The top 10 goalies most likely to have a down year

Winnipeg's Ondrej Pavelec (Photo by Lance Thomson/NHLI via Getty Images)

No one has ever understood goaltenders. From Hall of Fame puker Glenn Hall to wall-kicking Josh Harding, they’re a breed apart and considering the dangerous occupation they chose, perhaps they can be forgiven for their eccentricities. Recently, it’s been very difficult to figure out who will dominate the Vezina Trophy race. But with some help from Rob Vollman’s Hockey Abstract, here’s a look at 10 goalies who might have down years. Quality Starts percentage refers to games in which a goalie had a .917 save percentage when facing more than 20 shots (.885 when facing 20 shots or less). Vollman averaged out the past three seasons to get his results.

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Five non-playoff NHL teams that could make it this season

Pekka Rinne (Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

Five of the the 14 teams that missed the NHL playoffs in 2012-13 (Colorado, Dallas, Columbus, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay) qualified for a playoff berth last season. Here are five teams on the outside looking in during the 2014 playoffs that – in this writer’s opinion – have the best chance at making the post-season this year:

5. Arizona Coyotes. The Yotes missed the playoffs for the second consecutive year last season – the first time that’s happened since 2007-09 – and that organization is famous for making the most out of a budget-conscious blueprint for success. They finished only two points behind the eighth-place Stars, and with new No. 1 center Sam Gagner in town, captain Shane Doan fully healthy and stellar young blueliner Oliver Ekman-Larsson continuing to blossom, they could have just enough in the tank to make it back into the post-season. Read more

Top 10 NHL personalities

Roberto Luongo (Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

More than ever, the professional sports world focuses on personality to help sell their products. In the hockey business, that’s been tougher to do thanks to a culture that discourages individualism in the name of team success. But the NHL still has a number of vibrant personas who’ll be worth keeping an eye (and an ear) on in 2014-15. Here are the top 10 hockey personalities this season:

10. Mike Cammalleri, New Jersey Devils. The veteran winger has filled notepads and digital recorders all across North America because he’s an intelligent guy with a healthy sense of humor and good head on his shoulders, and he understands that having opinions and showing the public he’s more than a hockey automaton won’t affect his on-ice performance. Here he is on the Canadian TV comedy series “Mr. D.”:

Cammalleri deserves kudos for putting himself out there. That said, let’s have a moment of silence for that charm now that he’s signed on with the Devils, who are the Bermuda Triangle of personality.

9. Jaromir Jagr, Devils. Yes, I also can’t believe two Devils are on this list. But Jagr is still one of the game’s great characters. He’s capable of going off on a hilarious tangent at any point, but he can also speak with tremendous insight about the game and his experience playing it:

Soon enough, the 43-year-old will be retired and back in his native Czech Republic. Enjoy him while you can. Read more

Quebec League preview: Who will rule in 2014-15

Ryan Kennedy
Quebec's Anthony Duclair  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

The Quebec League is the first of the CHL’s three circuits to enter regular season play and festivities officially kick off on Wednesday when Rouyn-Noranda visits the defending champions from Val-d’Or. But there is always a lot of turnover in junior and the Foreurs would be a big surprise to repeat. Who will represent the ‘Q’ at the Memorial Cup this year? One team will be the host Quebec Remparts, but another slot is up for grabs. I consulted with a crew of experts from the region to put together power rankings for the league, then added one name to know for each team:

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THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: Edmonton Oilers

The Hockey News
The Edmonton Oilers. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

2013-14 record: 29-44-9

Acquisitions: Mark Fayne, Benoit Pouliot, Keith Aulie, Teddy Purcell, Nikita Nikitin

Departures: Ben Eager, Taylor Fedun, Sam Gagner, Denis Grebeshkov, Anton Belov

Top five fantasy players: Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, David Perron, Justin Schultz

Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: One of these years, it’s all going to come together for Edmonton’s skilled kiddie corps of first-overall picks. For that to happen, the Oilers are going to need warrior-type efforts from the third and fourth lines, as well as more responsible two-way play from the top two lines. Read more

THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: New Jersey Devils

The Hockey News
The New Jersey Devils, led by Jaromir Jagr. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)

2013-14 record: 35-29-18

Acquisitions: Scott Clemmensen, Mike Cammalleri, Martin Havlat

Departures: Anton Volchenkov, Mark Fayne

Top five fantasy players: Jaromir Jagr, Patrik Elias, Mike Cammalleri, Travis Zajac, Adam Henrique

Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: By all accounts, the Devils should have been a playoff team last season. They were one of the NHL’s best puck possession teams but lost all 13 of their shootouts and got sub-par goaltending from Martin Brodeur. By the time Cory Schneider was given full reign of the crease, it was too late. Brodeur is now gone, and it’s virtually impossible for New Jersey to pooch the shootout so badly again. Read more

THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: Ottawa Senators

The Hockey News
Clarke MacArthur and Erik Karlsson. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

2013-14 record: 37-31-14

Acquisitions: David Legwand, Alex Chiasson, Nicholas Paul, Carter Camper, Aaron Johnson

Departures: Ales Hemsky, Jason Spezza

Top five fantasy players: Erik Karlsson, Bobby Ryan, Kyle Turris, Clarke MacArthur, Milan Michalek

Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: There was a time when the Senators had a handful of point-per-game producers and a team goal differential in the triple digits. These are not those Senators. This version of the Sens is a hard-working group that wills and overachieves its way to success. If you’re looking for The Little Engine That Could, these are your guys. With a collection of good-but-not-great forwards, the Sens’ collective firepower will be challenged, but could quietly surprise. Read more

THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: Winnipeg Jets

The Hockey News
Tobias Enstrom, Evander Kane and Bryan Little of the Winnipeg Jets. (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

2013-14 record: 37-35-10

Acquisitions: T.J. Galiardi, Mathieu Perreault

Departures: Devin Setoguchi, Olli Jokinen, Al Montoya, Zach Redmond, Edward Pasquale, Jerome Samson, Andrew Gordon

Top five fantasy options: Blake Wheeler, Evander Kane, Bryan Little, Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd

Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: The Winnipeg Jets have been competitive every year since arriving from Atlanta, and they can get over the hump if they keep improving from within. Center Mark Scheifele emerged as an everyday NHLer last season and will take another step forward. Blueliner Jacob Trouba made a massive splash as a rookie, establishing himself as an offensive force with snarl. He’s the star Winnipeg can build around. The offense will spike if puck-moving D-man Josh Morrissey and 2014 first-round sniper Nikolaj Ehlers arrive head of schedule.

The Jets have seasoned talent up front (Blake Wheeler, Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little, Evander Kane) and on defense (Tobias Enstrom, Zach Bogosian). They also have an excellent third line. Michael Frolik was a steady two-way presence last season, and free agent grab Mathieu Perreault is among the league’s most efficient scorers, having tallied 18 goals in 69 games with Anaheim despite playing 13:52 a night. If the young talent catches up with the vets, the Jets will join the playoff hunt.

Bust: Among the veterans, all but Kane have no-movement clauses, despite not guiding the club to the playoffs. It’s odd that the Jets let backup Al Montoya walk in free agency, as Ondrej Pavelec was as weak as any NHL starter last season, tying for 45th in save percentage at .901. It’s a mistake to rely on him, especially when backup Michael Hutchinson is unproven, even if he has excelled in the American League.

Until Ehlers becomes a full-time NHLer, no facelift appears in store for Winnipeg’s woeful power play, as the Jets don’t have an elite playmaker. For all the talk of coach Paul Maurice transforming the team, Winnipeg sagged after a strong start under his guidance. This team lost more than it gained, and that’s terrifying considering how overmatched they are against Central Division opponents, each of whom got better on paper in the off-season. The Jets could find themselves contending for the lottery, especially if Pavelec doesn’t improve.

Bottom Line: The Jets aren’t that bad, but they play in by far the NHL’s deadliest division. They’d be better off in the Eastern Conference, back in the cozy confines of the now-defunct Southeast. Go figure. They’ve putted along between 80 and 87 points for five straight seasons, and the mediocrity will continue. They lost 20 of 29 games against the Central last season, and every team in the division except them made major improvements.

Prospect To Watch: Carl Klingberg’s professional career has been a roller coaster ride so far. The 2009 second round pick has good speed and size, but his production in the American League has come in waves. He scored a promising 37 points three years ago as an AHL rookie, but couldn’t build on it as his production dipped to 23 points in 2012-13. Last season, Klingberg bounced back for a 43-point output. Once considered to have second line potential, if Klingberg becomes an NHL regular it now seems more likely he’ll do it as a third-liner. He’ll be given another shot at cracking the Jets lineup in a depth role, but if he doesn’t make the team out of camp, he should be given the opportunity via call-up. At 23 and on a one-year contract, time is running out for him to find a home with the Jets.

THN’s Prediction for 2014-15: Seventh in Central Division


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Contributors: Matt Larkin, Rory Boylen