The Lightning were a very good team last year and surprised a lot of people with how deep they went into the playoffs last year and now we are all wondering if they can pull a repeat performance or possibly take the top spot in the Southeast from the Washington Capitals. I don't think they are quite ready to be first in the division yet and I see them taking a small step back compared to last season. They lost a couple pretty significant pieces in Simon Gagne and Sean Bergeheim and not much was done to fill those holes. This along with teams having more film on Guy Boucher's unique defensive system makes me think that they will find themselves lower in the standings. That said, I still have them as a playoff team and most of their core has remained intact so they should be a good team for awhile now.
There were few teams who were more active than the Florida Panthers on the first few days of July this off-season. With the NHL imposing a new cap floor, GM Dale Tallon felt the need to spend as much as he could and Florida how has a roster that consists of players who were second or third liners for other teams last year. All these signings and trades did was put Florida in an awful financial position and it's going to be even uglier a few years down the road. What about this year, though? As bad as a lot of these signings were, Florida appears to have a better team than they did last year but is it good enough to get them into the playoffs? To sum things up quickly; No. Not even close.
Florida wasn't an awful team in terms of possession (49.7% 5v5 corsi w/ score tied), but they lost one of the best goalies in the league and replaced him with a rookie and someone who was a back-up last season. They also remain without a star player and are trying to fix what was one of the worst powerplays in the league. It's going to be a long process until they get things going in the right direction.
Everyone knows what to expect from the Washington Capitals these days. They will have a great regular season and then struggle come playoff time. The expectations for this team are raised every year and judging from most of their fans, anything less than an Eastern Conference finals appearance will be a disappointment for this team with the off-season they just had. GM George McPhee opened up his wallet and upgraded this team at almost every position this summer but will it be enough to get the Caps over the hump after four years of playoff disappointment? It goes without saying that they are the best team in the Southeast and will certainly have enough to get to the playoffs but how they fare after that is a mystery.no comments
After missing the playoffs by only one game, there is a sense of optimism among Canes fans that this team will be in the playoff hunt once again. However, there are many who say that the Hurricanes were not that good of a team last year and the one thing that kept them in the playoff hunt the entire time was a terrific season from Cam Ward. While I think there were other factors which kept Carolina in the playoff hunt (great seasons from Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner and Erik Cole), it's hard to call the Canes a contender when you take a look at their underlying numbers. They had a very poor corsi percentage with the score tied, a weak powerplay, a terrible penalty kill that could have been a lot worse and awful back-up goaltending (Justin Peters' .875 save percentage) which has actually been a problem for awhile now. Has Carolina done enough this off-season to fix these problems and possibly take themselves to the next level? They've addressed some needs but it's doubtful that anything they have done this off-season will make them a sure-in for the playoffs. The team has been in slight rebuild mode for the past couple of season and I expect them to continue that but in the Eastern Conference, you can be a playoff contender as long as you're not god-awful so Carolina staying in the playoff hunt isn't completely out of the question.
I have been very critical of the Anthony Stewart signing this summer, as I feel that he does not add much to a team which is in big need of scoring depth. Yes, he netted 14 goals last year but half of those came in the first 25 games of the season, while he only scored 7 in his last 55. He wasn't terribly impressive at driving possession last year in Atlanta either so what role will he have in Carolina and how many goals can we expect from him? Read more to find out.
It feels kind of weird to do a projection for Tim Gleason because scoring goals isn't his job. Being a steady defensive defenseman is what he's paid to do and the maximum amount of points we can expect from him is around 20. That said, we'll still do a projection for him and also look at what other things we can expect from Gleason this year. He was a workhorse on defense last year and had some pretty ugly underlying numbers as a result. It's looking like he will have a similar workload this season, so a rebound year would really help the Hurricanes.
With the cuts made yesterday, the forward group for the Hurricanes is beginning to look clearer and so are the possible line combinations. There's a very good chance the lines change over the season but it's good to have an idea what the "main" ones will be at the beginning of the year. Ideally, you want the your top two forward lines to produce a lot of offense with one being able to take on tough competition while another gets the benefit of protection. In the bottom-six, you want a third line to be able to produce secondary scoring and have the ability to take tough zone starts while the fourth line does the same but is depended on less for scoring. The Canes biggest trouble is going to be filling out those top two lines to make them a legitimate offensive threat, but I've come up with some line ideas which may work.
Brandon Sutter's already had quite a productive NHL career at such a young age but I remember hearing from a few fans that last season was "disappointing" for him. It's probably because he saw his point total drop from 40 to 29 and he scored seven fewer goals than he did the previous season. Was I hoping for more than 29 points from him last year? Yes. However, he made a lot of strides defensively last season and is really evolving as a two-way player for Carolina and should be a key part of the third line. What most fans care about are goals and points, though and here we'll take a look at what kind of performance Carolina will get out of Sutter this season.
The Carolina Hurricanes announced today that they have assigned 12 players to the AHL. Those players being the following: forwards Zach Boychuk, Drayson Bowman, Jerome Samson, Chris Durno, Brett Sutter, Jon Matsumoto and Chris Terry, defensemen Bobby Sanguinetti, Justin Krueger and Mathieu Roy, and goaltenders Mike Murphy and Justin Peters. Samson, Sutter, Matsumoto, Sanguinetti and Peters needing to pass through waviers before they can go to Charlotte, but I'm not terribly worried about that. Any team can claim them but they need to stay on the NHL club or they go back on waivers. The only one I'd be worried about is Peters because some teams may want to sign him as a back-up. Columbus comes to mind.
After these moves, we have a slightly better idea of what the forward corps will look like to start the year. I was lobbying heavily for Boychuk to make the team but he hasn't been terribly impressive in camp so back to Charlotte he goes. I'm hoping we see him in Raleigh sometime this year, though. Bowman and Samson were also players who I thought should get looks for the bottom-six but they weren't that impressive the last couple of weeks so it's understandable they were sent down. I do think Bowman is one of the first guys the team will turn to should an injury occur. The rest of the cast isn't much of a surprise.
With these roster cuts, there are a few pleasant surprises to think of. One of which is Riley Nash having a very impressive camp and chosen to fill in for Tuomo Ruutu as the second line center for the time being. I think he will be sent down once Ruutu is healthy but it's really nice to see his game progressing the way it has. Also of note is Zac Dalpe beginning to look like a lock to make the team and possibly earn himself a spot in the top-six.
Carolina's forward corps looks a lot more clear after these moves, but there's still a lot of questions on what the final defense pairings will look like. That question should be answered within the next week or so.
There's quite a lot of great, young defensemen in the NHL right now and one guy who kind of falls under the radar of many fans is Carolina's Jamie McBain. While he isn't in the same class as guys like Drew Doughty, John Carlson or PK Subban, he quietly had a very solid rookie season and played top-four minutes on a lot of nights for the Hurricanes. McBain's play in his own zone still has some work to do but he did prove to be a very solid puck-mover his rookie year putting up 7 goals and 30 points from the blue line. Can he build on this impressive rookie season and find a permanent spot in the Canes top-four?