Thursday, December 31, 2020

Nashville Predators 2020-21 Season Preview

 


       After two first place finishes in a row, but one series win, the pressure was high on the Predators entering 2019-20. When they came out slow, it cost Head Coach Peter Laviolette his job. The Predators hired failed Devils coach John Hynes, and the team didn't get much better. They slumped into fifth place, and with a chance at redemption, they fell to the Coyotes in four games. The Predators made a bunch of minor additions in the offseason, including bringing in the guy who scored the goal to end their season.

Additions: F Nick Cousins, D Mark Borowiecki, F Luke Kunin, D Matt Benning, F Erik Haula, F Brad Richardson.

Subtractions: F Nick Bonino, F Kyle Turris, F Austin Watson, F Colin Blackwell, F Dan Carr, D Dan Hamhuis. 

Best Move: Signing Erik Haula to a one year deal.

Worst Move: Trading Nick Bonino, a 2nd and a 3rd round pick to Minnesota for Luke Kunin and a 4th round pick. 

One Move I'd Make: Extend Juuse Saros for two years.

Best Contract: Viktor Arvidsson, four years remaining with a $4.25 million cap hit.

Worst Contract: Ryan Johansen, five years remaining with an $8 million cap hit.

New Division Rivals: Carolina, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Florida, Tampa Bay.

Pending UFAs: Pekka Rinne, Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula, Brad Richardson, Jarred Tinordi.

Pending RFAs: Juuse Saros, Dante Fabbro, Eeli Tolvanen.

Current RFAs: Luke Kunin.


Forwards

The Predators only had one 20 goal scorer in 2019-20, which is a little bit problematic. That goal scorer was Filip Forsberg, who potted 21 in 63 games, his lowest game total since becoming a regular. Forsberg has reached the 20 goal plateau in each of his six full seasons. After scoring 34 goals in 58 games in 2018-19, Viktor Arvidsson took a big step back last year, scoring 15 in 57 games. Arvidsson's point total of 28 was his lowest since 2015-16. Ryan Johansen scored 14 goals, but his 36 point total was his lowest as a Predator. Johansen had a very high 53.2 face-off percentage. He'll still get the first line center nod over Matt Duchene, who had a disappointing first season in Nashville. Duchene scored 13 goals with 42 points in 66 games. Over his career, his 66 game average totals are 20 goals and 49 points. The Predators took months to bring back Mikael Granlund, who played with Duchene last year and scored 17 goals in 63 games. His game total and 17:48 average ice time were lowest totals since 2013-14. Former first round pick Eeli Tolvanen has tried to transition to the NHL but has failed for the past few years. He's still only 21, and scored 21 goals in 63 AHL games last year. Tolvanen has played in this KHL season, and had 13 points in 25 games. The Predators signed Erik Haula, who used to be teammates with Granlund in Minnesota. Haula is a two-way center who scored 12 goals in 41 games for Carolina last year before a trade to Florida. In 2017-18, his last season with over 50 games played, Haula scored 29 goals. Another former Wild, Luke Kunin was never teammates with Haula, but could be on his line this year. Kunin scored a career high 15 goals in 63 games with 31 points last year, but he had an ugly 45.3 CF%. Calle Jarnkrok scored 15 goals with 34 points in 64 games, and hit the 15 goal mark for the fourth time in the past five seasons. With Haula in the mix, Jarnkrok should be a full-time winger in 2020-21. The fourth line will be a mix of 4-5 players. Of those players, Rocco Grimaldi had the most points with 31, with 10 of them being goals. The five-foot-six winger has seen his role increase over the past two seasons. Between Montreal and Vegas last year, Nick Cousins scored 10 goals with 25 points, and had a 54.6 CF%. He had five assists in Vegas' 17 game playoff run, earning him a two-year contract in Nashville. Colton Sissons is under contract for the next six years, although last year he was mostly a defensive specialist. Sissons had 15 points in 57 games, but only Nick Bonino spent more time on the penalty kill among Predator forwards than Sissons. Brad Richardson scored just two goals in the postseason for Arizona in his five years there, but one of them ended the Predators' season. He proved that his 19 goal 2018-19 was a fluke last year, when he scored just six goals in 59 games. He won 54 percent of his face-offs, but he had an awful CF% of 42.5%. 2015 second rounder Yakov Trenin debuted as a rotation player last year, getting into 21 games. He had two goals with four assists. 

Defensemen

Roman Josi had received Norris votes for years, but finally won the award in 2019-20, when he posted career highs in goals (16), assists (49) and points (65) in 69 games. Josi had a 52.6 CF%, and he averaged nearly 26 minutes on ice a game. The Predators have to be satisfied with their top pairing of Josi and Ryan Ellis, who had 38 points in 49 games in 2019-20. His analytics are absolutely insane, as he had a 23.2 GAR, and Evolving-Hockey estimated his worth last year at $20.2 million (!!). While he had 33 points in 68 games, Mattias Ekholm is a defensive defenseman. He had a CF% over 50 for the sixth consecutive season, and no Predator spent more time on the penalty kill than him, at two minutes and 49 seconds a game. After trading away PK Subban, the Predators relied on rookie Dante Fabbro, who didn't blow anyone away. Fabbro had 11 points in 68 games, and excelled a lot more defensively than offensively. To ease the load on the right side, the Predators brought in Matt Benning, the son of Canucks GM Jim Benning. Over his four year career, Benning's average GAR is 7.45. He had eight points in 43 games for Edmonton last year, and was underutilized. Mark Borowiecki finally left Ottawa, where he was universally beloved. Borowiecki scored seven goals last year, and he only had multiple goals in one of his previous eight seasons. He is very physical, with 199 hits and 58 penalty minutes in 53 games. Jarred Tinordi played in 28 games last year, and before that he hadn't played in an NHL game since 2015-16. Tinordi scored once, his only goal over his five career seasons. The Predators acquired a former teammate of Borowiecki in Ben Harpur in a minor deal at the deadline. Harpur played in 103 games over four seasons for the Senators, but didn't appear in a game last year.

Goalies

Goaltending is a big question for the Predators, with Pekka Rinne expected to be Juuse Saros' 1A again. Entering his 15th season, all for the Predators, the 38 year old former Vezina winner posted the worst numbers of his career last year, with an .895 SV%, a 3.17 GAA and a -14.22 GSAA. Saros outplayed Rinne, and replaced him in the postseason. The 25 year old had a .914 SV% in his fourth full NHL season. 


Projected Lines

Filip Forsberg - Ryan Johansen - Viktor Arvidsson

Eeli Tolvanen - Matt Duchene - Mikael Granlund

Calle Jarnkrok - Erik Haula - Luke Kunin

Rocco Grimaldi - Nick Cousins - Colton Sissons

Extras: Brad Richardson, Yakov Trenin


Roman Josi - Ryan Ellis

Mattias Ekholm - Dante Fabbro 

Matt Borowiecki - Matt Benning

Extras: Jarred Tinordi, Ben Harpur


Projection

The Predators saw their success slip away from them last year, and they were bailed out by the pandemic to get to the playoffs. They didn't show much in Edmonton, and now as they enter a division with one more team than they are used to, their job gets harder. The door is closing on Nashville's window, and a sixth place finish, as a I project, will not help that window stay open. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Montreal Canadiens 2020-21 Season Preview


 

       The best way to describe the Canadiens is that they are an agent of chaos. They finished with a 31-31-9 record, and lost to the Red Wings of all teams four times. Yet, they go to the bubble, and eliminate the Penguins of all teams. Then, they compete well against the Flyers before getting knocked out. This chaos stems to GM Marc Bergevin, who sometimes makes absolutely amazing trades, and also sometimes gets robbed in a way that is so confusing, even armchair GMs could predict an easy downfall. Being Heath Ledger's Joker is a good way for entertainment, we already knew that, but not a great way to run a hockey team.

Additions: F Tyler Toffoli, F Josh Anderson, D Joel Edmundson, G Jake Allen, F Corey Perry, F Michael Frolik.

Subtractions: F Max Domi, F Nick Cousins, G Keith Kinkaid.

Best Move: Signing Tyler Toffoli to a four year deal.

Worst Move: Trading Max Domi and a third round pick to Columbus for Josh Anderson.

One Move I'd Make: Try to get assets for Jonathan Drouin, who is too expensive for a potential third liner.

Best Contract: Brendan Gallagher, one year remaining with a $3.75 million cap hit, followed by six years with a $6.5 million cap hit. 

Worst Contract: Josh Anderson, seven years remaining with a $5.5 million cap hit. 

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

Pending UFAs: Tomas Tatar, Phillip Danault, Joel Armia, Jordan Weal, Corey Perry, Michael Frolik.

Pending RFAs: Artturi Lehkonen, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Victor Mete.


Forwards

The Canadiens have about seven second line forwards, and no pure first liner. Brendan Gallagher is the closest to that. Coming off of two consecutive 30 goal seasons, Gallagher only hit 22 last year, but in 59 games, so his goals per game was about the same. He also had a CF% of 60.6, which is just about as high as you'll see. Tomas Tatar scored 22 goals as well, and led the team by a lot with 61 points. The Habs probably won't have the cap space to bring back both Tatar and Phillip Danault, who is the third member of the top line. He had 47 points last year, and is an exceptional defensive forward who kills a lot of penalties. The Habs signed Tyler Toffoli, who scored 24 goals and was one of the few bright spots for the Kings last year before he was dealt. In his eight year career, Toffoli has never had a CF% below 50 or below his team's average. Nick Suzuki had a great rookie season as a 20 year old, scoring 13 goals with 41 points in 71 games. He finished ninth in Calder voting, and there may have been a case for a better spot. Suzuki is ready to become a full-time second line center. Jonathan Drouin had 53 points in 2018-19, but played in just 27 games last year, scoring seven goals with eight assists. The battle for the last top-six spot is between Drouin and Josh Anderson. The Canadiens obviously like Anderson, enough to trade Max Domi for him and then extend him for seven years. Anderson was limited to 26 games in 2019-20, but he scored just one goal. Anderson scored 27 goals the year before, but he may be suited better for a third line role thanks to his physicality. Jesperi Kotkaniemi really endured a sophomore slump last year, with eight points in 36 games. It became bad enough that he was demoted to the AHL at one point. He's only 20, so it's not like his career is lost or anything. Only Danault spent more time on the penalty kill among Habs forwards than Artturi Lehkonen. Lehkonen hit the 20 point mark and the 10 goal mark for the fourth season in a row. His 13 goals last year were his most since his rookie season of 2016-17. In his second season in Montreal, Joel Armia scored 16 goals with 30 points. The big winger had a career high 146 hits and 28 penalty minutes. Paul Byron had 10 points in 29 games last year. He kills penalties and is a two-time 20 goal scorer. The Canadiens don't really have another center in their bottom-six besides Kotkaniemi, which will prevent Corey Perry from being a full-time player. The pesky Perry recently signed with the team. He spent last year with the Stars, where he had 21 points in 57 games. Instead, the fourth line center will be either Jordan Weal or Ryan Poehling. Weal has 25 points in 65 games since joining Montreal in 2018-19. After scoring a hat trick in his debut in the last game of 2018-19, Poehling did not follow that up with success last year. He had just two points in 27 games, and in the AHL, he had 13 points in 36 games. The team signed veteran Michael Frolik, who is entering his 13th season, and will be playing for his sixth team. Frolik had a career low 14 points in 57 games for the Flames and Sabres last year. Charles Hudon has always tried to join the lineup rotation, but ends up failing. He played in 15 games last year, and had two points. 

Defensemen

Unlike the all-out brawl that is their forward core, the Canadiens have a more stable defensive system. The top two pairing should stay intact from last year, where both right handed shot defenders carry the load. That starts with Shea Weber, who I think we can say was on the winning side of the Weber/Subban trade from a few years ago. Weber scored 15(!!) goals in 65 games last year, which is funny because Joel Armia did even better and we don't care about that as much. Weber averaged exactly 24 minutes on ice a night, and with his signature hard shot, he finished with three Norris votes received. Ben Chiarot scored a career high nine goals and 21 points in 69 games, and he had a 54.5 CF%. Oddly enough, that was below the team average. Jeff Petry scored 11 goals with 40 points, hitting those marks for the third consecutive season. He had a 57 CF% with a GAR of 8.6. Petry played with Brett Kulak a lot, whose 113 games in two seasons in Montreal is more than he had in four seasons with the Flames. Kulak had seven assists with a 56.6 CF% in 56 games. The Canadiens traded for the rights of Joel Edmundson, then signed him to a four year deal with a $3.5 million cap hit. In 68 games for Carolina last year, he had a career high 20 points. He's a fine third pairing defenseman for a team that needs one. He could be a safety blanket for Alexander Romanov, who has offensive potential, but was blocked on a stacked CSKA Moscow team in the KHL. The 20 year old had seven assists in 43 games. Victor Mete entered 2019-20 with 120 games played and zero goals. He scored four times in 51 games, with 11 points. Romanov will push him out of the top-six. 

Goalies

The Habs decided that they were going to get their money's worth of Carey Price one way or another, as they overused him, as he started a league high 58 games. That led to a low .909 SV% and a 2.79 GAA. When he finally got a break and returned in the postseason, vintage Carey Price showed up, as he had a .936 SV% with a 1.78 GAA in 10 games. Since Price didn't have a backup at all last year, the team went out and traded a third and a seventh round pick for Jake Allen. In 24 games last year, Allen had a .927 SV% with a 2.15 GAA. 


Projected Lines

Tomas Tatar - Phillip Danault - Brendan Gallagher

Jonathan Drouin - Nick Suzuki - Tyler Toffoli

Artturi Lehkonen - Jesperi Kotkaniemi - Josh Anderson

Paul Byron - Jordan Weal - Joel Armia

Extras: Corey Perry, Ryan Poehling, Michael Frolik, Charles Hudon


Ben Chiarot - Shea Weber

Brett Kulak - Jeff Petry 

Joel Edmundson - Alex Romanov

Extras: Victor Mete


Carey Price

Jake Allen


Projection

The Canadiens have an all-around good team. But, they kind of get lost in the mix in a Canadian Division where everyone gets lost in the mix. Adding Anderson and Perry makes them tougher to play against, but in the end, it comes down to two of Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Montreal not making the playoffs. I say it will be the former two, not the latter. 

Minnesota Wild 2020-21 Season Preview


 

       It feels like it should be the time for the Wild to either blow up or go for it. They've failed to pick a side over the past few years, sometimes making seller moves (trading away Jason Zucker, Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter), but also buyer moves (getting Nick Bonino, not trading their top-four). This indecisiveness has led them down a (seemingly) path of eternal mediocrity. It feels like it's time something changed, and with a bunch of pending free agents, the change is probably headed downward. 

Additions: F Marcus Johansson, F Nick Bonino, F Nick Bjugstad, G Cam Talbot.

Subtractions: F Eric Staal, F Luke Kunin, F Ryan Donato, F Mikko Koivu, G Devan Dubnyk, F Alex Galchenyuk.

but at least Best Move: Trading a 4th round pick and Luke Kunin to Nashville for Nick Bonino, a 2nd and a 3rd round pick. 

Worst Move: Trading Eric Staal to Buffalo for Marcus Johansson.

One Move I'd Make: Trade Alex Stalock to the Oilers.

Best Contract: D Matt Dumba, three years remaining with a $6 million cap hit.

Worst Contract: F Zach Parise, five years remaining with a $7.538 million cap hit. 

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

Pending UFAs: Marcus Johansson, Nick Bonino, Nick Bjugstad, Marcus Foligno, Greg Pateryn, Brad Hunt.

Pending RFAs: Kevin Fiala, Ryan Hartman, Joel Eriksson Ek, Kirill Kaprizov.


Forwards

The player who led the Wild in points was probably the most ideal player to lead them in points. In his first full season with the Wild, Kevin Fiala scored 23 goals with 54 points, and he's only 24 years old. He scored three goals in four playoff games. Another season like that, and he'll get paid as an RFA after 2020-21. The Wild finally got Kirill Kaprizov to come over from the KHL. One of the top prospects in hockey, Kaprizov scored 33 goals with 62 points in 57 KHL games. He'll be a top-six forward this year. Zach Parise is 36 and has five years left on his contract, but at least he still led the team with 25 goals last year. Parise is mainly a power play specialist, scoring 12 of his goals on the man advantage. The team is lacking a top-six center, which means that Marcus Johansson might be the first line center. He's played his best hockey on the wing, making the Wild giving up Eric Staal for Johansson questionable. Johansson scored just nine goals with 30 points in 60 games for the Sabres last year. His last 20+ goal season was 2016-17. When all the hype about his lizard-like abilities died down, Mats Zuccarello quietly scored 15 goals in 65 games, with 37 points. He's 33 and probably overpaid, but he still gave Minnesota second line production last year. Arm surgery has him out for at least the start of the season, but I'll keep him in the projected lines since he might not miss significant time. The guy who would replace Zuccarello for now is Jordan Greenway, who is 10 inches taller than Zuccarello. The physical forward played in 67 games last year, and recorded 28 points. Former first rounder Joel Eriksson Ek had a career high 29 points in 62 games last year, but he had a career low 47.6 CF%. The Wild made a great move upgrading Luke Kunin into Nick Bonino. Bonino scored 18 goals with 35 points in 2019-20, and he is a great two-way center who can kill penalties. It's not a stretch that he could be their first line center. Minnesota native Nick Bjugstad has had a rough last few years. A 49 point scorer in 2017-18, Bjugstad was sidelined by injuries and played in just 13 games, with two points in them. For the first time in his career, Marcus Foligno actually outscored his brother Nick, 11 to 10. Marcus finished with a career high 25 points in 59 games. He also had an above average 51.4 CF%. Ryan Hartman finished with 20 points, and was one goal away from hitting double digits for the fourth year in a row. He kills penalties, and had a career high 9.2 GAR last year. Victor Rask's career has fallen off a cliff since leaving Carolina. He had 13 points in 43 games last year, although he did actually improve from his 2018-19 season. 25 year old German Nico Sturm will get a spot in the lineup with Zuccarello out. He has two assists in eight career NHL games, with six of them coming last year. After a 32 point AHL campaign, Sturm scored his first career goal in the postseason. The Wild drafted Marco Rossi ninth overall this year. Rossi scored 39 goals with 120 points in 56 OHL games last year. He could start the year with the team, and if he does, he'll start. 

Defensemen

Ryan Suter is in the same bad contract situation as Parise. Suter is still on the border of elite, as he had 48 points in 69 games last year, and averaged 24 minutes and 38 seconds on ice a night. The Wild have formed an elite top pairing with Suter and Jared Spurgeon, who signed a seven year extension. Spurgeon scored 12 goals with 32 points in 62 games, and received Norris votes for the third time in four years, and Byng votes for the sixth straight season. Spurgeon had a 52.3 CF%, which was higher than his partner. Mathew Dumba won the King Clancy award in the offseason, and survived trade rumors. Dumba had 24 points in 69 games, which was only two points more than he had in 37 less games in the previous season. Defense-only defenseman Jonas Brodin was extended for six years after this year. Brodin had a career high 28 points in 69 games, with a GAR of 11.8. There's a big drop-off to the third pairing, with Carson Soucy being the one lock. Soucy scored seven goals with seven assists in 55 games, and earned a three year extension with a $2.75 million cap hit. Brad Hunt has the lead on oft-injured Greg Pateryn for the final spot. Hunt scored eight goals with 19 points in 59 games last year, and played on the second power play unit. Pateryn played in 80 games in 2018-19, but had three assists in 20 games last year. 

Goalies

The one known constant in the goalie rotation for Minnesota is Cam Talbot, who comes in on a three year deal. Talbot had a .919 SV% with a 2.63 GAA in 26 games for the Flames last year. Being overused hurt his stats in the prior two seasons, but Talbot has been a stable goalie for a long time. Backup Alex Stalock is out with an upper body injury for now. Stalock had a .910 SV% in 38 games last year, and started all four playoff games for the Wild against the Canucks. If Stalock misses time, Talbot's backup will be top goalie prospect Kaapo Kahkonen, who had a .913 SV% in five NHL games last year. In the AHL, Kahkonen played in 34 games with a .927 SV%. 


Projected Lines

Zach Parise - Marcus Johansson - Kevin Fiala

Kirill Kaprizov - Joel Eriksson Ek - Mats Zuccarello 

Jordan Greenway - Nick Bonino - Nick Bjugstad

Marcus Foligno - Victor Rask - Ryan Hartman

Extras: Nico Sturm, Marco Rossi


Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Jonas Brodin - Mathew Dumba

Carson Soucy - Brad Hunt

Extras: Greg Pateryn


Cam Talbot

Alex Stalock

Extras: Kaapo Kahkonen


Projection

Mediocrity is the Wild's ally. They were born in it, molded by it. Even with an open spot in the West Division, guarded by the Arizona Coyotes of all teams, the Wild will have a tough time getting in this year. I predict that they'll finish in 5th place, missing the postseason. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Los Angeles Kings 2020-21 Season Preview



       A good way to sum up the Kings' roster is that there are a couple of high paid, aging players, and then  just about nothing else. These next few years are meant for building up the Kings' young talent and seeing what sticks, and what doesn't. 

Additions: F Andreas Athanasiou, D Olli Maatta.

Subtractions: D Ben Hutton, F Trevor Lewis, D Joakim Ryan.

Best Move: Signing Andreas Athanasiou to a one year deal. 

Worst Move: Not taking more chances on the younger UFAs, or offer sheets (I'm talking to you, Anthony Cirelli).

One Move I'd Make: Check in on the not smart GMs on if they want Drew Doughty.

Best Contract: Adrian Kempe, two years remaining with a $2 million cap hit.

Worst Contract: Drew Doughty, seven years remaining with an $11 million cap hit.

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

Pending UFAs: Alex Iafallo. 

Pending RFAs: Andreas Athanasiou, Blake Lizotte, Matt Roy, Trevor Moore, Michael Amadio.


Forwards

While he isn't worth the $10 million he'll earn for the next four seasons, Anze Kopitar is still the best forward in Los Angeles. Kopitar scored 21 goals, hitting the 20 goal mark for the 11th time in his career, and he led the team with 62 points. He received a Byng vote, and finished seventh in Selke voting. Alex Iafallo was second on the team in points, with 43. He scored 17 goals, and because he arrived in the NHL at a late age, he'll become a UFA after his fourth season. The Kings will have the cap space to retain him, although they might trade him at the deadline. Former captain Dustin Brown is entering his 17th season with the franchise. Brown scored 17 goals with 35 points in 66 games last year, and that point total was higher than any of his seasons from 2012-13 to 2015-16, with some of those earlier years coming in his prime. Adrian Kempe scored 11 goals, hitting at least that mark for the third straight season. He also had 32 points with a 55.2 CF%. In his first full NHL season, Blake Lizotte had 23 points in 65 games, with a 55.1 CF%. Kempe and Lizotte played a lot together last year. Since both have more defensive value than offensive value, the Kings could balance that out by putting them with Andreas Athanasiou, who they signed yesterday. Athanasiou is the polar opposite, an all-offensive speedster. He scored 30 goals in 2018-19, but only had 11 in 55 games last year. While the top-six consists of more experienced players, the bottom-six consists of mostly rookies. One of the exceptions to that is Jeff Carter, who is moving to right wing. Entering his 16th NHL season, Carter scored 17 goals in 60 games last year. He could play with two of the teams' best prospects, Gabe Vilardi and Quinton Byfield. Vilardi scored three goals with four assists in a 10 game NHL trial, and had 25 points in 32 AHL games. The second overall pick in the draft earlier this year, Byfield scored 32 goals with 82 points in 45 games as a 17 year old in the OHL. One of them will have to play the wing unless the Kings stick them on the fourth line, and I think that could be Byfield for now. Martin Frk scored six goals in 17 games last year, and was a power play specialist in the AHL, scoring 23 goals with 36 points in 37 games for the Ontario Reign. A second rounder in 2019, Samuel Fagemo has a chance at the starting lineup. He scored 13 goals in 42 games for Frolunda in Sweden last year. He has 11 points in 18 games in Sweden this year. The Kings traded a second rounder for 2017 7th overall pick Lias Andersson, whose stock has tumbled over the past few years. Andersson had 11 points in 19 games in Sweden this year, and has nine points in 66 NHL games for the Rangers. 2014 third rounder Michael Amadio scored a career high 16 points in 68 games. The influx of young talent coming in could push Amadio and Austin Wagner out of the lineup. Wagner played in 65 games last year, with 11 points and a 54.9 CF%. 

Defensemen

Drew Doughty has tumbled over the past two seasons. A former Norris winner, Doughty had 35 points in 67 games last year. But, for the second consecutive season, Evolving-Hockey estimated his value at negative dollars. That isn't good for a guy with an $11 million cap hit for the next seven years. Olli Maatta comes in with the tough task of turning that around. He had 17 points in 65 games for the Blackhawks last year, with a 6.7 GAR. Puck moving defenseman Sean Walker had a nice rookie season, with 24 points in 70 games. That play earned him a four year extension with a $2.65 million cap hit. Another puck moving defenseman, Michael Anderson, got into six NHL games and had a goal last year. Anderson had 15 points in 53 AHL games. He was a 4th rounder in 2017 who went to Duluth for two years. While Walker finished with more points, Matt Roy got a Calder vote and a Byng vote. Roy had 18 points in 70 games, but had a very high GAR of 12.4. Roy also had a 56.1 CF%. 2019 first rounder Tobias Bjornfot got into three games at the beginning of the season, then went to the AHL. There, he had 19 points in 44 games. During the break, Bjornfot played in his home country of Sweden. Kurtis MacDermid got into NHL games for the third straight season, this team with a career high 45 games played. He had eight points in those games. 

Goalies

Jonathan Quick is still the starter at the moment. Quick will turn 35 a week after the season starts, and he had a negative GSAA for the second consecutive season last year. 2019-20 was actually an improvement on an awful 2018-19. Quick finished with a .904 SV% and a 2.79 GAA in 42 starts. Cal Petersen has rough AHL numbers, but has performed in 19 career NHL games, eight of which came in 2019-20. Petersen has a .923 career SV%, and will be a full-time back-up in 2020-21. 

Projected Lines

Alex Iafallo - Anze Kopitar - Dustin Brown

Adrian Kempe - Blake Lizotte - Andreas Athanasiou

Quinton Byfield - Gabe Vilardi - Jeff Carter

Samuel Fagemo - Lias Andersson - Martin Frk

Extras: Michael Amadio, Austin Wagner


Olli Maatta - Drew Doughty

Michael Anderson - Sean Walker

Tobias Bjornfot - Matt Roy


Jonathan Quick

Cal Petersen


Projection

2020-21 is a great chance for the Kings to work on developing young players. The team is really bad, but they are the only team in the NHL that actively hopes that their bottom-six outplays their top-six. I think that the Kings could easily finish dead last in the NHL this year, but at least they could have some bright spots, like Byfield or Vilardi or Bjornfot.


MLB Trade Review: Phillies get Alvarado in three-team deal

 

       The Philadelphia Phillies have acquired LHP Jose Alvarado from the Tampa Bay Rays in a three-team trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers sent 1B Dillon Paulson and a player to be named later to the Rays, while the Phillies sent LHP Garrett Cleavinger to the Dodgers. 

       The Phillies didn't just have the worst bullpen in baseball last year, they might have had the worst bullpen ever. With an ERA over 7.00, it's definitely an area that new President Dave Dombrowski and new GM Sam Fuld want to improve on. Alvarado is a four year veteran with a hard sinker that in 2019 averaged 98.1 mph. That dipped to 96.9 in nine appearances in 2020, but that's still potent. Also, his pitches move like this. Alvarado was lights out in 2018, with a 2.39 ERA and an 11.3 K/9 in 64 innings, but he's fallen off a little bit since then, with injuries playing a big role in that. He's young too, actually more than a year younger than the guy the Phillies gave up, Cleavinger. Even if he repeats his weak 2019, where he finished with a 4.80 ERA, it is still an improvement on what the pen gave the Phillies last year. 

        Alvarado, 25, had a 6.00 ERA with a 1.667 WHIP, 13 strikeouts and a 5.86 FIP in nine innings for the Rays in 2020. In his MLB career, all in Tampa Bay, Alvarado has a 3.46 ERA with a 1.319 WHIP, 161 strikeouts, 15 saves and a 3.01 FIP in 132.2 innings.

       The Rays have too many good relievers that it's actually a problem. By the end of the postseason of this year, Alvarado's injuries and poor play made him expendable. The team loves to trade talent for prospects, and this move can make sense, unlike the Blake Snell trade from yesterday. Even in that deal, the Rays got Luis Patino, who could be the next star reliever for them in 2021. A 13th rounder by the Dodgers in 2018, Paulson hit well in his last year at the University of Southern California, with an .874 OPS. He's spent a year and a half in the minors, and has good offensive numbers.

       Paulson, 23, hit 16 home runs with a .243 average and an OPS of .798 in 503 Plate Appearances in 2019 between High-A Rancho Cucamonga and Single-A Great Lakes. In his minor league career, Paulson has hit 26 home runs with a .253 average and an OPS of .837 in 778 Plate Appearances.

       This trade is least significant for the Dodgers, who make a prospect swap. While one of the outgoing prospects is TBD, they bring in Cleavinger, a 2015 3rd rounder by the Orioles who they traded to the Phillies with Hyun Soo Kim in 2017 for Jeremy Hellickson. When the Phillies were at the stage where they were watching whoever threw out the first pitch and scouting him or her for their bullpen, Cleavinger was one of the guys who got a call to the majors. He pitched in one game, striking Andres Gimenez, but allowing a home run to Robinson Cano in two thirds of an inning. In the minors in 2019, Cleavinger had nice numbers as a reliever, and while he isn't young, he could be a AAA or MLB bullpen option for the Dodgers.

        Cleavinger, 26, had a 3.66 ERA with 83 strikeouts and a 1.277 WHIP in 51.2 innings for AA Reading in 2019. In his minor league career, Cleavinger has a 4.08 ERA with 294 strikeouts and a 1.389 WHIP in 220.1 innings. 

Florida Panthers 2020-21 Season Preview

From Getty Images

 

       For all of last year, the Panthers were embracing for pain. They knew that Mike Hoffman and Evgenii Dadonov were free agents, and that they couldn't sign both, or maybe even one of them. Even more quality players like Erik Haula left, but in came a savior to get them on the road to recovery. Longtime GM Dale Tallon was fired, and former Columbus AGM Bill Zito came in and did a great job. Zito went to the cheap side of the market, and got a ton of quality players to replenish the Panthers, and brought in some of his former Blue Jackets as well. 

Additions: F Anthony Duclair, F Patric Hornqvist, F Alex Wennberg, D Markus Nutivaara, F Vinnie Hinostroza, D Radko Gudas, F Carter Verhaeghe, F Ryan Lomberg, D Kevin Connauton (PTO), G Scott Darling (PTO).

Subtractions: F Mike Hoffman, F Evgenii Dadonov, F Erik Haula, D Mike Matheson, D Mark Pysyk, F Colton Sceviour, F Brian Boyle, D Josh Brown, F Lucas Wallmark, F Dryden Hunt.

Best Move: Trading Mike Matheson and Colton Sceviour to Pittsburgh for Patric Hornqvist.

Worst Move: Signing Radio Gudas to a three year deal.

One Move I'd Make: Bring back Brian Boyle, maybe on a PTO.

Best Contract: Aleksander Barkov, two years remaining with a $5.9 million cap hit. 

Worst Contract: Sergei Bobrovsky, six years remaining with a $10 million cap hit.

New Division Rivals: Carolina, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Nashville, Tampa Bay.

Pending UFAs: Alex Wennberg, Vinnie Hinostroza, Chris Driedger.

Pending RFAs: Anthony Duclair, Riley Stillman, Brady Keeper, Chase Priskie, Sam Montembeault.

Current RFAs: Aleksi Saarela, Henrik Borgstrom.


Forwards

The dynamic duo of Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau will return for another season. With Hoffman and Dadonov gone, Huberdeau's 23 goals is the most among returning Panthers. He also led the team with 78 points in 69 games. Barkov received Byng and Selke votes for the fifth consecutive season. He scored 20 goals, hitting that mark for the fifth time in a row, and had 62 points in 66 games. The Panthers have a lot of cap flexibility thanks to Barkov and Huberdeau having matching $5.9 million cap hits. They might have trouble after 2021-22, when Barkov is a UFA, with Huberdeau's deal expiring the year afterwards. Whoever replaces Dadonov on the right wing is a mystery, with many different options available for Head Coach Joel Quenneville. In his first two full seasons in Florida, Frank Vatrano has combined for 40 goals and 33 assists, with 16 of those goals coming in 2019-20. In his prime, Patric Hornqvist was a great goal scorer, especially on the power play. He played in 52 games for the Penguins last year, but still managed to score 17 goals, with three of them coming on the man advantage. Vincent Trocheck was traded to Carolina last year, and his replacement, Erik Haula, also left as a free agent. Alex Wennberg looks to be the replacement to both for the time being. He was overpaid with Zito's Blue Jackets, leading to his buyout, but he always had a CF% above the team average. Wennberg does not score goals whatsoever, but can rack up assists. Put him with a goal scorer like Hornqvist, and that would work. Another former Blue Jacket, Anthony Duclair comes in on a cheap, $1.7 million deal. His career came back on track with Ottawa, as he scored 23 goals with 40 points in 66 games. Duclair is 25 and the Panthers are already his sixth team. The Panthers signed Brett Connolly to a four year deal after he scored 22 goals in Washington, and he did score at a higher pace in year one with Florida. In 69 games, Connolly netted 19 goals with a 52.3 CF%. The 10th overall pick in 2017, Owen Tippett was regarded as one of the top goal scorers in the draft at the time. He definitely scored in the OHL, and in his first AHL season last year, Tippett scored 19 goals with 40 points in 46 games. A fourth liner in Boston, Noel Acciari played saw some first line action with the Panthers, and scored 20 goals when his average ice time increased by three minutes a game. Somehow, he only had seven assists. Don't expect his goal scoring to continue, but he can still kill penalties. The Panthers brought in Vinnie Hinostroza on a nice, cheap one year deal. He scored 16 goals in 2018-19, but that fell to five in 68 games for Arizona last year. He recorded 17 assists as well. Carter Verhaeghe finally got a chance in Tampa last year, and scored nine goals in 52 games, and got into eight games during their run to the Stanley Cup. In 2018-19, Verhaeghe scored 34 goals with 82 points in 76 AHL games. The Panthers acquired Aleksi Saarela in a minor deal in October 2019 from Chicago. He scored two goals with two assists in nine games last year. Saarela scored 12 goals in 19 games while playing in Finland during the break. When the season starts, he will be 24 years old. The Panthers signed Ryan Lomberg to a two year, one way deal after he scored 11 goals with 20 points in 21 AHL games. While he only had 14 penalty minutes, in prior years Lomberg played an old-school style. In 11 NHL games, he has 32 penalty minutes. Former first rounder Henrik Borgstrom has been disappointing in the AHL and NHL. He had 23 points in 49 AHL games last year. 2018 first rounder Grigori Denisenko is coming to America from the KHL. Last year, he had 12 points in 38 games. 

Defensemen

While Aaron Ekblad only scored five goals, not hitting the double digit mark for the first time in his career, he scored a career high 41 points in a career low 67 games, and averaged one second under 23 minutes a night. Ekblad had an amazing 11.4 GAR. He plays with analytics darling MacKenzie Weegar, who was an RFA rumored to be in trade talks this past offseason. Weegar had 18 points in 45 games, with an 8.4 GAR. He may be 34 years old, but Keith Yandle can still put up points. Yandle finished with 45 points in 69 games, hitting the 40 point plateau for the 10th consecutive season (minimum 50 games). Anton Stralman signed a three year deal last offseason that was questionable at the time. The 34 year old had 19 points in 64 games, with his lowest GAR since 2010-11. He is overpaid now with a $5.5 million cap hit. Florida traded away AHLer Cliff Pu to acquire Markus Nutivaara, who had nine points in 37 games last year. He doesn't bring much to the table offensively, but Nutivaara is a nice third pairing defensive defenseman. Hard hitting defenseman Radko Gudas comes in to replace Mike Matheson, who had an awful 2019-20. Gudas had 164 hits in 63 games for Washington last year, with 15 points and a career best +15 rating. He averaged under 17 minutes a night for the first time in his career. 22 year old Riley Stillman has no goals in 35 career NHL games. 34 of them came last year, and he had five assists. He played in three of the team's playoff games. Brady Keeper had 18 points with 108 penalty minutes in 61 games in the AHL last year, and subbed in for Stillman in one postseason game. 

Goalies

Sergei Bobrovsky is known to be inconsistent at times. He's had some great seasons, some good seasons, and some mediocre seasons. Last year might have been his first truly bad season since he was a Flyer. Bobrovsky had a .900 SV% with a 3.23 GAA and a -14.91 GSAA, making every single person in the organization question the seven year, $70 million contract Bobrovsky signed before the season. When he's on his game, he's a top-three goalie in the league. It would be odd to see a two-time Vezina winner suddenly fall off of a cliff. For a few years, Chris Driedger was either the third goalie in Ottawa or stuck in the AHL. He finally got an NHL chance last year as Bob's backup, and capitalized, with a 2.05 GAA and a .938 SV% in 12 games. That play will earn him the job over Sam Montembeault, a 24 year old who had an .890 SV% in 14 games in 2019-20. 


Projected Lines

Jonathan Huberdeau - Aleksander Barkov - Frank Vatrano

Anthony Duclair - Alex Wennberg - Patric Hornqvist

Brett Connolly - Noel Acciari - Owen Tippett

Aleksi Saarela - Carter Verhaeghe - Vinnie Hinostroza

Extras: Ryan Lomberg, Henrik Borgstrom, Grigori Denisenko


MacKenzie Weegar - Aaron Ekblad

Keith Yandle - Markus Nutivaara

Anton Stralman - Radko Gudas

Extras: Riley Stillman, Brady Keeper


Sergei Bobrovsky

Chris Driedger

Extras: Sam Montembeault


Projection

The Panthers look a lot better than they did before. While you wouldn't expect that after losing Hoffman, Dadonov and others, Zito did a nice job adding scorers and depth players so that there are no apparent holes. Depending on Bobrovsky's play, goaltending might be one of them. Of course, the last playoff spot will come down to Florida and Zito's old team, the Blue Jackets. I'd give Columbus the edge, but if we see vintage Bobrovsky, I wouldn't be surprised if the Panthers can push themselves in. 

Monday, December 28, 2020

MLB Trade Review: Padres stay active, acquire Darvish


 

       The San Diego Padres have acquired RHP Yu Darvish and C Victor Caratini from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for RHP Zach Davies, shortstops Reginald Preciado and Yeison Santana, plus OFs Owen Caissie and Ismael Mena. 

       The Padres are going for it, if last night's trade for Blake Snell didn't make that obvious. Darvish is six years older than Snell, but is coming off a renaissance season in 2020. Darvish finished 2nd in NL Cy Young voting, and 14th in MVP. Darvish has always been a strikeout machine, and his 11.1 K/9 in his career is an all-time record. Seriously. That's better than the likes of Roger Clemens, Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, Clayton Kershaw. You name him, Darvish has a better K/9. It's crazy that he'll be the second best starter next year, with Dinelson Lamet being the third starter. The Padres don't give up a top-10 prospect in this deal, and the main piece going back is Davies, who Darvish is much better than. The Padres also get Caratini, Darvish's personal catcher, in this deal. In his four seasons, Caratini was only an above average hitter in 2019, when he finished with a 105 OPS+. 

        Darvish, 34, had a 2.01 ERA with 93 strikeouts, a .961 WHIP and a 2.23 FIP in 76 innings for the Cubs last year. In his MLB career for the Cubs, Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers, Darvish has a 3.47 ERA with 1392 strikeouts, a 1.160 WHIP and a 3.43 FIP in 1127 innings. 

        Caratini, 27, hit one home run with a .241 average and an OPS of .661 in 132 Plate Appearances for the Cubs in 2020. In his MLB career, all in Chicago, Caratini has hit 15 home runs with a .250 average and a .699 OPS in 677 Plate Appearances. 

        The Cubs want to cut payroll, but this deal still is bad for them. Darvish is owed $22 million, $19 million and $18 million in the next three seasons, respectively. While that is a lot of money, it's cheap for the production Darvish gave them in 2020. While selling high on a 34 is a smart concept, it cheapens out when the team cheapens out, and when the team is still a contender. Plus, the package is unimpressive. They failed to acquire a top-10 prospect in the Padres organization, and the four prospects look like extreme lottery tickets. The Cubs saw Davies a lot when he played for the Brewers, and while he was really good in 2020, he does not throw hard at all, or strike guys out. Preciado is ranked as the highest prospect of the group by MLB Pipeline, and was number 11 in the San Diego organization prior to the deal. He's still legally a minor at age 17, and has no minor league experience whatsoever. He's a switch hitter who signed with the Padres for a $1.3 million signing bonus, the most ever for a kid out of Panama. A 2020 2nd rounder, Caissie is an 18 year old Canadian who was drafted out of Notre Dame High School. The third prospect in the deal with no minor league experience, Mena was 15th overall in the Padres system after earning a $2.2 million signing bonus as a 16 year old. Now 18, Mena has great speed and is a good defender in the outfield. Santana finally gives me some stats to report, as the 20 year old formerly ranked 16th in the organization played in the Arizona League in 2019. He hit well there, and is said to be San Diego's best signing from the 2017-18 international free agent class. 

         Davies, who will be 28 in February, had a 2.73 ERA with a 1.067 WHIP, 63 strikeouts and a 3.88 FIP in 69.1 innings in 2020. In his MLB career for the Padres and Milwaukee Brewers, Davies has a 3.79 ERA with 497 strikeouts, a 1.275 WHIP and a 4.18 FIP in 683.2 innings. 

         Santana, 20, hit three home runs with four stolen bases, a .346 average and an OPS of .923 in 192 Plate Appearances in Rookie ball in 2019. 

Edmonton Oilers 2020-21 Season Preview

 


       A big conversation around the Buffalo Sabres is that the team is wasting Jack Eichel's prime. But, the same could be said about the guy drafted before Eichel, Connor McDavid. McDavid will be 24 on the day the season starts, and he's won one playoff series. The Oilers looked like they could make some noise last year, but fell in the wild card round in an embarrassing fashion to the Chicago Blackhawks. Goaltending was a big issue, and that wasn't fixed. The Oilers offseason was very mixed, with some good, some bad, and some ugly moves. 

Additions: D Tyson Barrie, F Dominik Kahun, F Kyle Turris, D Slater Koekkoek, F Alan Quine.

Subtractions: F Andreas Athanasiou, D Matt Benning, F Riley Sheahan, F Markus Granlund.

Best Move: Signing Dominik Kahun to a one year deal.

Worst Move: Bringing back Mike Smith on a one year deal.

One Move I'd Make: Sign Jimmy Howard to a PTO.

Best Contract: Leon Draisaitl, five years remaining with an $8.5 million cap hit. 

Worst Contract: Zack Kassian, four years remaining with a $3.2 million cap hit. 

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

Pending UFAs: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Adam Larsson, Tyson Barrie, Alex Chiasson, Slater Koekkoek, Mike Smith, Tyler Ennis, Joakim Nygard, Gaetan Haas.

Pending RFAs: Kailer Yamamoto, Dominik Kahun, Jujhar Khaira.

Current RFAs: Ethan Bear.


Forwards

Connor McDavid is good at hockey. That should not be a controversial take. His defense may not be superb, but in just 64 games last year, he scored 34 goals with 97 points and finished 5th in Hart voting. In the previous three seasons, he led the league in points twice, and hit the 100 point plateau all three times. He also averages over 21 minutes on ice a night. His spotlight was stolen from him by his teammate Leon Draisaitl, who captured the Hart trophy. Draisaitl scored 43 goals, and led the league with 67 assists and 110 points. The duo of McDavid and Draisaitl will be split up this year, and besides them, the team has a lot of holes. Former first overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins could be entering his final season as an Oiler. He scored 22 goals with 61 points in 65 games. Former 4th overall pick Jesse Puljujarvi will return to North America after spending last year in Finland. He had nine points in 46 games in 2018-19, but for Karpat last year, he scored 24 goals with 53 points in 56 games. This season in Finland, he has 12 points in 16 games. The Oilers signed Dominik Kahun after the Sabres questionably didn't tender him a contract as an RFA. He scored 12 goals with 31 points in 56 games for the Sabres and Penguins last year. Kahun and Draisaitl were teammates as teenagers in Germany. Five-foot-eight forward Kailer Yamamoto played in just 27 games last year, but he really produced, scoring 11 goals with 15 assists for 26 points. He'll get a bigger role alongside Draisaitl or McDavid this year. The Oilers got James Neal in a cap dump trade for Milan Lucic, and in his first season, Neal did what he used to do: score goals. Neal scored 19 times in 55 games, and if the season didn't get cancelled, he would have hit 20 goals for the 11th time. His center will be Kyle Turris, who Neal just missed in Nashville by a season. Turris didn't work out for the Predators, but his 31 points in 62 games would be fine third line center numbers. He's only earning $1.65 million this year, so it's a worthy investment for Edmonton. Alex Chiasson has scored 33 goals over two seasons for the Oilers. 11 of those came this past season, and he finished with 24 points. Tyler Ennis played well for the Senators before the Oilers brought him aboard at the trade deadline. Combined, he scored 16 goals with 37 points in 70 games. Zack Kassian was a vital part in restarting the Battle of Alberta, and when he played with McDavid, he scored. Kassian finished with 15 goals and 19 assists. Josh Archibald scored 12 goals for the second consecutive season, but with the Oilers high on wingers and low on centers, Jujhar Khaira has a better chance to make the roster. Khaira scored 10 points in 64 games, and spent time on the penalty kill. Gaetan Haas is an option to start over Khaira. Haas played in 58 games last year, but averaged less than 10 minutes on ice a game. Of Khaira, Haas and Joakim Nygard, Nygard had the best points per game of the trio, with nine in 33 games. 

Defensemen

The Oilers have already lost Oscar Klefbom for the season. To replace him on the top power play unit, the Oilers signed Tyson Barrie, who will try to rebuild his value after a down year in Toronto. Barrie actually had a career high 53.8 CF%, but scored a career low five goals with 39 points. The top pairing will now consist of Darnell Nurse and Ethan Bear, who are promoted from the second pairing. Nurse contributes more offensively than defensively, and he had 33 points in 71 games last year. The same could be said for Bear, who had a much higher GAR than his partner last year. Still an RFA, Bear had 21 points in 71 games. Caleb Jones, the brother of Seth Jones, had nine points in a career high 43 games last year. The 2015 4th rounder is looking to cement himself on the second pairing. His partner could be Adam Larsson, who lost Klefbom as his partner. Larsson will forever be known for his one-for-one trade for Taylor Hall, and he's basically a defensive defenseman who contributes little offensively. He rebounded last year after a bad 2018-19, and had six points in 49 games. There's only one year left of Kris Russell owning a $4 million cap hit. He did sign a one year extension worth $1.25 million for the 2021-22 season. Russell still has a good amount of defensive value. The Oilers recently signed Slater Koekkoek, the 10th overall pick in 2012 who has had good analytics when he's played, which isn't often. Last year for Chicago, Koekkoek had 10 points in a career high 42 games. Top prospect Evan Bouchard should be a regular by the end of 2021-22. He had 36 points in 54 AHL games last year, and in Sweden right now, he's put up 17 points in 23 games. 

Goalies

The weirdest move of the offseason for Edmonton was bringing back veteran goalie Mike Smith when there were many quality goalies available on the open market, including old friend Cam Talbot. Now 38 years old, Smith was below average in the regular season, with a .902 SV% and a 2.95 GAA in 39 games. His one playoff start helped lead to the end of the season for the Oilers, as he allowed five goals on 23 shots. He'll be a 1B to Mikko Koskinen, whose a much better option. Koskinen had a .917 SV% with a career best 9.25 GSAA in 38 games last year. 


Projected Lines

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Connor McDavid - Jesse Puljujarvi

Dominik Kahun - Leon Draisaitl - Kailer Yamamoto

James Neal - Kyle Turris - Alex Chiasson

Kyle Turris - Jujhar Khaira - Zack Kassian

Extras: Josh Archibald, Gaetan Haas, Joakim Nygard


Darnell Nurse - Ethan Bear

Caleb Jones - Adam Larsson

Kris Russell - Tyson Barrie

Extras: Slater Koekkoek, Evan Bouchard


Mikko Koskinen

Mike Smith


Projections

The Oilers are trying to resemble the 1980s Oilers with Connor McDavid as Wayne Gretzky and Leon Draisaitl as Mark Messier, and with a whole lot of goals scored and goals let up. The main difference between the eras of Oilers is that the 80s had Jari Kurri, Glenn Anderson and Grant Fuhr. The Oilers' depth shallows out easily. The Canadian Division is weak, but there is little difference between five of the seven teams, with the Maple Leafs and Senators on opposite sides of the spectrum. The two teams (besides Ottawa) who miss the playoffs will come down to a coin flip, but I think Edmonton will just barely get in, finishing fourth. 

MLB Trade Review: Padres get Snell

 


       The San Diego Padres have acquired LHP Blake Snell from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for RHPs Luis Patino and Cole Wilcox, plus catchers Francisco Mejia and Blake Hunt. Wow. This is supposed to be the part where I explain the trade but I'm still a little bit surprised, so give me a sec. Wow. Ok, I'm ready to go.

        The Padres became legitimate contenders last year when they went 37-23, finishing second in both the NL West and Major League Baseball. Their one goal this offseason was to find a way to take down the only team that did better than them, the Dodgers. They tried that when they acquired Mike Clevinger from Cleveland at the deadline, but with Clevinger out for the season with Tommy John surgery, they decided they had to go bigger. A potential solution could have been to sign Clevinger's ex-teammate, Trevor Bauer. But, Snell is younger, and on a much better contract. He's under contract for the next three seasons, and the most amount of money he will make in one year is the $16 million he'll earn in 2023. He's also only earning $10.5 million this year, much less than Bauer will. Snell won the 2018 AL Cy Young award with a 1.89 ERA, and he is a premier strikeout starter in the league, with a K% of at least 31 for the past three seasons. His best pitch is his slider, which allowed just one hit last year, and he threw it 131 times. He showed in the World Series that he can pitch against the Dodgers, dominating them in game six before being pulled early, just for the Rays to immediately blow the game, and lose the series. The price to pay is very hefty, but barring injury, Snell will be well worth it in a rotation with Dinelson Lamet, Zach Davies, Chris Paddack and in 2022, Clevinger.

          Snell, 28, had a 3.24 ERA with 63 strikeouts, a 1.200 WHIP and a 4.35 FIP in 50 innings for the Rays in 2020. Over his five year career for the Rays, Snell has a 3.24 ERA with 648 strikeouts with a 1.237 WHIP, a 3.50 FIP, a 7.4 H/9 and a 130 ERA+ in 556 innings.

         For Rays fans, this has to be a terrible feeling. The team is known for trading away talent questionably, and while most of the time it ends up well for the team, it always hurts. This one might be the worst blow, right after the team went to the World Series, and right after Snell was pulled when he should not have been in Game 6. The return package is good, but still, this has to be frustrating. Patino is the headliner, and while he was the third prospect in the Padres system per MLB Pipeline, he is ranked 23rd in all of baseball, giving the Rays seven players in the top 100. He debuted in 2020, mostly as a reliever, and while he didn't blow anyone away, he was just 20 years old. Wilcox, a third rounder in this year's draft, was ranked seventh in the Padres organization. Part of the reason why he fell to the third round is concern with being able to sign him, but he set a record for a third round pick by signing a $3.3 million signing bonus. The Rays' big need entering 2021 was a catcher, as upgrading on Mike Zunino with a younger and better player was a must. They did bring back Zunino, but Mejia has a chance to overtake him. Once a top catching prospect in the game, the Padres got Mejia when they traded Brad Hand and Adam Cimber to Cleveland. He hasn't performed offensively when given a chance, and his only positive year was 2019, when he played in 79 games, and had a .754 OPS. He struggled in 17 games last year, but he is still relatively young. Hunt was ranked 14th in the Padres system. A 2017 second rounder, he's grown   defensively since being drafted, although his offensive numbers aren't great in the minors.

         Patino, 21, had a 5.19 ERA with 21 strikeouts and a 1.846 WHIP in 17.1 innings for the Padres last year. For High-A and AA in 2019, Patino had a 2.57 ERA with 123 strikeouts and a 1.130 WHIP in 94.2 innings. 

         Mejia, 25, hit one home run with a .077 average and a .322 OPS in 42 Plate Appearances in 2020. In his MLB career for the Padres and Cleveland Indians, Mejia has hit 12 home runs with a .225 average and an OPS of .668 in 362 Plate Appearances. 

         Wilcox, 21, had a 1.57 ERA with 32 strikeouts in 23 innings for the Georgia Bulldogs last year. In his collegiate career for Georgia, Wilcox had a 3.38 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 82.2 innings.

         Hunt, 22, hit five home runs with four stolen bases, a .255 average and a .712 OPS in 376 Plate Appearances for Single-A Fort Wayne in 2019. In his minor league career, Hunt has 10 home runs with seven stolen bases, a .258 average and an OPS of .725 in 751 Plate Appearances. 

Sunday, December 27, 2020

NHL Trade Review: Senators and Lightning make a cap deal


 

       The Ottawa Senators have acquired F Cedric Paquette, D Braydon Coburn and a 2022 second round pick from the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for G Anders Nilsson and F Marian Gaborik. Both Nilsson and Gaborik were immediately placed on LTIR by Tampa Bay.

        I like this move by both teams, especially Ottawa. Instead of paying for LTIR players that mean nothing to them, the team that now has more cap space then all but four teams decided to pay less money, but to players that they will use, and they got a second round pick in the process. Paquette really doesn't generate anything offensively, and his no goals and three assists and 25 playoff games proves that. He has been a fourth line center in Tampa for the past few years, and can kill penalties. The Senators have a lot of centers, and today they added both Derek Stepan and Paquette, and the latter can play the wing. Paquette has one year left on his contract with a $1.65 million cap hit, making it compatible to take on. Coburn is entering his 16th NHL season. He could be a third pairing defender in Ottawa, with Christian Wolanin eventually taking over. Like Paquette, Coburn has one year left on his contract, with a $1.7 million cap hit. 

         Paquette, 27, scored seven goals with 11 assists for 18 points in 61 games for the Lightning last year. In his NHL career, all in Tampa Bay, Paquette has 47 goals with 38 assists for 85 points in 377 games. 

         Coburn, 35, scored one goal with three assists for four points in 40 games last year. In his NHL career for the Lightning, Philadelphia Flyers and Atlanta Thrashers, Coburn has 49 goals with 183 assists for 232 points in 964 games. 

         This trade actually puts the Lightning over $15.8 million over the salary cap. But, since both Gaborik and Nilsson will go on LTIR, adding $7.475 million to the amount the Lightning can go over the cap, and plus Nikita Kucherov's $9.5 million LTIR salary, it's a cap compliant team. Whenever Kucherov returns that could change, but for now, they shed over $3 million in used up cap space, and give up a second rounder. Gaborik was an all-star in his prime, but hasn't played since the Senators acquired him in 2017-18. Nilsson played in 20 games as a backup last year, but is dealing with concussion issues that will make him miss the season. Both contracts end after the 2020-21 season.  

Detroit Red Wings 2020-21 Season Preview


 

       The Red Wings embarrassed themselves in 2019-20, finishing last place with a 17-49-5 record. Everyone, except for the rival Canadiens, destroyed Detroit. It got worse when they did not win the first, second or third overall pick in the draft lottery. Steve Yzerman is back in Detroit, and his presence was felt when the Red Wings went out and signed a bunch of quality players, and maybe even winning the offseason. The team is still far from being competitive, but the past few months did bring them closer.

Additions: G Thomas Greiss, F Bobby Ryan, F Vladislav Namestnikov, D Troy Stetcher, D Jon Merrill, D Marc Staal.

Subtractions: D Trevor Daley, G Jimmy Howard, D Jonathan Ericsson, D Madison Bowey, F Justin Abdelkader, F Dmytro Timashov. 

Best Move: Improving their goaltending by signing Thomas Greiss.

Worst Move: Only giving Tyler Bertuzzi a one year extension.

One Move I'd Make: Try to buy another draft pick by taking on a bad contract for one year.

Best Contract: Anthony Mantha, four years remaining with a $5.7 million cap hit.

Worst Contract: Frans Nielsen, two years remaining with a $5.25 million cap hit.

New Division Rivals: Carolina, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Florida, Nashville, Tampa Bay.

Pending UFAs: Darren Helm, Marc Staal, Bobby Ryan, Valtteri Filppula, Luke Glendening, Patrik Nemeth, Jonathan Bernier, Jon Merrill, Sam Gagner, Alex Biega.

Pending RFAs: Tyler Bertuzzi, Filip Hronek, Adam Erne, Dennis Cholowski, Michael Rasmussen, Evgeny Svechnikov.


Forwards

After Anthony Mantha and Tyler Bertuzzi signed RFA deals, the Red Wings' top line is back. Mantha actually had the most productive season of the group, scoring 16 goals with 38 points in only 43 games. His 54.1 CF% looks godly compared to some of his teammates. The star of the line remains Dylan Larkin, the speedy center who played in all 71 games last year. He finished with 53 points, which was lower than his previous two seasons. Bertuzzi is the most physical of the three, and led the team with 21 goals. They all averaged over 18 minutes on ice a game, with Larkin reaching 21 minutes for the second consecutive season. The Wings made a nice trade early in the season, sending Jacob de La Rose to St. Louis for Robby Fabbri. Fabbri was a second liner for Detroit, and scored 15 goals, 14 of them with the Red Wings. The Red Wings don't have a lot of centers, so free agent signee Vladislav Namestnikov could move there. Namestnikov can play all three forward positions, and played for three different teams last year. Overall, he scored 17 times with 14 assists in 65 games. He scored four goals in 12 games for the Avalanche in the playoffs. It is becoming time for former 6th overall pick Filip Zadina to make a difference. Zadina played in 28 games last year, and scored eight goals with seven assists. He had a productive 3.4 GAR. The Red Wings signed Bobby Ryan, who was one of the best stories in hockey last year and won the Masterton for it. Battling back from addiction issues, Ryan scored a hat trick in his first game back. He had eight points in 24 games total, and is ready to produce for Detroit. Going from the Islanders to the Red Wings, Valtteri Filppula had one of the most dramatic +/- range from season to season imaginable. After a +19 season, Filppula returned to Detroit and was a -42 player. At least he wasn't the worst on the team, that goes to Andreas Athanasiou, who was traded at the deadline. Filppula's 21 points was his lowest since the shortened 2012-13 season. Darren Helm is back for his 14th, and maybe final season as a Red Wing. He still kills penalties for them, and scored nine goals in 68 games last year. The fourth line will be a revolving door of players, both young and old. Sam Gagner came over from Edmonton in February, and scored a goal in six games. He's had a few really nice seasons Corsi-wise recently. Another key penalty killer and longtime Wing, Michigan native Luke Glendening received a Selke vote despite a -29 rating last year. He does have some defensive value, although he contributes little offensively. The Frans Nielsen contract really didn't work out. He always was a solid two-way forward, and he did contribute in his first three seasons with the Wings before an awful nine point, 60 game 2019-20 campaign. He did actually receive a Lady Byng vote, taking only four penalties all seasons. The Red Wings game former rival Adam Erne a fourth line chance, and he had five points in 56 games. Two former first rounders, Michael Rasmussen and Evgeny Svechnikov, need to prove a lot of things this year. Rasmussen was a regular in 2018-19, but did not appear in the NHL last year. He scored seven goals in 35 AHL games. He is currently playing in Austria, and has 18 points in 18 games. Svechnikov played in four NHL games, and had 25 points in 51 AHL games. 


Defensemen

The Red Wings hope that 23 year old Filip Hronek can be a first or second pairing defenseman for them. He averaged nearly 24 minutes of ice time a game last season, and had 31 points in 65 games. He's coming off of his ELC after this season and could earn a long term extension, depending on his play this year. His partner, Patrik Nemeth, was a productive defensive defenseman for the Wings last year, although he does not bring much offensive value. It's a stretch that he's a top pairing defenseman, but he can be a good addition for another team. Back surgery cost Danny DeKeyser just about his entire season. He had four assists in his eight games. Another Michigan native, DeKeyser had a 5.8 GAR in 2018-19. His partner will be Troy Stecher, who was a key part of the Canucks the past four seasons. Stecher had 17 points in 69 games last year, with a 48.7 CF%, higher than his team's average. The Wings brought in Jon Merrill, a third pairing defensive defenseman who averaged over 18 minutes a night for the dominant Golden Knights. Merrill had a 52.4 CF%, which would be amazing on the 2019-20 Red Wings, but was well below average for Vegas. The Red Wings essentially bought a second round pick by taking on Marc Staal's $5.7 million cap hit for this year. Staal really was not productive for the Rangers last year, with a 43.3 CF%. His main competition is Alex Biega, who played well for the Canucks in 2018-19 but regressed in Detroit, like just about everyone. He had three points in 49 games with a 45.1 CF%. Young defensemen Dennis Cholowski, Jared McIsaac and Moritz Seider will all develop elsewhere as the team goes with a veteran d-core this year.


Goalies

A main problem last year was Jimmy Howard's 4.20 GAA. Obviously, he's gone, but in steps Thomas Greiss, who will see a big difference going from Barry Trotz' Islanders to this team. Splitting time with Semyon Varlamov, Greiss had a .913 SV% with a 2.77 GAA. He was great in four playoff appearances, with a .929 SV% and a 2.02 GAA. Jonathan Bernier is back, and while he was below-average last year, at least he was serviceable. Bernier had a .907 SV%, and he's made a nice career as a fringe-starter the past five seasons. 


Projected Lines

Tyler Bertuzzi - Dylan Larkin - Anthony Mantha

Robby Fabbri - Vladislav Namestnikov - Filip Zadina

Darren Helm - Valtteri Filppula - Bobby Ryan

Sam Gagner - Frans Nielsen - Luke Glendening

Extras: Adam Erne, Michael Rasmussen, Evgeny Svechnikov


Patrik Nemeth - Filip Hronek

Danny DeKeyser - Troy Stecher

Marc Staal - Jon Merrill

Extras: Alex Biega, Dennis Cholowski.


Thomas Greiss

Jonathan Bernier


Projection

The 2017-18 Colorado Avalanche made the playoffs after the 2016-17 Avalanche had 48 points. Will the Red Wings follow their once rivals and surprise everyone in 2020-21? Probably not, the Avalanche had Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. It would be fun to dream, but the Wings are headed for another last place finish in 2020-21.

NHL Trade Review: Senators acquire Stepan

 


       The Ottawa Senators have acquired F Derek Stepan from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for a 2021 second round pick. Ottawa previously acquired the second rounder from Columbus when they traded away Ryan Dzingel. 

        Off the bat, this trade really doesn't make much sense for Ottawa. While Stepan has been a valuable center in the past, he has really fallen off the past two seasons. The Senators have the cap space for Stepan, and if he performs they can flip him at the trade deadline, but giving up a valuable asset for him seems out of place. Even if he plays like prime Derek Stepan, I highly doubt Ottawa could even get a second back at the deadline. Even then, it is very unlikely Stepan can elevate his game on one of the league's worst teams. 

          Stepan, 30, scored 10 goals with 18 assists for 28 points in 70 games last year. In his NHL career for the Coyotes and New York Rangers, Stepan has 167 goals with 312 assists for 479 points in 739 games. 

         The Coyotes will be satisfied with this trade. They need cap space, and they free some up with this deal, and they can get a valuable draft pick back. Per Evolving-Hockey, Stepan hasn't been worth more than his $6.5 million cap hit since 2016-17, before he joined Arizona. This move could mean that Nick Schmaltz moves up with Clayton Keller and Phil Kessel, while Christian Dvorak moves to center. The Coyotes could now be able to afford an extra forward in free agency, maybe along the lines of Andreas Athanasiou, Brian Boyle or Derrick Brassard. 


Saturday, December 26, 2020

Dallas Stars 2020-21 Season Preview

 

From Getty Images

       The Stars surprised everyone last year, including me, who thought that they would be out in the first round of the playoffs. Instead, they went the distance, winning the Western Conference before losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Now, they will face Tampa Bay seven times a season with a chance for redemption. 

Additions: D/F Mark Pysyk.

Subtractions: F Mattias Janmark, F Corey Perry, D Roman Polak.

Best Move: Re-signing Anton Khudobin.

Worst Move: Letting Mattias Janmark leave.

One Move I'd Make: Trade away Stephen Johns to reduce the defensive clutter.

Best Contract: John Klingberg, two years remaining with a $4.25 million cap hit.

Worst Contract: Jamie Benn, five years remaining with a $9.5 million cap hit.

New Division Rivals: Carolina, Chicago, Columbus, Detroit, Florida, Nashville, Tampa Bay.

Pending UFAs: Andrew Cogliano, Jamie Oleksiak, Blake Comeau, Stephen Johns, Mark Pysyk, Taylor Fedun, Justin Dowling.

Pending RFAs: Miro Hesikanen, Jason Dickinson, Julius Honka, Joel Kiviranta.


Forwards

A big theme for the Stars in 2019-20 was the lack of production from their stars. Tyler Seguin scored 17 goals and led the team with 50 points, which is nice, but in the previous six seasons, Seguin only scored less than 33 goals once, and had at least 70 points every year. He had a chance to make it all up in the postseason, and he didn't, scoring two goals with 11 assists in 26 games. The Stars announced that Seguin was battling injuries and had surgery in November with a four month timetable, meaning he will miss significant time in 2020-21. Joe Pavelski will need to step up to the top line in Seguin's absence. Pavelski, who was a consistent 30 goal scorer and 60+ point player in San Jose, scored just 14 times with 31 points in 67 games. The offensive production loss for Dallas' forwards could be seen as a defensive system being implemented, which helped them win the West last year. Jamie Benn's 19 goals and 39 points were his lowest in a season, minimum 50 games. Benn is 31 and you have to worry if he'll ever hit 30 goals again after only hitting the mark once in the past four years. Alex Radulov followed up on two consecutive 72 point seasons with a 34 point year, but unlike Seguin, he made it up in the postseason with eight goals in 27 games. Roope Hintz will earn a promotion to second line center after a nice second season. Playing in 60 games, Hintz scored 19 goals with 33 points. After being drafted 12th overall in 2015, Denis Gurianov had long been a disappointment, especially when many stars were picked after him. He finally became a full-time player last year, and scored 20 goals in 64 games. He adding an extra nine in the playoffs, and his 27 postseason games were more than he'd played in any other season alone. In his second season as a regular, Jason Dickinson scored nine goals with 21 points in 65 games, and led Stars forward in short handed ice time. He also had a GAR of 7.0. A second rounder in 2017, Jason Robertson dominated the OHL before heading to the AHL last year. He got into three NHL games, and with the Texas Stars, Robertson scored 25 goals with 47 points in 60 games. Radek Faksa scored 11 goals, hitting a double-digit goal total for the fourth consecutive season. He signed a five year extension in the offseason to be the third line center. Andrew Cogliano had just 14 points in 68 games, and he is much more valuable defensively. Dickinson, Cogliano, Faksa and Blake Comeau all spent significant time on the penalty kill last year. Entering his 15th season, Comeau is an assistant captain in Dallas. He scored eight times in the regular season and added two in the playoffs, which would be 10 goals in a 78 game season, better than he did in 2018-19. Playoff hero Joel Kiviranta captured a fourth line spot this year after his hat trick in game seven of the second round versus Colorado. He had two goals in his other 13 playoff games. 2018 first rounder Ty Dellandrea has a good chance at the fourth line center spot. In 47 OHL games last year, Dellandrea scored 32 times with 38 assists for 70 points. Dellandrea's main competition is 30 year old Justin Dowling, who had six points in 29 games last year, and got into two playoff games. 

Defensemen

Miro Hesikanen became a top-10, maybe even top-5 defenseman in the playoffs. After being snubbed in Calder voting last year, Heiskanen received Norris votes after a 33 point campaign that lasted 68 games. He led the Stars in postseason scoring, with 26 points in 27 games, and he's only 21 years old. He is an elite defender as well, and posted an 11.3 GAR last year. Like Heiskanen, John Klingberg is an elite defender who excels at moving the puck. Klingberg had 32 points in 58 games last year, but in his previous five seasons his low was 40 points. Klingberg's partner, Esa Lindell, also received Norris votes, and averaged over 23 minutes a night with 23 points, although he had a surprisingly low 46.1 CF%. Six-foot-seven defender Jamie Oleksiak doesn't offer much offensive value, but he can be a shutdown defender on the middle pairing. Oleksiak had a career high 52.7 CF% in 2019-20. Veteran Andrej Sekera enters his 15th season, and second with Dallas. He had eight points with a +9 rating in 57 games last year. Mark Pysyk could be Sekera' stable partner on the third pairing. He played a decent amount of fourth line right wing for the Panthers last year and scored a career high nine goals. He's still listed as a defenseman and I'd expect him to play that this year. The Stars could move Pysyk to the fourth line, and put Stephen Johns with Sekera. Johns missed all of 2018-19 battling with concussions, and played in 17 games last year. He was a Masterton finalist, but his future is uncertain after GM Jim Nill said that he wasn't comfortable playing in the postseason. Johns' replacement has been Taylor Fedun, who had nine points in 27 games last year, and played in 11 postseason games. 29 year old Joel Hanley and former first rounder Julius Honka round out the defensive depth. Hanley played in 12 playoff games, while Honka spent the season in Finland.

Goalies

The Stars rode on the back of Anton Khudobin during Ben Bishop's absence in the postseason. In the regular season, Khudobin had a 2.22 GAA and led the league with a .930 SV%, although he only played in 30 games. He started 24 playoff games with a .917 SV%. Bishop is still expected to start, or at least be Khudobin's 1A. Just one year removed from an amazing, Vezina finalist season, Bishop had a .920 SV% with a 13.28 GSAA last year. 


Projected Lines

Jamie Benn - Joe Pavelski - Alex Radulov

Denis Gurianov - Roope Hintz - Jason Dickinson

Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Jason Robertson

Joel Kiviranta - Ty Dellandrea - Blake Comeau

Extras: Justin Dowling, Mark Pysyk


Esa Lindell - John Klingberg

Jamie Oleksiak - Miro Heiskanen

Andrej Sekera - Mark Pysyk

Extras: Taylor Fedun, Stephen Johns, Joel Hanley, Julius Honka


Ben Bishop

Anton Khudobin


Projection

Winning their Conference obviously means that the Stars are good. This is just about the same team, minus some third line wingers and also Seguin for a chunk of the regular season. It might be too soon for them to face-off against Tampa Bay seven times, but they'll still cruise into a third place spot and a playoff birth. 

Friday, December 25, 2020

Colorado Avalanche 2020-21 Season Preview



       It's pretty crazy how good Joe Sakic is at his job. Years ago, people were highly skeptical of him, and some thought that his trade of Matt Duchene to Ottawa was bad. Now, the Avalanche are still reaping the benefits of that deal, with a stable cap situation and no bad contracts. The team is primed for Cup contention, led by a top-two player in the NHL. 

Additions: D Devon Toews, F Brandon Saad, D Dennis Gilbert, F Miikka Salomaki, F Mike Vecchione. 

Subtractions: D Nikita Zadorov, F Vladislav Namestnikov, F Matt Nieto, F Colin Wilson, D Anton Lindholm, G Michael Hutchinson.

Best Move: Acquiring Brandon Saad and Dennis Gilbert from Chicago for Nikita Zadorov and Anton Lindholm.

Worst Move: N/A

One Move I'd Make: Upgrade at 3rd line center

Best Contract: Nathan MacKinnon, three years left with a cap hit of $6.3 million. 

Worst Contract: Erik Johnson, three years remaining with a $6 million cap hit.

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

Pending UFAs: Gabriel Landeskog, Brandon Saad, Philipp Grubauer, Ian Cole, Matt Calvert, Pierre-Edouard Bellmare.

Pending RFAs: Cale Makar, Tyson Jost, Dennis Gilbert, Conor Timmins.

Current RFAs: Vladislav Kamenev.


Forwards

No one carried their team like Nathan MacKinnon did last year, not even Connor McDavid. MacKinnon scored 35 goals with 93 points in 69 games. No other forward had even half of that. Thanks to his defensive value, people have been arguing that MacKinnon is the best player in the NHL, not McDavid. This was MacKinnon's third consecutive season of over 90 points, and his 1.35 points-per-game were a career high. While his linemates didn't come close to him point-wise, injuries played a part in that. Mikko Rantanen, the team's highest payed player (MacKinnon is on a steal of a contract), appeared in just 42 games, and scored 19 goals with 22 assists for the almost point-per-game final tally of 41 points. Rantanen was over that point-per-game mark in the previous two seasons. Gabriel Landeskog started out his Avalanche career with a Calder trophy and being the league's youngest captain ever, and this could be his final season in Denver. He is a UFA after the season, although you would think he'd like to stay in Colorado. In 54 games, Landeskog scored 21 goals with 44 points. The second line will all consist of recent successful trade acquisitions. The only one of the three acquired this offseason is Brandon Saad. Saad scored 21 goals in 58 games for Chicago last year, reaching the 20 goal plateau for the 5th time in the past six seasons. Nazem Kadri scored 19 goals, three more than he did in 2018-19, playing in 22 less games. He especially showed up in the playoffs, an area that he was criticized in when he played for Toronto. Kadri scored nine goals with nine assists for 18 points in a 15 game run. Andre Burakovsky brought his game to a new level in Colorado. Despite playing in just 58 games, only five more than his career low, Burakovsky set career highs in goals (20), assists (25) and of course points (45), while getting more ice time per game than he ever did in Washington. Joonas Donskoi came to Colorado on a questionable four year deal, and scored a career high 16 goals and reached the 30 point mark for the third consecutive season. JT Compher has cemented himself as the third line center for now, scoring 11 goals with 20 assists. I would like to see the Avs explore going after a second line center who could be their third line center, like the Penguins would often do. After an embarrassing return to the NHL, not scoring a goal in 57 games, Valeri Nichushkin broke out in Colorado, scoring 13 goals with 27 assists, getting 8th place in Selke voting, and becoming an analytics darling, with a 14.7 GAR. Nichushkin also had a 55.6 CF%. Defensive center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare scored nine goals with 22 points, both career highs at age 34. He averaged over two minutes a night on the penalty kill. So did linemate Matt Calvert, who scored 12 goals with 25 points. He's hit at least 20 points in the past six seasons, and has double digit goals in five of those years, which isn't bad for a fourth liner. Tyson Jost wins the award for least job security on the team. The former 10th overall pick is only 22, but his career high point total is 26, and he had 23 last year in 67 games. Logan O'Connor, who scored two goals in 16 games and played in five playoff games, and former first rounder Martin Kaut, who had three points in nine games last year, are options to replace Jost.

Defensemen

Cale Makar might have been the league's top prospect entering the season, and he took the league by storm, scoring 12 goals with 50 points in 57 games, finishing second on the team in point. Makar took home the Calder Trophy and finished ninth in Norris voting. Makar found a partner in Ryan Graves, whose +40 rating led the league. Graves scored nine goals with 17 assists in 69 games, and had an 8.8 GAR. Entering his fourth season at age 22, Sam Girard set a career high in points, with 34. His 21 minutes and 19 seconds on ice a night was a career high by over a minute. Erik Johnson may be the least famous first overall pick of the last 15 years, but hey, at least Colorado didn't draft him. Johnson has been serviceable for the Avalanche for the past decade, and he had a CF% right in the middle, at 50% last year. The Avalanche traded their next two second round picks to the Islanders for Devon Toews, then signed Toews to a four year extension so he could be their third pairing defenseman. Toews has shown promise on both offense and defense, although the defensive side could be a product of Barry Trotz's system. Toews is nearly 27 but is a two year veteran, and posted a career high 28 points in 68 games last year. Ian Cole can play both sides, and he had a +21 rating with a GAR of 9.0. 2017 2nd rounder Conor Timmins played in two games last year, and he had 27 points in 40 games. Top prospect Bowen Byram has a chance at making the team. The 19 year old has dominated the WHL, as he scored 14 goals with 52 points in 50 games for the Vancouver Giants in 2019-20. 

Goalies

The Avalanche have a goalie dilemma on their hand. Both Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz played well while splitting time last year, and they also were both injured in the postseason, leading to Michael Hutchinson leading the team to Game 7 of the second round. Grubauer is the more experienced of the two, Entering his 9th NHL season, but his sixth as a full-time backup or starter. Grubauer posted a .916 SV% last year, which was actually a career low, with a 2.63 GAA. A 29 year old rookie last year, Francouz played in two less games than Grubauer, but a had a .923 SV% with a GAA of 2.41 and a GSAA of 13.06.


Projected Lines

Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen

Brandon Saad - Nazem Kadri - Andre Burakovsky

Valeri Nichushkin - JT Compher - Joonas Donskoi

Tyson Jost - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare - Matt Calvert

Extras: Logan O'Connor, Martin Kaut


Ryan Graves - Cale Makar

Sam Girard - Erik Johnson

Devon Toews - Ian Cole

Extras: Conor Timmins, Bowen Byram


Philipp Grubauer

Pavel Francouz


Projection

The Avalanche have a deep team. But, they also have an insane top line with the reigning Calder winner on the blue line. In the West Division, the Blues, Golden Knights and Avalanche should all easily make the playoffs, but the question is who will finish first. I think that will be the Avs. 

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Columbus Blue Jackets 2020-21 Season Preview

 


       After the Islanders lost John Tavares and made the playoffs in 2018-19, the Blue Jackets did something even more impressive. They lost Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky, Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel, and then made the playoffs. The Blue Jackets might follow the Isles and make the Conference Finals now, and they probably could. They play a defensive game, and they have a very talented forward group. Unfortunately, they still have a key RFA to sign, with a ton of pending UFAs. 

Additions: F Max Domi, F Mikko Koivu, F Mikhail Grigorenko.

Subtractions: F Josh Anderson, F Alex Wennberg, D Ryan Murray, D Marcus Nutivaara, F Devin Shore.

Best Move: Traded Josh Anderson to Montreal for Max Domi and a 3rd round pick.

Worst Move: Trading away Ryan Murray for a 5th round pick. 

One Move I'd Make: Sign Pierre-Luc Dubois, right now.

Best Contract: Zach Werenski, two years remaining at $5 million per year.

Worst Contract: Brandon Dubinsky, one year remaining at $5.85 million.

New Division Rivals: Carolina, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Florida, Nashville, Tampa Bay.

Pending UFAs: Nick Foligno, David Savard, Riley Nash, Mikko Koivu, Mikhail Grigorenko, Adam Clendening.

Pending RFAs: Oliver Bjorkstrand, Alex Texier, Kevin Stenlund.

Current RFAs: Pierre-Luc Dubois.


Forwards

The one remaining goal for the Blue Jackets this offseason is to extend Pierre-Luc Dubois, preferably long-term, as Cam Atkinson is the only player on the team signed past 2022-23. The 22 year old scored 18 goals and led the team with 49 points in 70 games. He also led the team with 10 points in the playoffs. Dubois had a lot of success with Oliver Bjorkstrand and Alex Texier. Bjorkstrand scored a team leading 21 goals, and he only played in 49 games. He only took 12 penalty minutes, which was actually a career high. Texier is 21 and only played in 36 games last year, scoring six goals with seven assists. He had four assists in the playoffs. While playing with Dubois, Texier averaged nearly 22 minutes a game in the postseason, although their 5OT loss versus Tampa Bay probably inflates that. The Blue Jackets had a lot of injuries last year, and Cam Atkinson was part of the injured group. He scored 12 goals with 14 assists in 44 games, for a .27 goals per game, his lowest since 2013-14. That's still a 22 goal pace, and he has hit at least 20 in the six seasons prior to 2019-20. Columbus made a nice deal getting Max Domi from Montreal. Just one year removed from a 72 point season, Domi can play center and wing, and he scored 17 goals with 44 points in 71 games last year. He is a big improvement at second line center. Gustav Nyquist came to Columbus on a four year deal that I didn't think would work out, but it has so far. Nyquist scored 15 goals with 42 points in 70 games. Captain Nick Foligno could be entering his final season in Columbus. He's put up third line production in his last three seasons, maxing out at 17 goals and 35 points in this span. Foligno is coming off of the weakest of these three years, with 10 goals and 31 points in 67 games. He did score six points in 10 playoff games, his most of his eight career playoff runs. Boone Jenner scored 11 goals with 24 points, his lowest since his 2014-15 season, where he only played in 31 games. He also had a low 46.7 CF%. Jenner can play the wing, but he had a 55.2 face-off percentage last year. 2018 1st rounder Liam Foudy played in two regular season games, then became a regular in the postseason. He scored his first career goal and had an assist in 10 games. The Blue Jackets signed Mikko Koivu, who played his first 15 seasons in Minnesota. Koivu played in 55 games last year, and had a career low 21 points. Koivu consistently received Selke votes in his prime, and he is still a defensive forward, making him a good fourth line center for the Blue Jackets. The two wingers for Koivu come down to Mikhail Grigorenko, Riley Nash and Emil Bemstrom, with Eric Robinson and Kevin Stenlund having an outside chance. Grigorenko had 64 points in 217 games from 2012-13 to 2016-17 with the Sabres and Avalanche before leaving for the KHL. Last year, Grigorenko scored 19 goals with 22 assists for 41 points in 47 games. Bemstrom debuted last year, and the Swedish 21 year old scored 10 goals with 10 assists in 56 games, which isn't bad for a rookie season. Riley Nash had 14 points in 64 games, cementing himself as the second greatest Nash in Blue Jackets history. He's a solid defensive forward but he had an ugly 45.3 CF% last year. Robinson has amazing speed, but hasn't put that to use in the NHL, with 12 points in 50 games. Stenlund played in 32 games, and he scored six times with four assists. The final depth option is the five-foot-four Nathan Gerbe, who played in 30 games, finishing with 10 points. 

Defensemen

Explaining Seth Jones would be pretty confusing for a casual NHL fan. He's received Norris votes in each of the past four seasons, and has offensive value, with at least 30 points in the past five seasons, including in 56 games this past season. He plays a lot of hockey, averaging over 25 minutes on ice a night during the regular season, and over 32 minutes in the playoffs. But, despite this, his analytics are good, but nothing special that would say that he's a top-five defenseman. He had a good 4.5 Goals Above Replacement last year, and Evolving-Hockey estimated his worth at just $3.4 million last year. Good, but nothing special. His partner, Zach Werenski, is valued much higher by analytics, mostly because of his offensive value. He nearly led Columbus with 20 goals last year and he added 21 assists in 63 games. Despite a career low amount of games, that was a career high goal total for him. In each of his four seasons, Werenski has gained Byng votes. David Savard has earned the reputation of a second pairing, shutdown defender. While he only had 11 points, all assists, in 68 games last year, Savard's GAR was 6.7. With Ryan Murray and Marcus Nutivaara gone, Vladislav Gavrikov now has a much bigger load on the left side. He paired well with Savard last year, and earned a nice three year extension in the offseason. The 25 year old posted 18 points in a 69 game rookie season. Dean Kukan played in 33 games, which was actually a career high. The Switzerland native had five points, and became a regular in the playoffs, appearing in nine of the team's 10 games. Scott Harrington has played in 166 games for the Blue Jackets over the past four seasons. 39 of those game in 2019-20, where he had eight points. Former first rounder Gabriel Carlsson is almost 24, and has just 23 NHL games. In his six last year, Carlsson average ice time was ten minutes and 53 seconds. 

Goalies

Both Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo played in the playoffs, and were exceptional. Korpisalo set the all-time record for most saves in a game, and started nine games. In 37 regular season games, he had a .911 SV% with a 2.60 GAA. Merzlikins outplayed Korpisalo in his rookie season, finishing in 5th place in both Calder and Vezina voting. Merzlikins had a .923 SV% with a 2.35 GAA, and a 12.10 GSAA. They split time last year and probably will again this year, with Merzlikins being the 1A. 


Projected Lines

Alex Texier - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Oliver Bjorkstrand

Gustav Nyquist - Max Domi - Cam Atkinson

Nick Foligno - Boone Jenner - Liam Foudy

Mikhail Grigorenko - Mikko Koivu - Emil Bemstrom

Extras: Riley Nash, Eric Robinson, Kevin Stenlund, Nathan Gerbe


Zach Werenski - Seth Jones

Vladislav Gavrikov - David Savard

Scott Harrington - Dean Kukan

Extras: Gabriel Carlsson


Elvis Merzlikins

Joonas Korpisalo


Projection

The Blue Jackets have a really good all-around team. They don't have one absolute star, even though Dubois, Jones and Werenski are all good. But, they have great depth and are led well by John Tortarella. Even with some tough teams in their new division, they'll beat up on Chicago and Detroit like every else, and just beat the Panthers for 4th place, and a playoff spot.