By Mo Cranker
For the first time in a long time, the Columbus Blue Jackets actually had a very successful season — just not in the most typical sense of the word successful.
A lot of the hockey world had pegged the Blue Jackets as a lock for a wild-card spot before this season even started, and after a seven-game losing streak to start the year, they proved any expectation of a playoff birth to be unrealistic at best.
Although the team did win some games after the team fired coach Todd Richards and replaced him with John Tortorella, things still didn’t change all that much. To top it all off, starting goaltender, and former Vezina winner, Sergei Bobrovsky suffered three groin injuries throughout the year, crippling the Jackets already slim playoff hopes.
Last week we talked about how close the Hart Trophy race will be, but it’s got nothing on this year’s Norris Trophy showdown.
Not only are there four or five very worthy top candidates for the award, it’s also one of the most contentious award decisions for voters. There’s a heated debate about scoring totals vs. defensive play, or being on a winning team vs. a losing team. You can’t ignore advanced stats either.
So let’s sort it out right now and decide who should win this year’s Norris Trophy.
By Mo Cranker
Over the past two seasons, we’ve witnessed the Senators experience some very high, highs and some pretty low, lows.
The Senators ended last season on a historic run, being the first team in NHL history to be 14 points out of a playoff spot at the beginning of February to end up making the post-season.
This year, after a decent start, the Sens fell pretty flat and finished 19th in the league, resulting in changes in the front office and behind the bench.
By Mo Cranker
With the end of the regular season, over half of the teams in the NHL are gearing up for what they hope will be an extended playoff run.
For the teams that miss, though, it’s more about reflecting on a failed season and looking forward to and preparing for the next season.
Whichever side your team falls on, there’s probably going to be an open roster spot, or two, ripe for the taking due to players retiring, free agency or trades.
Here’s a list of 10 prospects that are ready to earn a roster spot and make an impact on their big league club next season.
SERIES STARTS: Friday, 10:30 p.m. ET, in Anaheim.
HOW THEY WIN:
DUCKS: If Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry aren’t the best 1-2 punch in the league, they’re the best when it comes to offense and getting under the skin of the opposition. They don’t always play on the same line, but when they do it’s magic. With Getzlaf distributing and Perry finishing, Anaheim has the No. 2 power play in the league and No. 4 since 2005-06, when those two became regulars.
Everyone knows the captain of the winning team gets the Stanley Cup first. He gets to take it from commissioner Gary Bettman and have his well-earned moment with it. But who gets it next is always interesting to watch. Which grizzled veteran or sentimental favorite deserves the captain’s hand-off of the Stanley Cup this year? Our picks.
ANAHEIM DUCKS: It would be apropos if Ryan Getzlaf passed the Cup to Corey Perry, even though both won it as sophomores in 2007. But we suspect RYAN KESLER will sneak in there.
CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS: The Hawks lack an obvious Cup-less elder statesman. If CHRISTIAN EHRHOFF cracks the lineup, he’s worthy. He’s 33 and lost in the 2011 final with Vancouver.
DALLAS STARS: Would Jamie Benn hand the Cup off to grizzled vet Jason Spezza? It’s more likely Benn gives it to TYLER SEGUIN first and honors their bromance.
SERIES STARTS: Thursday, 9:30 p.m. ET, in Dallas.
HOW THEY WIN:
STARS: The Stars are offense incarnate. They lead the NHL in goals per game, generate the third-most shots on goal per game and rank second in score-adjusted Corsi For per 60 minutes.
Welcome to the playoff preview edition of The Hockey News Podcast.
This week, Ryan Kennedy, Ken Campbell, and Matt Larkin break down each and every first-round series. We discuss the biggest storylines, key matchups, and make some predictions.
Order of discussion:
St. Louis vs. Chicago
Dallas vs. Minnesota
Anaheim vs. Nashville
Los Angeles vs. San Jose
Florida vs. Islanders
Tampa Bay vs. Detroit
Pittsburgh vs. Rangers
Washington vs. Philadelphia
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[Music: Metz-Headache; Quicksand-Omission]