Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Winnipeg Jets 2020-21 Season Preview

 


       It's a little bit more fun to be a Winnipeg Jet than a New York one, but that doesn't make the hockey team good. Last year, the top-six forwards and goaltending carried the team to the postseason, as the defensive core barely recovered from some major losses. The team got a little bit better in the offseason, but we'll have to see if they are playoff ready. 

Additions: F Paul Stastny, F Nate Thompson, F Dominic Toninato, D Derek Forbort, F Trevor Lewis.

Subtractions: D Dmitry Kulikov, D Anthony Bitetto, F Cody Eakin, D Carl Dahlstrom.

Best Move: Extending Dylan DeMelo for four years.

Worst Move: Not getting more defensemen.

One Move I'd Make: Sign Madison Bowey to a one year deal.

Best Contract: Connor Hellebuyck, four years remaining with a $6.16 million cap hit. 

Worst Contract: Bryan Little, four years remaining with a $5.29 million cap hit.

New Division Rivals: Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver.

Pending UFAs: Paul Stastny, Adam Lowry, Laurent Brossoit, Mathieu Perrault, Derek Forbort, Nate Thompson, Tucker Poolman, Luca Sbisa, Dominic Toninato.

Pending RFAs: Patrik Laine, Neal Pionk, Andrew Copp.

Current RFAs: Jack Roslovic.


Forwards

The Jets have a great top-six, but it falls off quickly afterwards. Mark Scheifele had another nice season, although he was not nominated for any awards this year, the first time that has happened since 2015-16. Scheifele scored 29 goals with 44 assists for 73 points. He struggles defensively, but his overwhelming offensive input raised his GAR to 12.5. Tied with Scheifele for the team lead in points was Kyle Connor, who also led the team with 38 goals. It was Connor's third consecutive 30 goal season. Captain Blake Wheeler scored 22 goals, hitting the 20 mark for the seventh consecutive season. After two straight 91 point seasons, Wheeler only had 43 assists, for 65 points in 71 games. There were heavy trade rumors around Patrik Laine this offseason entering a year where he'll be a restricted free agent afterwards. Laine scored 28 goals in 68 games last year, which was actually a career low. When you have a 22 year old winger who has played in four seasons and 28 goals is his low, you probably shouldn't trade him. Nikolaj Ehlers has scored at least 20 goals in the past four seasons, with at least 25 in three of them. 25 was his exact goal total, as he had 58 points to go with that. The Jets brought back Paul Stastny, taking advantage of Vegas' cap situation. Stastny scored 17 goals with 38 points last year. he worked as Laine's center when the Jets acquired him at the 2017-18 trade deadline. He had 13 points in 19 games, with 15 in 17 playoff games as a Jet. Jack Roslovic is still an RFA, and a trade is possible. I'll put him in the projected lineup for now, because I have for all RFAs. Last year, he scored 12 goals with 29 points as a bottom-six center. Six-foot-five forward Adam Lowry had 10 points in 49 games, but he also had 137 hits. Lowry is very good at face-offs, so Roslovic can go to the wing or the fourth line. Andrew Copp scored 10 goals with 26 points, which are fine bottom-six numbers. He spent more time per game on the penalty kill than any other Jet forward. Mathieu Perrault was waived today, but he could still stay with the team. Perrault was once a consistent 30-40 point scorer, but he had just 15 in 49 games last year. He can play on the power play, and he averages more than one hit per game. Nate Thompson comes over after being the fourth line center for the Flyers during their playoff run. He had 15 points in the regular season, with one in 16 playoff games. Mason Appleton had good AHL numbers and he was mainly an NHLer last year. He scored five goals with three assists in 46 games. Trevor Lewis comes in on a PTO after 12 seasons in Los Angeles. He scored six goals with six assists in 56 games last year. 2017 1st rounder Kristian Vesalainen scored 12 goals with 30 points in 60 AHL games last year. He had eight points in 10 games in the 2020-21 season in Finland. Jansen Harkins had seven points in 29 games last year after 31 points in 30 AHL games. He scored a goal in his three playoff games. 2018 2nd rounder David Gustafsson was rushed to the NHL last year, as he had one goal in 22 games. He had seven points in 13 AHL games, with 17 in 16 games this season in Sweden. 

Defensemen

Entering last year, the Jets had a depleted defense with Josh Morrissey being the one player fans were confident in. He had 31 points for the second consecutive season, although his 59 blocked shots broke a three year streak of 100+. Neal Pionk was a pleasant surprise for the Jets last year, as he outplayed Jacob Trouba, the guy he was traded for. Pionk had 45 points with a +10 rating. 25 of his points came on the power play. Defensive defenseman Dylan DeMelo came over at the trade deadline, and while he had no points in his 14 games, including the postseason, the Jets liked him enough to bring him back for four years. DeMelo had a 4.6 GAR for the Jets and Senators last year. Tucker Poolman scored 16 points in 57 games in his first full season. He averaged both a blocked shot and a hit per game. Nathan Beaulieu averaged 17 minutes on ice per game last year, with eight points in 38 games. He had a 4.4 GAR. Derek Forbort was a mainstay on the Kings' defense for three years, but he only played in 13 games for them last year. He was traded to Calgary, and had a goal and an assist in their 10 game playoff run. Luca Sbisa has played for four teams in the past four years, but he may finally have a team for more than a season, if he isn't claimed off of waivers. Sbisa had 10 points in 44 games last year, for the third highest points per game mark of his 12 year career. Sami Niku has had his chances, but has never proven that he's an NHL player. Niku had five points in 17 games last year, with 14 in 18 AHL games.

Goalies

The Jets may need to worry about Connor Hellebuyck, which seems weird to say, but he has been a workhorse for the past three seasons. For the second year in a row, no one saw more shots than Hellebuyck. He had a .922 SV% with a 2.57 GAA and a 22.40 GSAA. He also led the league with six shutouts, capturing the Vezina trophy. If he posted these great numbers, why worry? His usage is similar to Cam Talbot's in Edmonton, and look at Talbot now. Backup Laurent Brossoit has been inconsistent in his 68 game career. He was great in 2018-19, but awful last year, with an .895 SV% and a 3.28 GAA. If Brossoit looks good out of the gates, maybe the Jets should consider giving him some playing time so Hellebuyck can start all the important games down the line.


Projected Lines

Kyle Connor - Mark Scheifele - Blake Wheeler

Nikolaj Ehlers - Paul Stastny - Patrik Laine

Andrew Copp - Adam Lowry - Jack Roslovic

Mathieu Perrault - Nate Thompson - Mason Appleton

Extras: Trevor Lewis, Jansen Harkins, Kristian Vesalainen, David Gustafsson


Josh Morrissey - Neal Pionk

Nathan Beaulieu - Tucker Poolman

Derek Forbort - Dylan DeMelo

Extras: Luca Sbisa, Sami Niku


Connor Hellebuyck

Laurent Brossoit


The Jets have their stars, but overall they lack as a team. The bottom-six and defensive core is weak, and those stars carried the load too much last year. That will run out on the Jets this year, as only Ottawa will finish lower than them in the North Division. 

Monday, January 11, 2021

Washington Capitals 2020-21 Season Preview



        The identity of the Capitals came into question last postseason, as they were dismantled in the first round for the second consecutive season. While in 2019 they took it to overtime of game seven, in 2020 they were easy beaten in five games by the Islanders. The Capitals extended Nicklas Backstrom, but they decided to let longtime starter Braden Holtby leave. They must make sure that another franchise icon doesn't leave after 2020-21.

Additions: D Justin Schultz, D Zdeno Chara, G Henrik Lundqvist, G Craig Anderson, F Conor Sheary, D Trevor van Riemsdyk, F Dan Carr, D Paul LaDue. 

Subtractions: G Braden Holtby, D Radko Gudas, F Ilya Kovalchuk, F Brendan Leipsic, F Travis Boyd.

Best Move: Signing Zdeno Chara to a one year deal.

Worst Move: Signing Justin Schultz to a two year deal.

One Move I'd Make: Trade Trevor van Riemsdyk to reduce the crowded defensive core.

Best Contract: Lars Eller, three years remaining with a $3.5 million cap hit.

Worst Contract: TJ Oshie, five years remaining with a $5.75 million cap hit.

New Division Rivals: Boston, Buffalo, New Jersey, Islanders, Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh.

Pending UFAs: Alex Ovechkin, Zdeno Chara, Trevor van Riemsdyk, Conor Sheary, Dan Carr, Paul LaDue.

Pending RFAs: Ilya Samsonov, Jakub Vrana, Jonas Siegenthaler.


Forwards

Alex Ovechkin has still proved that he is a top-three goal scorer of all-time. Now 35, Ovechkin scored 48 goals, tied with David Pastrnak for the Rocket Richard trophy. It was his ninth Richard, and his seventh in the past eight years. Ovechkin shot over 300 times for the seventh year in a row, and his 15.4 shooting percentage was a career high. I didn't love giving Nicklas Backstrom a five year extension worth $9.2 million a year at age 33. Backstrom is still an elite passer, but his 12 goals was his lowest in his career, minimum 50 games. You could also say the same for his 42 assists. Backstrom still received both Byng and Selke votes last year. Everyone's least favorite player, Tom Wilson, scored 21 goals, hitting the 20 mark for the second year in a row. He only had 93 penalty minutes, which is a lot, but it was the first time in his career that the number wasn't three digits. With a career high average ice time, Wilson tied his career high 253 hits. Evgeny Kuznetsov had a little bit of a down season, with 52 points in 63 games. He was one goal away from his 4th 20 goal season in five years. TJ Oshie scored 26 goals, his most since 2016-17. He had a very high 19.5 shooting percentage, so luck was a factor. Oshie is entering his age 34 season, which might be a concern. Jakub Vrana improved on his breakout 2018-19, scoring 25 goals with 52 points in 69 games. The Capitals have the perfect top-six, with six potential 20 goal scorers. They also have a nice third line center in Lars Eller, who plays on both special teams units. Eller has never reached the 20 goal or 40 point mark, but he had 16 with 39 points in 69 games last year. Speedy winger Carl Hagelin was mostly used for the penalty kill in his first full season with the Capitals. He had 25 points in 58 games, which is nice for a bottom-six winger. A former teammate of Hagelin, Conor Sheary fell off after leaving Pittsburgh. He returned to the Penguins at last year's trade deadline, and he had four points in eight games, with two assists in four playoff games. He had .51 points per game as a Penguin, and .40 as a Sabre, so you could see another drop-off in Washington. The Capitals liked Richard Panik's goal scoring numbers and defensive play in Arizona and Chicago, so they gave him a four year deal. Last year for Washington, Panik only scored eight goals, with 22 points and a +16 rating in 59 games. Like Panik, Garnet Hathaway got a four year deal before the 2019-20 season. Hathaway only had 16 points, but he showed more physically, with 189 hits and 79 penalty minutes. Nic Dowd has had a good two year run as the 4th line center. Last year, Dowd had 15 points with a +11 rating and a 6.6 GAR in 56 games. 2015 2nd rounder Daniel Sprong is now on his third team. He had a goal and an assist in eight games for the Ducks last year, with 12 goals and 33 points in 44 AHL games. Dan Carr hasn't been given a big NHL chance, but he has always dominated the AHL. Carr had a goal in 11 games for Nashville last year, but he scored 23 goals with 50 points in 47 AHL games. Playing in the 2020-21 season in Switzerland, Carr had eight points in eight games.

Defensemen

John Carlson is an elite offensive defenseman, but he isn't strong in his own end. Carlson scored 15 goals with 75 points in 69 games last year, finishing 2nd in Norris voting. His GAR was 7.6, but that was brought down heavily by his defensive value. Dmitry Orlov is often tasked with being a safety blanket for Carlson, but he is good offensively as well. Orlov had 27 points in 69 games, for the second best points per game mark of his career. Brenden Dillon came over at the trade deadline, and was extended in the offseason. He had 14 points last year, with 104 penalty minutes and 194 hits. The Capitals will have a brand new second pairing this year with Dillon and Justin Schultz, who was a rival on the Penguin for years. He's fallen off after a 51 point 2016-17 season, mostly due to injuries. Last year, Schultz had 12 points in 46 games. Nick Jensen brings just about nothing offensively, but he is a very strong defensively and on the penalty kill. The Capitals signed Zdeno Chara, the 43 year old who was with the Bruins since before I was born. Chara was still effective last year, although he seemed to finally be on the downturn by the postseason. Last year, Chara had 14 points with a +26 rating in 68 games. The Capitals would have a really good fourth pairing. Trevor van Riemsdyk mostly started on the strong Carolina defensive core over the past three years. He had eight points in 49 games last year, and his average GAR over six seasons is 5.4. Jonas Siegenthaler had nine points in 64 games last year. If there was a Siegenthaler - Jensen pair, they would be a shutdown pair, with no offensive gain. Siegenthaler had a 5.1 GAR last year.

Goalies

The Capitals let Braden Holtby walk to Vancouver, meaning that Ilya Samsonov will take over the reigns as a the starter. The 23 year old had a .913 SV% with a 2.55 GAA and a 2.30 GSAA. He received some Calder votes as well. The Capitals signed Henrik Lundqvist, but a heart issue will cause him to miss the season. The backup will either be veteran Craig Anderson or rookie Vitek Vanecek. Anderson, a 17 year veteran, is in camp on a PTO. He had a .902 SV% with a -7.95 GSAA in 34 games for Ottawa last year. Vanecek was the main AHL starter last year, and the 25 year old had a .917 SV% with a 2.26 GAA. 


Projected Lines

Alex Ovechkin - Nicklas Backstrom - Tom Wilson

Jakub Vrana - Evgeny Kuznetsov - TJ Oshie

Carl Hagelin - Lars Eller - Conor Sheary

Richard Panik - Nic Dowd - Garnet Hathaway

Extras: Daniel Sprong, Dan Carr


Dmitry Orlov - John Carlson

Brenden Dillon - Justin Schultz

Zdeno Chara - Nick Jensen

Extras: Trevor van Riemsdyk, Jonas Siegenthaler


Ilya Samsonov

Craig Anderson

Vitek Vanecek


Projection

The Capitals were embarrassed in the playoffs. But, they still have an all-around great team. The top-six is good, the bottom-six is fine, and the defense and goaltending has upside. It would be a big surprise if the Capitals under Peter Laviolette, who normally does well in his first year with a team, miss the playoffs. The Capitals could easily finish first, although I see a second place finish instead. 

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Vegas Golden Knights 2020-21 Season Preview

 


       In their short history, the Golden Knights have had a reputation of a bunch of misfit players who became good in Vegas. However, the real key to the recent success of Vegas is actually something else. They have been aggressive in acquiring stars, with Max Pacioretty, Mark Stone and Robin Lehner being recent examples. This offseason saw the most aggressive of these approaches, as the Golden Knights went all-in on former Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo, sacrificing some pieces in the process. Will it be worth it? That's the main question for them entering 2020-21.

Additions: D Alex Pietrangelo, D Carl Dahlstrom, F Dylan Sikura, F Tomas Jurco.

Subtractions: D Nate Schmidt, F Paul Stastny, D Jon Merrill, D Deryk Engelland, F Nick Cousins, F Brandon Pirri.

Best Move: Signing Alex Pietrangelo to a seven year deal.

Worst Move: Trading Nate Schmidt to Vancouver for a 3rd round pick.

One Move I'd Make: Sign Brian Boyle to a PTO.

Best Contract: Jonathan Marchessault, four years remaining with a $5 million cap hit. 

Worst Contract: Marc-Andre Fleury, two years remaining with a $7 million cap hit.

New Division Rivals: Anaheim, Arizona, Colorado, Minnesota, Los Angeles, San Jose, St. Louis.

Pending UFAs: Alec Martinez, Tomas Nosek, Tomas Jurco.

Pending RFAs: Carl Dahlstrom, Dylan Sikura.


Forwards

In his first full season in Vegas, Mark Stone proved to be a great fit. He scored 21 goals with 63 points in 65 games, with 17 points in 20 playoff games. An added bonus is that he is arguably the league's best defensive winger, and he is under contract for the next seven seasons. Stone finished 5th in Selke voting last year. The team leader in goals and points was Max Pacioretty. He scored 32 goals with 66 points, hitting those numbers for the first time since 2016-17. It was relieving to see Pacioretty succeed, as he is currently 32 and entering a time where age is a concern. William Karlsson had his worst season as a Golden Knight, but he still scored 15 goals with a 7.9 GAR. His 54.8 CF% was a career high. Reilly Smith scored a career high 27 goals with a 9.5 GAR. Smith's teammate from before the Vegas days, Jonathan Marchessault, scored 22 goals, his lowest total since 2015-16. He had a shooting percentage under ten percent, so better luck could lead to more goals for him. The Golden Knights traded a 5th round pick for Chandler Stephenson mid-season in a deal that has worked out well. He scored eight goals with 22 points in 41 games post-trade, with a +19 rating. He was extended for four years in the offseason. Alex Tuch missed time in the regular season with an injury, but he struggled besides that. In 42 games, Tuch had just 17 points. He went back to his old form in the postseason, with eight goals. There were high expectations for 2017 6th overall pick Cody Glass entering 2019-20, but he didn't deliver. He spent most of the season in the NHL, with 12 points in 39 games. With Paul Stastny off to Winnipeg, Glass has a shot at the second or third line. Nicolas Roy, who the team got for Erik Haula, had 10 points in 28 games, with eight in the playoff run. He was also great in the AHL, with 22 points in 27 games. Fourth line center Tomas Nosek has had basically the same season point-wise three years in a row in Vegas. He had 15 points in 68 games last year, although his analytics depleted, as he had a -3.4 GAR. William Carrier had a career high 19 points in 71 games. Despite an average ice time under 10 minutes, Carrier had 213 hits. In his NHL career, he has averaged about 3.5 hits per game. That doesn't compare to Ryan Reaves, who is purely a body-checker. Reaves had 316 hits last year, and has averaged over four hits per game since joining the Golden Knights in 2017-18. Vegas' depth is lacking, but they hope that Jack Dugan can change that. The 2017 5th rounder had 52 points in 34 games at Providence last year. Tomas Jurco spent last year in the Oilers' organization. He had two points in 12 games, with seven in eight AHL games. Dylan Sikura scored 14 goals in 45 AHL games. He has 14 points in 47 career NHL games, all for Chicago.

Defensemen

The Golden Knights hope that 2020-21 is the year of Alex Pietrangelo. His 4th place Norris finish last year was tied for the highest of his career with 2011-12. He scored 16 goals with 36 assists for 52 points in 70 games for the Blues. Giving Pietrangelo seven years entering his age 31 season is a really risky move that probably won't pay off in the long run. Pietrangelo will take Nate Schmidt's place on the top pairing, partnered with Brayden McNabb. McNabb had nine points with an average ice time of 20 minutes and 201 hits in 71 games. Shea Theodore finished sixth in Norris voting, as he scored a career high 13 goals with 46 points. Theodore had 219 shots, which was fourth among defenseman, just behind Pietrangelo. The Golden Knights acquired shot-blocking menace Alec Martinez from Los Angeles at the trade deadline. Martinez had eight points in the remaining 10 games of the season, with 32 blocked shots. He has hit at least 100 in that category for six consecutive seasons. Like McNabb and Martinez, Nick Holden is a left-handed defensive defenseman. Holden had 14 points in 61 games with 74 blocked shots and 129 hits last year. His 4.5 GAR was an improvement on 2018-19. Zach Whitecloud only played in 16 regular season games, but he didn't miss a playoff game. He had seven points in 35 AHL games. The Golden Knights acquired Carl Dahlstrom from Winnipeg in the Stastny trade. He appeared in 15 games for the Jets last year. 2017 2nd rounder Nicolas Hague had 11 points in 38 games last year, and he had 10 points in 21 AHL games. Right now, he is on the outside looking in on the starting lineup.

Goalies

The Golden Knights' goalie controversy got weird in the playoffs, thanks to a tweet from Marc-Andre Fleury's agent. Vegas reportedly tried to move the three-time Cup winner in the offseason, but his salary affected negotiations heavily. Fleury had his worst save percentage since 2005-06, at .905. He also had a 2.77 GAA and a -6.50 GSAA. Fleury played well in four playoff starts. Robin Lehner rightfully earned the starting job, and an extension with his play. He had a .918 SV% but a 3.01 GAA playing behind an awful Blackhawks team before a trade to Vegas. He had a .940 SV% in three starts after the deal. In the playoffs, Lehner had a .917 SV% with a 1.99 GAA. 


Projected Lines

Max Pacioretty - William Karlsson - Mark Stone

Reilly Smith - Chandler Stephenson - Jonathan Marchessault

Nicolas Roy - Cody Glass - Alex Tuch

William Carrier - Tomas Nosek - Ryan Reaves

Extras: Jack Dugan, Tomas Jurco, Dylan Sikura


Brayden McNabb - Alex Pietrangelo

Alec Martinez - Shea Theodore

Nick Holden - Zach Whitecloud

Extras: Carl Dahlstrom, Nicolas Hague


Robin Lehner

Marc-Andre Fleury


Projection

The Golden Knights are a part of the super three in the West Division. Combined with Colorado and St. Louis, these three teams are really good with little competition around them. They'll all make the playoffs, and if not, people will be fired. The salary cap situation is under control in Vegas, and so is the team in general. I predict a second place finish. 

Saturday, January 9, 2021

MLB Trade Review: Phillies acquire Coonrod

 


       The Philadelphia Phillies have acquired RHP Sam Coonrod from the San Francisco Giants in exchange for RHP Carson Ragsdale. 

       The Phillies might have had the worst bullpen in MLB history last year, so it is new president Dave Dombrowski and new GM Sam Fuld to fix that. Coonrod debuted in 2019, and he was effective, with a 3.58 ERA. He had a great slider, but that pitch crashed in 2020, with an average exit velocity of 99.7 mph. Coonrod throws a fastball and a sinker that averages in the high-90s. Coonrod was terrible in 2020, but he did have his first three career saves. The Giants get Ragsdale back, a 2020 4th round pick out of the University of Southern Florida. Ragsdale was ranked 30th in the Phillies system by MLB Pipeline. Because of how Coonrod's 2020 went, this seems like an overpay from the Phillies.

        Coonrod, 28, had a 9.82 ERA with a 4.76 FIP, a 1.636 WHIP and 15 strikeouts in 14.2 innings for the Giants last year. In his MLB career, Coonrod has a 5.74 ERA with a 5.07 FIP, a 1.370 WHIP with 35 strikeouts in 42.1 innings.

        Ragsdale, 22, had a 2.84 ERA with a 1.000 WHIP and 37 strikeouts in 19 innings at college in 2020. In his collegiate career, Ragsdale had a 3.75 ERA with a 1.391 WHIP plus 77 strikeouts in 50.1 innings.