks –  wow that still doesn’t sound right does it?  After a debacle of a year in Vancouver last season especially between the pipes, the Canucks landed a new starting goaltender in Ryan Miller.  Miller has had a couple of sub-par season but we think that Vancouver might just be what the doctor ordered for this netminder.
  4. Jason Spezza – Dallas Stars – Spezza left the only NHL team that he has ever known joining a nice cast of supporting players in Big “D”.  Does anyone remember that Spezza was a minus 26 in Ottawa last year.  This could be a major plus for the Stars or a major bust.
  5. Alex Ovechkin – Washington Capitals – the great 8 had an up and down year last year.  This season will tell if Ovie is still one of the elite hockey players of today’s game.  Factor in newly acquired and very defensive minded coach Barry Trotz to the Caps and we will see how the Capitals captain responds.
  6. Steven Stamkos – Tampa Bay Lightning – probably our favorite player in the game today.  It will be interesting to see how Stammer responds coming back from a pretty serious leg injury from last season and a full season without Martin St. Louis.  He’ll look to challenge for the league lead in goals but we feel that his scoring production might drop this season.
  7. Joe Pavelski – San Jose Sharks – we thought for sure that the Sharks were going to go to the Stanley Cup Finals last year, but after being up three games to none to the Kings in the first round the Sharks suffered one of the greatest collapses in the history of the game.  Look to “Little Joe” to emerge as one of the leaders on this team and while he may not improve upon his 79 points (good for ninth overall) in the league from last season, he tends to put up points in bunches.
  8. Jordan Eberle – Edmonton Oilers – this guy is also part of trade rumours which is quite comical because this guys skills are off the charts.  Jordan Eberle is a created player who needs to play in the right situations.  He is a playmaker, a shooter and is very smart with the puck.  The Oilers coaching staff wasted his efforts at times last year by trying to stifle his creativity.  Look for the Oilers big line of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle to be more consistent this season.  Eberle could easily be a 75-80 point guy.
  9. Sidney Crosby – Pittsburgh Penguins – there have been a lot of changes in Pittsburgh this off season.  It will be interesting to see how Crosby adjusts.
  10. Nathan MacKinnon – Colorado Avalanche – can you say sophmore slump?  We’ll see.
  11. Arron Ekblad – Florida Panthers – will this rookie crack the Panthers lineup and stay with the team?  What kind of ice time will he receive?  Who will he be partnered up with?  How will he contend with nagging off season injuries?
  12. Kyle Turris – Ottawa Senators – is this guy ready for the spotlight and the pressure that will be expected from him to produce offensively for the Sens?
  13. Drew Doughty – Los Angeles Kings – does Doughty become complacent this year or is this the year that he challenges for the Norris?  Teams are going to play the Kings tighter this year, how will that impact Doughty and the defensive core?
  14. Nail Yakupov – Edmonton Oilers – will switching jersey numbers to the number ten improve the terrible season that Yak had last year or will this guy mature and produce at the level he did in junior and in his inaugural season in the NHL?  We think that a trade might be in order for this guy so that he can play his style of game.
  15. Sam Gagner – Arizona Coyotes – how well will Gagner adapt to life in the desert?  He received some quality ice time in Edmonton over the years and did not always deliver.  Will he receive increased responsibility with the Desert Dogs?  We personally we happy to see him leave Edmonton.  A fresh start may be good for the diminutive forward.
  16. Thomas Vanek – Minnesota Wild – not sure about this guy and not sure about this team.  Definitely one to watch though.
  17. Dion Phaneuf – Toronto Maple Leafs – we like Dion, even with all of the “baggage” that comes along with him.  Leaf fans (and media) are hard on this guy at times and we think that as captain of the Leafs there is some maturity that needs to happen with Dion in order for the Leafs to become regulars in the post season.
  18. Scott Hartnell – Columbus Blue Jackets – this was a good pick up for the Blue Jackets.  It will be interesting to see how Hartnell performs in Ohio.
  19. Ondrej Pavalec – Winnipeg Jets – we feel that this is a do or die season for the Jets goaltender.  Apparently he has been training hard all summer and has dropped weight to become more of an agile goaltender.  He’s still going to be on a short leash with Jets’ management, and even a shorter one with Jets fans who inherited a terrible team in the Atlanta Thrashers.
  20. Daniel Sedin – Vancouver Canucks – 47 points in 73 games was all Daniel Sedin could muster last season.  Remove Ryan Kesler from the Canucks conversation and do we really expect the Sedins performance to improve dramatically?  We do expect that it will improve but not to the point per game level they once performed at.  We like what Trevor Linden has done thus far, but this team could be in for a world of hurt again this season.  Were they really that awful last season?  The answer is a simple yes.  However the team cleaned house from a management perspective (Edmonton Oilers take note) and could again join the post season with some dedicated efforts this year.

There you have it, a look at 20 players to key an eye on this NHL season.  Of course we expect to see some surprises, and we hope we see some positive things happen for the Canadian NHL teams.  At the start of the season all 30 teams are in first place, then again all 30 teams are also tied for last place.  In a couple more weeks the season will begin and the quest will begin anew for Lord Stanley’s Cup

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2014 NHL Free Agent Activity


As always the July 1st date is becoming a date that hockey fans a re circling on their calendars.  It marks the start of the NHL’s free agency period where there tends to be a lot of activity with teams.  Here is a look at the activity the past month.

2014 NHL Free Agency Activity

So far the free agent that has cashed in the most is Steve Ott who signed with the St. Louis Blues for two years for a total of $5.2 million.  There are still a handful of free agents out there who are available but with the tight cap space for some team, GMs and owners are going to have to get creative when dropping salary.

DATE NAME POS FROM TO Total Years Avg/Yr
Jul 19 Stempniak, Lee RW Pittsburgh NY Rangers $900K 1 $900K
Jul 17 Curry, John G Minnesota Minnesota n/a 1 n/a
Jul 16 Ferriero, Benn RW Vancouver St. Louis $600K 1 $600K
Jul 16 Butler, Chris D Calgary St. Louis $650K 1 $650K
Jul 15 Roy, Derek C St. Louis Nashville $1M 1 $1M
Jul 15 Ribeiro, Mike C Phoenix Nashville $1.005M 1 $1.005M
Jul 11 Moss, David RW Phoenix Phoenix $800K 1 $800K
Jul 11 Morrow, Brenden LW St. Louis Tampa Bay $1.55M 1 $1.55M
Jul 10 Smith, Trevor C Toronto Toronto $550K 1 $550K
Jul 10 Hannan, Scott D San Jose San Jose $1M 1 $1M
Jul 10 Lerg, Bryan LW Colorado San Jose $575K 1 $575K
Jul 10 Haley, Micheal C NY Rangers San Jose $600K 1 $600K
Jul 10 Cleary, Dan LW Detroit Detroit $1.5M 1 $1.5M
Jul 10 Ott, Steve C St. Louis St. Louis $5.2M 2 $2.6M
Jul 9 Heatley, Dany LW Minnesota Anaheim $1M 1 $1M
Jul 8 Grant, Alex D Ottawa Ottawa $700K 1 $700K
Jul 8 Corrente, Matt D Carolina Tampa Bay $550K 1 $550K
Jul 7 Volchenkov, Anton D New Jersey Nashville $1M 1 $1M
Jul 5 Cannone, Pat C St. Louis St. Louis $550K 1 $550K
Jul 5 Sutter, Brett LW Carolina Minnesota $1.2M 2 $600K
Jul 5 Piskula, Joe D Nashville Nashville $550K 1 $550K
Jul 5 McNeill, Patrick D Columbus Phoenix $550K 1 $550K
Jul 4 Bodie, Troy LW Toronto Toronto $600K 1 $600K
Jul 4 Legwand, David C Detroit Ottawa $6M 2 $3M
Jul 4 VandeVelde, Chris C Philadelphia Philadelphia $575K 1 $575K
Jul 4 McCarthy, John LW San Jose St. Louis $600K 1 $600K
Jul 4 Newbury, Kris C Philadelphia Washington $550K 1 $550K
Jul 4 Kennedy, Tim LW Phoenix Washington $550K 1 $550K
Jul 4 Holmstrom, Ben C Philadelphia Carolina $600K 1 $600K
Jul 3 Tarnasky, Nick C Montreal NY Rangers $1.15M 2 $575K
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2014 NHL Draft Day


2014 NHL Entry Draft

2014 NHL Entry DraftThe Florida Panthers select…. from the Barrie Colts defenceman Aaron Ekblad.  Are we  going to hear these words in a few hours as the NHL draft gets under way in Philadelphia?  Lost of buzz around the draft and rumors persist that Ryan Kesler has just been traded from the Vancouver Canucks to the Anaheim Ducks, so hockey fans, GMs, coaches, players and teenagers waiting to be drafted are all anxious.

As it stands right now, the first round draft order looks like this:

 

First Round

Pick Team Player POS. 2013-14 Team
1 Florida Panthers* - - -
2 Buffalo Sabres - - -
3 Edmonton Oilers - - -
4 Calgary Flames - - -
5 New York Islanders - - -
6 Vancouver Canucks - - -
7 Carolina Hurricanes - - -
8 Toronto Maple Leafs - - -
9 Winnipeg Jets - - -
10 Anaheim Ducks** - - -
11 Nashville Predators - - -
12 Arizona Coyotes - - -
13 Washington Capitals - - -
14 Dallas Stars - - -
15 Detroit Red Wings - - -
16 Columbus Blue Jackets - - -
17 Philadelphia Flyers - - -
18 Minnesota Wild - - -
19 Tampa Bay Lightning - - -
20 San Jose Sharks - - -
21 St. Louis Blues - - -
22 Pittsburgh Penguins - - -
23 Colorado Avalanche - - -
24 Anaheim Ducks - - -
25 Boston Bruins - - -
26 Montreal Canadiens - - -
27 Chicago Blackhawks - - -
28 Tampa Bay Lightning*** - - -
29 Los Angeles Kings - - -
30 New Jersey Devils+ - - -

However anything can happen on draft day and during the draft weekend. Remember last year when the Canucks dealt Cory Schneider in a surprise move to the New Jersey devils? Last year’s NHL draft featured some surprise moves.  This year we can expect to see some as well.  Many suggest that this is no a super strong draft year yet there is a lot of discussion about team trading up into the top three to get centerman or perhaps the hulking lone defenseman expected to go in the top 5 in Eklbad.

Here is a look at potential predictions for the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.  Of course trades could be made, players could fall as did Seth Jones last year, but here is a look at where some of the top draft picks may end up tonight.

 

PICK NHL TEAM PLAYER POSITION 2013-14 TEAM
1 FLA Aaron Ekblad D Barrie (OHL)
2 BUF Sam Bennett C Kingston (OHL)
3 EDM Leon Draisaitl C Prince Albert (WHL)
4 CGY Sam Reinhart C Kootenay (OHL)
5 NYI Michael Dal Colle LW Oshawa (OHL)
6 VAN Jake Virtanen RW Calgary (WHL)
7 CAR Haydn Fleury D Red Deer (WHL)
8 TOR Nick Ritchie LW Peterborough (OHL)
9 WPG Nikolaj Ehlers LW Halifax (QMJHL)
10 ANA* Kasperi Kapanen LW/RW KalPa (FIN)
11 NAS William Nylander LW Modo (SWE)
12 ARZ Brendan Perlini LW Niagara (OHL)
13 WAS Julius Honka D Swift Current (WHL)
14 DAL Dylan Larkin C USNTDP
15 DET Jared McCann C Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
16 CBJ Sonny Milano LW USNTDP
17 PHI Anthony DeAngelo D Sarnia (OHL)
18 MIN Robert Fabbri C Guelph (OHL)
19 TB Travis Sanheim D Calgary (WHL)
20 SJ Kevin Fiala RW HV71 (SWE)
21 STL Ryan MacInnis C Kitchener (OHL)
22 PIT Alex Tuch RW USNTDP
23 COL Adrian Kempe LW Modo (SWE)
24 ANA Jakub Vrana RW Linkoping (SWE)
25 BOS  Nick Schmaltz C Green Bay (USHL)
26 MTL Ivan Barbashev C/LW Moncton (QMJHL)
27 CHI Marcus Pettersson D Skelleftea (SWE)
28 TB Nikita Scherbak LW Saskatoon (WHL)
29 LA Roland McKeown D Kingston (OHL)
30 NJ Brendan Lemieux LW Barrie (OHL)

 

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Hockey Fanatics Tribute to Bob Cole


There has been a lot of discussion as to whether Hockey Night in Canada’s Bob Cole will be calling his last game this Spring in the NHL Playoffs.  Since 1952, Bob Cole who was born in 1933 in St. John’s, Newfoundland as Robert Cole has been a part of Hockey Night in Canada.  Bob Cole is a play-by-play legend.  

This past December, in what we feel is a terrible move for hockey fans in Canada, Rogers acquired the television rights for NHL hockey in Canada with a $5.7 billion dollar deal which will mark the end of the NHL on TSN as we know and marks the end Hockey Night in Canada (what is CBC thinking anyway?).  Yes HNIC will be on for four more years but Rogers has complete control over the programming and the advertising revenues.  When the deal was announced, Bob Cole was left wondering what the future would hold.  Even at this stage, details have been sketchy.

I’m a little young to remember the great Danny Gallivan and I grew up with the as great Jim Robson calling a lot of the great Oilers games of the early to mid-eighties.  Hockey Night in Canada has had the best of the best when it comes to announcing NHL hockey games.  Bob Cole is another of the greats from HNIC.  Bob Cole’s voice is a masterpiece as this article from the star.com illustrates.  When it comes to the smooth skating game of hockey there is no bigger master of the mic than Mr. Cole.

5 Reasons Why Bob Cole is One of the Best in the Biz

  1. The Simplistic Delivery of Hockey’s Most Exciting Moments – Mr. Cole has an amazing ability to make the simplest of hockey terms lift the hockey fan out of their seat.  His announcement of “Scores” as the puck enters the net or the “Oh Baby” or three syllable drag out of a players name is classic and trademarks of Bob Cole’s tremendous broadcasting skills.
  2. His Knowledge/Interpretation of the Game – it is pretty easy to see that Mr. Cole is a fan of the game of hockey.  He still loves doing what he does and as he nears 81 would like to continue doing play-by-play until he is no longer able to do so.  It feels like he knows the players intimately and this comes across in the broadcast.
  3. Classic Statements – Mr. Cole has the great ability to make the classic statement that hockey fans will remember forever.  “They’re going home…” when the Russians left the ice in a game in 1976 vs. the Philadelphia Flyers.  “The Edmonton Oilers have won the Stanley Cup!”  His matter of fact commentary makes hockey fans take note and listen.
  4. His speaking as if he is in the living room with hockey fans – Mr. Cole has that “old-school” (and I mean that in a good way” of speaking that converses directly to the hockey fan as if we are old friends.
  5. His Ability to Read the Game and Tell a Story – many say that this is when Mr. Cole is at his best as the tale unfolds of an epic battle between two heated rivals, or when a great play is made, he’s able to add a single term or ask a question to describe the moment.  “Wow, just wow” or “Can you believe it?”

Here is a look at his best over the years at Hockey Night in Canada

Calls in Chronological Order:
Gretzky Breakaway goal vs NYI 1984
Mario Lemieux vs. North Starts “Oh Baby!” 1991
Russ Courtnall Game 7 OT winner Montreal vs. Hartford 1992
Doug Gilmour behind the net goal vs. St. Louis 1993
Montreal Canadiens Stanley Cup Final vs. LA Kings 1993
Steve Yzerman vs St. Louis 1996
Oilers shock Starts – Cujo and Marchant 1997
Steve Thomas vs. Senators 2000
Joe Sakic Golden Goal 2002 (Audio Only)
Fernando Pisani Short Handed OT Goal vs. Carolina 2006

Awesome stuff!  Here is a little more of Bob’s great calls.  All videos courtesy of YouTube.

And who can forget this?

Bob Cole: “They’re Going Home!” The Soviet Red Army leaves the bench after the Flyers’ Ed Van Impe hits a Russian player in the first period.

A broadcasting legend all the way. He Scores!!!!  Tonights’ three stars as chosen by hockey fans everywhere:

Tonight’s first star from St. John’s:  Bob Cole.

Tonight’s second star: Bob Cole

and tonight’s third star from announcing all of those great Leafs games:  Bob Cole.

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