(The AHL has undergone a season of change and one-third of the league has changed locations or logos for the 2015-16 season. Leading up to the new season, The Hockey News will be ranking the logos of the league’s teams and offering a brief look at the history of each franchise. See the rest of the rankings in our AHL feed.)
The Texas Stars’ Calder Cup championship defense didn’t quite go as planned this past season, as the Dallas Stars’ affiliate came into the post-season as one of the hottest teams in the league but were swept in three straight games by the Rockford IceHogs. Can the Stars get back to championship form in 2015-16?
One area of interest will be how the club fares without defenseman Maxime Fortunus, who had been a fixture of the Stars blueline for the past six seasons. On top of Fortunus’ departure, the Stars will also be without defenseman Cameron Gaunce, who signed in Florida, and John Klingberg, who will be once again spending an entire season in Dallas. However, the Stars may have gotten a boost from the trade that brought rearguard Stephen Johns into the organization. The AHL could very well be Johns’ destination in 2015-16, which would be a boon for Texas. The AHL Stars also brought in Jesse Blacker and Brennan Evans to round out the backend, so maybe the loss of Gaunce and Fortunus won’t hurt at all.
Up front, veteran Travis Morin will be back to lead the way offensively with the same crew of Brendan Randford, Derek Hulak, Greg Rallo and Radek Faksa. Gone, however, is Scott Glennie — or at least for now. Glennie is currently an unrestricted free agent and has yet to sign a deal for the upcoming campaign. A return to Texas would give the Stars depth scoring that could really help.
In goal, Jussi Rynnas has left North America for a job in Europe, so Jack Campbell could get his first full season as the sole starting netminder in the AHL. However, he’ll have competition from John Muse, who posted better numbers in 29 games with the Charlotte Checkers in 2014-15. Read more
Aside from being a three-time 20-goal scorer, Kris Versteeg is known for some rather ridiculous off-ice moments.
There’s his singing, there’s his rapping and, now, there’s this: Versteeg, alongside fellow NHLer and Dallas Stars defenseman Jason Demers, performing a bizarre, albeit hilarious, interpretive dance to Sia’s ‘Chandelier’. Better yet, the performance came at Devin Setoguchi‘s wedding.
The ‘Chandelier’ music video features a ballerina dancing through what appears to be a deserted home. Shockingly, the, uh, replication of sorts by Versteeg, Demers and Co., wasn’t cause for wedding guests to make like the Sia video and abandon their surroundings. Read more
When Thomas Vanek hit the free agent market following the 2013-14 season, there was little doubt he was going to end up with the Minnesota Wild, but the club was hoping for a better campaign than what they got from the 31-year-old left winger.
Sure, Vanek turned in 21 goals and 52 points in 80 games with the Wild this past season, but at a $6.5 million salary, that wasn’t quite what Minnesota was looking for. The 52-point total was the second-lowest of Vanek’s career and his 21 goals were the fewest he had scored in a non-lockout year.
In the post-season, Vanek’s troubles continued, as he stumbled to four points — all assists — in 10 games. He didn’t score once for the Wild in the playoffs and, in a second-round series against Chicago that had three one-goal games, Minnesota desperately could have used Vanek finding the back of the net.
But there’s hope for next season. Vanek recently underwent surgery to repair two hernias in his left groin and he said he, “feels great,” and should be ready for training camp, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo. If he can bounce back, there’s hope that Vanek’s three-year, $19.5 million deal can start to look like a good one.
Vanek won’t be the only player looking to recover from a poor season, however. Read more
While the Nashville Predators matched a 14-year, $110-million offer sheet for captain Shea Weber from the Philadelphia Flyers in July 2012, he’s remained the subject of annual off-season trade speculation.
Weber’s value to the Predators and the expense of his contract are usually cited as reasons why he won’t be dealt, but Yahoo Sports’ Josh Cooper believes the time could be right to trade him within the next year. Among the factors justifying this move includes the potential for a strong return, the expense of re-signing Filip Forsberg and Seth Jones next year and the possibility the 29-year-old defenseman’s performance could be about to decline.
Unlike most stars of Weber’s caliber, he lacks a no-trade clause in his contract. The Predators can entertain offers from around the league and ship him anywhere without his consent. Read more
Thanks to the (literally) tireless efforts of Conn Smythe winner Duncan Keith, the Chicago Blackhawks claimed their third Stanley Cup in six seasons, dusting off the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games.
Keith, who played an otherworldly average of 31 minutes per game in the post-season, scored the game-winning goal by following up his own rebound on Bolts goalie Ben Bishop. Patrick Kane, who always seems to come through in big contests, added the dagger on a beauty feed from Brad Richards.
In terms of sentiment, it was hard to beat captain Jonathan Toews passing the Cup off to Kimmo Timonen, whose career and life almost ended in the summer due to blood clots. Instead, the Finnish D-man ended his career a champion.
Welcome back to the Futures Mailbag, where I will answer any prospect and draft-related questions you the readers may have. If you have a query, hit me up on Twitter (@THNRyanKennedy) and use the hashtag #thnfutures to make sure I scoop it up. If you don’t see your question this week, stay tuned – there’s always some overflow. Let’s get to it:
Welcome to my new mailbag, a spot where I will answers questions from readers who reached out to me on Twitter using the hashtag #thnfutures. The idea behind this space is to bring you info on prospects and the draft, so anything in that world is game. There was a pretty good crop of questions right off the bat, so if you don’t see yours answered this week, check back next Friday. Here we go:
Parity in the modern-day NHL creates such a delicate balance between teams that one year’s powerhouse is the next year’s dud, and vice versa. Just ask the Colorado Avalanche, who went from Central Division champs to out of the playoffs, or the Calgary Flames, who went from rebuilding team to round 2 of the post-season.
In all, 2014-15 swapped Calgary, Nashville, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Washington, the New York Islanders and Ottawa into the playoffs, with Colorado, Los Angeles, Dallas, San Jose, Boston, Columbus, and Philadelphia falling out. That’s seven new teams out of 16, or 43.75 percent.
With that crazy stat in mind, which 2014-15 post-season qualifiers might slide out in 2015-16? And which teams might take their places? I’ve chosen three candidates in each category.