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


surveys

Contributors: Matt Larkin, Rory Boylen

THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: Carolina Hurricanes

The Hockey News
The Carolina Hurricanes. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

2013-14 record: 36-35-11

Acquisitions: Ben Holmstrom, Tim Gleason, Jay McClement, Drew MacIntyre

Departures: Manny Malhotra, Justin Peters, Brett Sutter, Mike Murphy

Top five fantasy options: Eric Staal, Jeff Skinner, Alex Semin, Justin Faulk, Jordan Staal

Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: Bill Peters takes over his first NHL bench after a three-year apprenticeship in Detroit, where Mike Babcock has spawned several other success stories. Peters hopes to increase the work ethic in Carolina, and it’s a noble cause, because he has talent to work with. Read more

THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: Buffalo Sabres

The Hockey News
Matt Moulson of the Buffalo Sabres. (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

2013-14 record: 21-51-10, 16th in East, 30th overall

Acquisitions: Andre Benoit, Tyson Strachan, Andrej Meszaros, Josh Gorges, Brian Gionta, Cody McCormick, Matt Moulson

Departures: Matt D’Agostini, John Scott, Kevin Porter, Cory Conacher, Christian Ehrhoff, Alexander Sulzer, Ville Leino

Top five fantasy options: Matt Moulson, Cody Hodgson, Tyler Ennis, Brian Gionta, Sam Reinhart

Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario:

Boom: Just when we all thought the Sabres were going to “McSuck for McDavid” or “Play like Robert Reichel to get Eichel” they went out on a spending spree that should at least make them a tougher out than they’ve been in the past. Read more

THN’s top 200 fantasy players for 2014-15

Matt Larkin
SidneyCrosby

I love the Don Henley track “Boys of Summer.” It’s almost impossible to sing the chorus in karaoke, which sucks, but I dig the way it captures this time of year. Nobody on the road…nobody on the beach…I feel it in the air…the summer’s out of reach.

That feeling – mild chill in the air, slight breeze – gets me thinking about fantasy hockey drafts. It’s that time again. Most of what you need to know for your draft is in our crackerjack THN Ultimate Fantasy Guide, which is on newsstands now. You’ll even find a sorted list of the top 300 projected scorers.

One thing that list doesn’t cover, however, is any league not based entirely on points. What about the head-to-head formats in which you accumulate goaltending stats and penalty minutes on top of your offensive numbers? How do you know when to draft a goalie or defenseman over a forward?

I present to you a new ranking set. This list is based on a standard Yahoo head-to-head format with the following categories: goals, assists, plus-minus, penalty minutes, power play points, shots on goal, wins, goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts.

Personally, I like scrapping penalty minutes for hits and adding saves to the goalie category, but I’ll stick with the standard configuration to ensure these rankings have a wider reach. Let’s get it on! Watch for updates throughout training camps.

Read more

Nearly 20 years later, he finally got his day with the Stanley Cup

Ryan Kennedy
folga-with-Cup1

Mike Folga still remembers Game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup final. As the equipment manager for the New York Rangers, he had the ultimate insider’s experience to the madness and anticipation that ran through Madison Square Garden that night as the Blueshirts tried to win their first NHL title in more than 50 years.

“The noise was so thunderous, you had to shout to be heard,” he said. “And the vibrations in the building – it’s a wonder the ice didn’t crack.”

The series came down to one goal and the Rangers had to protect a 3-2 lead for one final faceoff in the defensive zone with Craig MacTavish taking the draw for the home team.

“I was thinking to myself,” Folga recalled, “thank God we’ve got someone out there that knows what they’re doing.”

As soon as the puck was dropped, MacTavish threw his body between the biscuit and Vancouver’s center, allowing time to expire without a final threat. Folga jumped up in jubilation, then sat back on the bench to reflect on all the hard work, all the late nights that had led to the championship.

One of the spoils of winning the Cup is getting the chance to spend a day with it. But back then, the process was unsupervised. Parties ran late, schedules got off kilter and despite making plans with family and friends, Folga’s day with the Cup never happened.

The Erie, Pa. native moved on and for the past 13 years, he has been the equipment manager and athletic trainer for his hometown Mercyhurst Lakers NCAA squad. One of those Lakers is defenseman Tyler Shiplo, who had a connection to Colin Campbell in the NHL’s head office. Shiplo got the ball rolling and the Mercyhurst student government raised the $5,000 needed to bring the Cup down to Erie over the weekend.

In front of the biggest crowd in Lakers history, Folga finally got to raise the Cup above his head, while other fans posed for pictures and raised money for the Wounded Warriors Project. To top it off, Mercyhurst beat the Bentley Falcons 4-1.

“Just to be able to share it with family and friends and everybody at Mercyhurst was great,” Folga said. “There is only one Stanley Cup and even if hockey isn’t the most popular sport in the United States, it’s the No. 1 trophy. Everybody knows the Stanley Cup.”

For a guy who did more blue-collar work for the Rangers than any grinder or enforcer could ever claim, Folga is humble about his role in New York’s victory and humbled by the memories his day with the Cup brought back.

“Maybe I did do my job,” he said. “Nobody lost an edge on their skate that night.”

Five things to watch: Capitals try to break slump without Alex Ovechkin

The Hockey News
Washington Capitals

By Brian O’Neill, Josh Elliott and Gareth Bush
From the Ovechkin-less Capitals trying to break a slump, to Jonas Gustavsson playing big in Detroit and two super-rookies taking to the ice, we get you prepared for the five games ahead on Friday night with our five things to watch.

Olympus Has Fallen
The pre-Olympic hype is picking up around Alex Ovechkin, but right now the Washington Capitals need him more than Team Russia. The Caps, who have plummeted to 13th in the East and are winless in their past six games, face the very real possibility of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2006-07. They head into tonight’s tilt in New Jersey with the third-worst road record in the league (8-11-4), behind only Edmonton and Buffalo. Teams are galloping past them in the standings, but even if the Caps catch up, they lose any tiebreakers because they have the third-worst number of regulation or overtime wins (14). The only teams with fewer ROWs are, again, Edmonton and Buffalo. That’s bad company to be keeping, and with Ovechkin out of tonight’s game (his second in a row), things could get ugly if the Caps don’t figure it out soon. Read more

Five things to watch: Del Zotto begins anew with Nashville

The Hockey News
Michael Del Zotto

By Josh Elliott, Brian O’Neill and Gareth Bush
Michael Del Zotto plays his first game as a Preator, the Maple Leafs and Blue Jackets look to keep separating from the other wild card contenders and more in today’s five things to watch, a preview of the 10 NHL games on tap Thursday.

A Fresh Face
Having been acquired from the New York Rangers in exchange for Kevin Klein yesterday, Michael Del Zotto will make his debut with the Nashville Predators tonight. MDZ has posted 11 points in 42 games this season, a sharp decline from the 21 he tallied over 46 games last season. He fell out of favor with coach Alain Vigneault and had long been the subject of trade rumors, before being dealt yesterday. This could be the fresh start that Del Zotto needs and if all goes well he could stabilize a Predators defense that ranks among the league’s best. The Preds head into Vancouver where the Canucks are beginning a four-game homestand.       Read more