Monday, July 27, 2015

2015-2016 National Hockey League Preview: Teams 15 and 16

15.Dallas Stars- The brass tacks of the situation are that if any non-veteran coach was running the bench of the Dallas Stars right now, he would've lost his job over last year's 6th place central division atrocity. The fact that Lindy Ruff, who had some admirable years with the Buffalo Sabres is leading the charge provides in my humble opinion unwarranted pull because except for one magical 1999 season in which they came a crease violation over turn from maybe winning the Lord Stanley he's been marred by underachieving playoff teams. An excellent mix between veterans and up and comers forecasts that things could become even bigger in Texas this go around.

The "get" of the off-season revolves around the acquisition from the Chicago Blackhawks landing Patrick Sharp.  Sharp has playoff experience and accolades that only players across the league can dream about however his on ice performance as of late leaves a little extra to be desired. I suppose the reputation that Sharp's career has been plagued with is that he's a one dimensional player with a mammoth shot and not much else. From the hash, their aren't much better then Sharp coming down and releasing the patented wrist shot.  The Dallas Stars parted ways with a pretty darn good player in my opinion in Trevor Daley who filled a top two position on the Dallas Stars defence so by making this trade, General Manager Jim Nill and coach Ruff are anticipating that Sharp can regain the form of 2013-2014 which saw this Thunder Bay Native net thirty four goals.  I'm a little skeptical as I rightfully argue that Sharp's success is largely tied in to the ridiculous depth the Chicago Blackhawks possessed. Supposedly one of the NHL's bad boys, someone who reportedly was a poor locker room presence during his Boston Bruins era in Tyler Seguin on the ice anyway continues to flourish. The whole debate back in 2010, whether it was "Taylor  or Tyler" during the National Hockey League draft has quickly opened the floodgates to two of the league's most polarizing figures. The takeaway from Seguin's game, the former Plymouth Whaler standout is how physical he is complimented by his world class skill. A lot of player that put up similar statistical lines of such as Seguin are perceived as soft  but that description is insulting when profiling the swift #91. In watching a recent interview with Dominic Moore, the brother of Steve who infamously was left with career ending injuries when knocked out by Todd Bertuzzi, stated that Patrick Eaves is one of the best ping pong players in the league. I realize this as useless as a tidbit as any but the implication that it might be time for Eaves to set down the paddle and focus on improving in the game he gets paid for.  Eaves, who was  a World Junior Hockey Championship standout has been anything but at the top-level which I amount some of that of him rotting away in obscurity with Detroit. At this stage of his career, the expectation of Eaves will be for him to be a defensively responsible third/fourth liner but when I watch him play, I'm always left wanting sooooo much more. He carries deceptive speed which has me speculating that if Ruff ever placed Eaves on a line with a player like Seguin, he wouldn't feel out of place.

I think losing Trevor Daley on defence is comparable to when the Toronto FC lost Jermaine Defoe. Irreplaceable.  I feel like I'm beating a dead horse by continuously harping on this particular trade but based off of the Stars strengths and weaknesses, the need for Daley outweighed the need to bring in Sharp. Daley, who if you remember was a victim of racial hazing when he was a member of the Windsor Spitfires was Mr. Everything for the state of Texas as he could be counted upon for point production as well with reliability shutting down the oppositions top forwards.  Gone is Daley, so the question becomes he can fill the shoes and gain first line pairing minutes? A player I'm about to mention isn't someone who'll be ready for such competent playing time just yet but is someone if coach Ruff finally lets out of the dog house and exudes patience with, could translate into a gem and this is none other than Jameson Oleksiak.  I have no idea why, but even though Jameson came into the league amongst loads of fanfare he's NEVER been heralded enough to be trusted in important situations for Dallas. Is he the best skater in the world?  Well no, but with that intimidating size and physicality it's a shame that didn't fall upon a better destination.  Jameson Oleksiak has landed upon the final straw in Dallas due to the pressing matter that he is on a one year contract and if Dallas truly views him as a long term option and not just as a stop-gap, they won't pull the same stunt that the Toronto Maple Leafs are using on Nazem Kadri. The kid needs an opportunity. Perhaps trade bait as a rental? I consider myself a stout hockey observer, but I'll admit when prior to last season,  I had no iota on who John Klingberg is. I may of not had an opinion of Klingberg then,  but I do now! Klingberg will be the recipient of increased responsibility in lieu of the Daley(all ties in) as this twenty two year old is the number one sheriff in town.  To be a plus player, as a rookie, on a  non playoff team to boot is very noteworthy and although I'm of the belief that Dallas has an overall shoddy defence, Klingberg is no joke and although there won't be much competition for this mantra, Klingberg is an absolutely deserving franchise defenceman, and the sky is the ceiling for this young Swede.

Jim Nill learned under the tutelage of one of the all time great General Managers Ken Holland but apparently didn't bring with him the notebook that inside were instructions onto how to properly build a franchise through trade.  The idea that this regime doesn't have complete faith in Kari Lethonen is somewhat understandable as his 2014/2015 numbers including his .903 save percentage are very Patrick Lalime-esque, but under the presumption that they didn't feel that Kari could be the back bone of this team, they bring in Antii Niemi?  After Niemi led, I mean watched the Chicago Blackhawks to a 2010 Stanley Cup, Niemi's stock sky rocketed with the San Jose Sharks learned first hand ruined a era of consistent playoff hockey, has had the penchant of showcasing deteriorating numbers which you wouldn't think would make him a captivating choice in bring in for a team that is close to reaching it's pinnacle as Dallas is. Aside from that, my other issue with the acquisition of Niemi, where does this leave former first round pick Jack Campbell? He's had a less then desirable early beginning to his professional escapades, but at the very least if I'm a Dallas supporter, I'm more comfortable with a Lethonen/Campbell tandem then I am seeing two thirty two years battle for playing time.

16.Winnipeg Jets- Is this the most talent that Head Coach Paul Maurice has had to work with? The 2002 Carolina Hurricanes are about to go bananas with this prognostication, but the 2015-2016 Winnipeg Jets with the influx of young talent ready to take that next leap, are better off then that Hurricanes team, who were celebrating one hit wonders such as recent Amazing Race winner Bates Battaglia who led the Canes to a cinderella run when the talent frankly wasn't there. Apologies to all Sean Hill fans out there, but it was those kind of players that Maurice was forced to ice  that led to a lucky jaunt throughout the playoffs. Back to the Jets, as the rambling will endlessly continue, the Jets team hasn't lost much this off-season aside from Michal Frolik and the goal of this unit will be to position themselves better  for the playoffs so they can avoid a nightmarish first round draw like facing the Anaheim Ducks.

Chelveldayoff, the first General Manager in this reincarnation of the Winnipeg Jets, has a dilemma on his hands, and that involves Nic Petan. Petan has torn apart the Western Hockey League the last two seasons accumulating two hundred and two points while playing for the Portland Winterhawks, and although Cheveldayoff and Maurice don't have a penchant for rushing prospects into the big club unless your name is Mark Scheifele, the fact that Petans skill set is so drastically different than what the Jets currently roster, one would assume he'll get a long, hard look.  The Jets have an abundance of size up front, and with Petan standing at 5'9 is a valued counter measure that will be of useful importance for the J.E.T.S. Mathieu Perreault tallied eighteen goals last year, but it was the nineteenth goal that was not scored that he will look back upon with a great deal of dismay.  The day was January 14,2015 where the Winnipeg Jets were up against the Florida Panthers. The game was telecast on the Jets regional broadcast channel "TSN Jets", in which TSN runs a promotion where if any one from the Jets score five goals in one game, they will give one million dollars to a lucky contestant. That lucky contestant on this night was Brandon, Manitoba principal Gail McDonald, who later claimed in an interview conducted by TSN radio that she had no idea that she was a lucky chosen one that night until a relative informed her later on in the evening. Later in the third period, in which the Jets clobbered the Panthers, Perreault orchestrated a partial breakaway only to get robbed by Al Montoya. As a viewer that night it was heart wrenching to watch, and as is usually the case, I'm sure the good Samaritan Perreault along with the Jet organization did something that would lessen McDonald's devastation, one can hope anyway. One of my favourite players in the league is Bryan Little. The Barrie Colt alum, along with Petan is absolutely against the norm when it comes to size as he also stands at 5'11, but holy smokers can the guy play. For a man of his stature, one would presume that he would have the propensity of getting knocked off the puck easily, but it's his work with the puck on his stick that stands out most prevalent. The last couple seasons he's seemed to have a pass first mentality but if he can regain a slightly more selfish approach, Little may be in for Giant things this year.

I'm from Western Canada, so I may have a bias towards the Western Canadians, sue me. This "bias" takes full effect when profiling Paul Postma. Postma, who worked his junior trade for the Swift Current Broncos is an outstanding defender in large part because the size he is a tremendous skater.  A piece of advice I would give Maurice would be to supply more power play minutes Postma's way. Like the old saying goes, unless you try, you'll never succeed, well this couldn't be more true for the Red Deer native.  His numbers with the Broncos and the Calgary Hitmen speak louder then words ever could. Is he a forward? Is he a defenceman? I firmly believe that Dustin Byfuglien has finally found a secure home on the back-end.  He no question has the skills to line up on the wing as he did during the Chicago Blackhawks 2010 Stanley Cup run, but it's applying those skills along with the booming shot which make him a feared presence on the back-end. A player of his skill-set, to touch on a critique for a second, his discipline must significantly improve.  He takes about as many penalties as the great Dean Portman did during his iconic run with Gordon Bombay's ducks. Unlike Portman, Byfuglien is needed on the ice because there's no Fulton Reed on defence to aid his mistakes. Tyler Myers is an intriguing commodity, has been for some time now but moving to Winnipeg from the rigors of Buffalo must of been a culture shock, but in his first full year now, much more will be asked from Paul Maurice. Myers is a lanky presence who skates fairly well and comes from a defensive producing machine via the Kelowna Rockets, but one thing that needs major work is his hockey I.Q. Myers has all the tools but not a tool-box that can safely handle what he has. Simplification is the best answer to alleviate the short comings of Myers' game and the simplification will allow Maurice to confidently throw Myers out on the ice in high pressure situations.

It's becoming rarer and rarer for one goaltender to take the complete realm and run with it. The two goaltender system in which the Winnipeg Jets employ Michael Hutchinson and Ondrej Pavelec fits in with what most organizations run with, unless you're phenoms Carey Price or Tuuka Rask.  Just from a personal perspective, I'd lean towards giving the majority of the starts to Pavelec even though Hutchinson had his coming out party last year, a  party where I think too many individuals may have joined too early.As dominant as Hutchinson was at times, he'd also throw in the occassional game where it was impossible to ascertain whether you were watching a NHL goaltender, or  a goalie getting lit up at your local beer hockey league. Pavelec is on a short leash in the sense that Hutchinson is younger which may have  Maurice and company preaching more patience towards the former.

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