Hockey Canada Tattoos II
Rick McNish, Petawawa, Ont.
Hockey Canada Tattoos II
Rick McNish, Petawawa, Ont.
The Predators are primed for a breakthrough but will bad goaltending prevent them from becoming true contenders in the Western Conference?
THN is rolling out its 2016-17 Team Previews daily, in reverse order of 2015-16 overall finish, until the start of the season.
THN's Prediction: 2nd in Central
Stanley Cup odds: 17-1
Key additions: P.K. Subban, D; Yannick Weber, D
Key departures: Shea Weber, D; Carter Hutton, G
-Will P.K. Subban have a career year? The conditions appear just right for an explosive Subban campaign. He takes his freewheeling, creative scoring talents to coach Peter Laviolette, who favors an aggressive style and encourages his D-men to join the rush. Subban and Roman Josi already look like one of the league’s top tandems on paper.
Subban is smack in the middle of his prime at 27, and he will have plenty to prove after the Montreal Canadiens shipped him away for Shea Weber.
-Can any Predator score goals other than Filip Forsberg? Forsberg tied Jason Arnott’s franchise record with 33 goals last season. It was only Forsberg’s second full NHL campaign, so a leap to 40 goals and true star status is possible if not probable. But will the other Nashville forwards step up?
James Neal can be counted on for 25 or 30 snipes, but the rest of the group is suspect. If only Colin Wilson could score in the regular season like he does in the playoffs, Nashville’s forward corps would look far more dangerous.
-Is Pekka Rinne in decline? Rinne sparkled with a .923 save percentage two seasons ago, but his .908 mark last season placed him 34th in the NHL. Rinne has finished at .910 or lower three times in his past four seasons. That’s not good enough for a goalie making $7 million annually.
Rinne’s been average to below average more often than not of late and found himself benched in favor of Carter Hutton for consecutive games when healthy at one point last year. That had never happened before. Rinne, 33, needs to make a statement in 2016-17.
Player projections are based off a three-year version of Game Score (which you can read about here) weighted by recency and repeatability and then translated to its approximate win value (Game Score Value Added or GSVA). Team strength was derived from the combined value of every player’s GSVA on a team. The season was then simulated 10,000 times factoring in team strength, opponent strength and rest.
The Nashville Predators made a huge splash in the off-season trading captain Shea Weber for P.K. Subban, and are a serious dark horse contender because of it. Weber is still very good, but Subban is younger, better, and more suited to the Predators up-tempo style.
Subban joins an already elite top-four that includes Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and Mattias Ekholm. Nashville’s defense is the best in the league according to Game Score and it’s thanks in large part to the contributions from their top four, three of whom would be No. 1 D-men on any other team.
That defence needs to be strong as the guy they’re protecting has declined tremendously over the last few seasons. In Nashville’s 2015-16 season preview, I wrote that Rinne’s high standing was based mostly on reputation over actual performance as he’d been struggling over the last few seasons. He preceded to turn in an extremely lacklustre campaign with a .908 save percentage that was actually deceiving considering the quality of shots given up.
For all the talk about Nashville’s ascent into the West’s elite and their dark horse status, Rinne is the one thing holding the team back. They’re the 11th best team according to this model, but their skaters are actually sixth best in the league. This is an elite team that’s likely going to be undone in the first or second round by goaltending. With relative unknown Marek Mazanec as the backup, there isn’t much of a safety net behind Rinne either.
That means they’ll need to score some goals, and while they have a few guys who can get the job done, it’s a pretty average forward group overall. Filip Forsberg is a star in the making and should be good for another 30 goal season, while James Neal has the potential to do the same. Ryan Johansen is the No. 1 center that Nashville has searched for their entire existence and should take another step this season. That trio will shoulder most of the offensive burden, especially since there aren’t many other offensive catalysts further down the lineup.
The Predators have a very good team here that’s on the cusp of something great, but they need to figure out a better strategy in goal because pretending Rinne is still 27 likely won’t pan out.
Up next: Philadelphia Flyers
Previously: Toronto Maple Leafs | Edmonton Oilers | Vancouver Canucks | Columbus Blue Jackets | Calgary Flames | Winnipeg Jets | Arizona Coyotes | Buffalo Sabres | Montreal Canadiens | Colorado Avalanche | New Jersey Devils | Ottawa Senators | Carolina Hurricanes | Boston Bruins | Detroit Red Wings
With their added wing depth, the Oilers can go into the season using Nail Yakupov as trade bait later this season to address a different roster issue.
Earlier in the off-season, there was considerable speculation the Edmonton Oilers would trade right winger Nail Yakupov. Selected first overall by the Oilers in the 2012 NHL draft, the 22-year-old struggled to meet lofty expectations.
It was anticipated Yakupov might be packaged for a defenseman, another struggling young player or a couple of draft picks. With training camps underway and the start of the upcoming season fast approaching, he's still on the Oilers roster.
The Edmonton Journal's David Staples cites TSN's Ryan Rishaug's belief the Oilers will part ways with Yakupov when the right opportunity presents itself. Staples also cites other local media insiders claiming Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli attempted to move Yakupov this summer, noting the young winger is on the outs with coach Todd McLellan.
With promising winger Jesse Puljujarvi standing a good chance to crack the lineup this season, Zack Kassian re-signed to a one-year deal and Kris Versteeg on a professional tryout offer, Chiarelli could have sufficient depth on the wing to replace Yakupov. The Oilers GM wouldn't necessarily have to get another winger back in return, using him instead as trade bait later this season to address a different roster issue.
Yakupov's struggles and his $2.5-million salary-cap hit for 2016-17 hurt his trade value this summer. Over the course of this season, however, a stronger performance in a contract year could make him more attractive to rival clubs.
HARTNELL RESCINDS TRADE REQUEST
Leading up to last season's NHL trade deadline, Columbus Blue Jackets left winger Scott Hartnell was the subject of considerable trade speculation. It was believed the Jackets hoped to move the 34-year-old and his $4.75-million annual cap hit in a cost-cutting deal.
Earlier this summer, Hartnell agreed to waive his no-movement clause and provided Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen a list of acceptable trade destinations. However, he's now changed his mind. Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reports Hartnell rescinded his trade request.
After two months without any news of a possible move, Hartnell said he didn't want uncertainty hanging over him during the upcoming season. He also said he still believes he can be a contributor for the Jackets.
While his cap hit remains on the Jackets' books, it won't cause any significant issues for them heading into 2016-17. They freed up some cap room by buying out Fedor Tyutin and Jarret Boll in June. With all their players under contract for this season, they have $3.8 million in cap space.
It'll be interesting to see how things play out for Hartnell and the Jackets over the course of the season. Should they fall out of playoff contention again by the deadline, maybe Kekalainen revisits moving the veteran winger.
SEIDENBERG DRAWING ATTENTION
Defenseman Dennis Seidenberg's performance for Team Europe in the World Cup of Hockey is garnering favorable reviews. An unrestricted free agent after the Boston Bruins bought out his contract in June, the 35-year-old blueliner is drawing the attention of clubs seeking experienced defensive depth.
Last week, the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reported the Senators “kicked the tires” on Seidenberg and fellow UFA blueliner Kris Russell. On Monday, TSN's Darren Dreger took to Twitter reporting the Ottawa Senators were among “a handful of teams” with interest in Seidenberg.
Dreger believes the first team to make the rearguard a competitive offer will get him. If not the Senators, one of them could be the New Jersey Devils. They still have a hole to fill on defense since trading away Adam Larsson to the Edmonton Oilers for left winger Taylor Hall. The Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs could also come calling.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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Team Europe may be trailing the best-of-three World Cup final, but Dennis Seidenberg will be in good spirits after the Game 1 loss as he has signed a one-year, $1-million deal with the New York Islanders
Dennis Seidenberg had two goals for the World Cup of Hockey. The first was to help Team Europe to a title, and the other was to play well enough to land himself a contract.
“I just have to focus on playing my game,” Seidenberg told the Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa of chasing a deal in the tournament. “There’s no magic to it. It’s playing a simple style of hockey. That’s basically it. I don’t have to try and do something I can’t do. That’s going to go the other way if you do that.”
And while falling behind 1-0 in the best-of-three final series to Team Canada isn’t going to help Seidenberg accomplish his first goal, he has done his part — playing his game, and doing so to the best of his ability — to take care of his contract status. The New York Islanders announced Wednesday that they have come to terms on a one-year, $1-million contract with Seidenberg.
The contract comes three months after Seidenberg was bought out by the Boston Bruins and amidst speculation that several teams were interested in bringing him aboard. It’s a good signing, too, especially for an Islanders team that was in need of some fresh faces to help on the back end after watching Brian Strait head to the Winnipeg Jets as a free agent. The best part about Seidenberg’s signing, though, is that it’s low risk and high reward for both parties.
For Seidenberg, the new role will likely be a bottom-pairing position with a team that already has enough top-end blueliners to fill out the roster. Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, Travis Hamonic, Calvin De Haan and Thomas Hickey are all more than capable, and the same goes for young blueliners Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech. However, it can never hurt to have some added insurance, and the 35-year-old Seidenberg has the experience and ability to still chip in on the back end.
Though he’s coming off of a tough season, one in which he had a sub-20 minute average ice time for the first time since 2007-08, Seidenberg can still be a decent blueliner in his own end. The issue is mobility, but if he’s paired with someone who allows him to be a stay at home defender, Seidenberg could benefit. And as for his ice time, it’s not likely he’ll be asked to take on a much larger role than he did this past season.
The biggest concern about Seidenberg may be his health, though. He played in 61 games this past season and dealt with back and knee ailments, and he has been forced to miss significant amounts of time in two of the past three seasons. That said, on a one-year deal, there’s no risk for the Islanders. If Seidenberg goes down, they can bring up a fresh face to fill his place.
So, win or lose at the World Cup, Seidenberg’s tournament was a success.
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Europe could pack it in after its best effort couldn't trump Canada's weakest in Game 1 of the World Cup final. But Ralph Krueger's troops aren't quitting.
TORONTO – Is Team Europe the master of its own fate in the World Cup final? It's debatable.
On one hand, it's tough to dictate how you fare when you're up against the monolith that is Canada, a hockey power that, even by its lofty standards, may be in its most dominant stretch of all-time. Tuesday night's 3-1 victory marked Canada's 15th straight victory in best-on-best tournament play. In a way, Canada's uncharacteristically uneven effort is especially demoralizing for Europe given Canada seemed to flick a switch whenever it needed to. The Euros opened the game with an aggressive shift and a power play, and Canada countered with two goals off turnovers. The Euros peppered Carey Price with 23 shots in less than 30 minutes, then Canada didn't allow a shot for more than six minutes. It seemed Canada dictated how the game would go by deciding when it felt like playing.
On the other hand, Europe can look at Tuesday's result and say, sheesh, we were pretty close. We outplayed the Canucks for extended stretches. All three of their goals came off takeaways. Those are correctable mistakes. We had distinct territorial advantages for much of the game. Carey Price helped maintain Canada's lead. We weren't that far from forcing overtime.
Can you guess which stance Team Europe takes? Well, yeah, obviously.
“We definitely felt we had a chance out here tonight," center Frans Nielsen told reporters after the game. "It was a tough loss, but we can take a lot of good from it, too. Everyone in there really believes now that we can go out and win this next one and make it a one-game series.”
Anze Kopitar called Game 1 Europe's best game of the tournament. Nielsen said Canada's weakness, if it had one, was defensive play, and that Europe did a good job forcing Canada to defend. Coach Ralph Krueger suggested the opportunities were even "if you cut the goals out of the videos."
Wow. It sure feels like the Europeans are lying to themselves. But good on them. Faced with a seemingly unbeatable opponent, the choices are (a) accept that they have no hope and mail in their next effort or (b) choose to believe even if they have no business believing. Not only has Europe chosen the latter route, but the team is downright angry about Game 1, as if it deserved a victory as much as Canada did.
"We're proud of that effort, and the creation of it, but we're very frustrated, of course, with what and how we gave up the goals we did," Krueger said. "Just a little bit too much risk at the wrong times, and the power of Canada is that: to take opportunities and jam them into the net.
"What we can take out of this is a lot of courage that we played a strong game, that we had a lot of opportunity that we didn't make enough out of. We could have tested Price a lot more with the chances we had, and some of them just died on our own sticks."
Kopitar pointed out that Europe dictated the pace for much of Game 1, and even though that might've been just because Canada sat back, the statement is true. He, like Krueger, said Canada's goals were the result of Europe's mistakes.
See a theme here? Krueger's troops aren't bowing down to Canada in admiration. It's not "we couldn't stop them" or "they're such a great team." It's "we made mistakes" and "we dictated play." The Euros are taking ownership, implying they have the ability to dictate what happens in Game 2 and beyond. Even though that probably isn't true – uh, it's Canada, you guys – it's a sign of good coaching that the Euros speak with such conviction.
That's all well and good, but they still weren't nearly good enough to beat Canada. What must they specifically do besides believe in themselves if they want to force Game 3? When I asked Krueger about that second period lull after they opened with 23 shots, he said Europe got hemmed in with some tired defensemen on long shifts, so they have to try and manage their minutes better going forward. He was pleased with the fact his team had so many takeaways and thinks his forwards' dogged forechecking will continue to create transition opportunities. The offense comes from conscientious defense.
“Ralph said from day 1 that the team with the best defense usually comes out on top of these kinds of tournaments," Nielsen said. "We’ve been focusing on a lot of that, being a frustrating team to play against and feeding off turnovers. We’ve got so many good players on the team and we’ve got speed, so when we get those turnovers we’re good enough to make teams pay.”
Now it's time to back up the talk. Team Europe still believes it has the talent and work ethic to beat Canada, but it'll have to find a way to solve Price if it does continue creating chances in transition. Otherwise, it'll be a short series.
And let's be honest. That's what we expect. Canada still looks like a team that can do what it wants out there. But bless the Europeans for refusing to accept that and keeping things interesting. They've proven us wrong time and again, so maybe they have one last miracle to unleash.
Matt Larkin is a writer and editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin