Sunday, 29 September 2013

NHL Preview amongst Canadian teams

   As the 2013-2014 NHL Season is quickly approaching, here is how each Canadian team will do.

1) Vancouver Canucks
2) Toronto Maple Leafs
3) Ottawa Senators
4) Montreal Canadiens
5) Edmonton Oilers
6) Winnipeg Jets
7) Calgary Flames

1) Vancouver Canucks: After yet another disappointing playoffs, GM Mike Gillis made huge changes. First he fired Head Coach Alain Vigneault and replaced him with John Tortorella. The biggest change came between the pipes. After seeing a goaltending controversy for almost two seasons, Gillis decided to trade Corey Schneider to the Devils for the 9th pick in the last draft (Bo Horvat). This means that Roberto Luongo has the number one job yet again for the Canucks. Even though he is number one between the pipes, he will have a ton of pressure to deliver. Tortorella on the other hand brings a more fiery approach than his predecessor because he the old-school type that plays a more grind it out type of game. The roster is virtually the same as last season, but will Torts be the answer the Canucks need if they so desperately want to win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history?

2) Toronto Maple Leafs: The Maple Leafs accomplished something that many people believed was not possible. They made the playoffs last year for the first time since 2004. This happened based on the strong play by Goalie James Reimer, great contributions by guys like Nazem Kadri, Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul for stretches. However they lost a disappointing Game 7 to the Bruins. To avoid similar heartbreak, GM Dave Nonis made a couple of moves. He acquired Goalie Jonathan Bernier from the Kings who will give strong competition for Reimer and David Bolland from the Blackhawks. As well, after buying out Mikhail Grabovski and Mike Komisarek, he used that cap space to resign Tyler Bozak and sign prized free agent David Clarkson. Both guys bring grit and goal scoring which should help the Leafs try to make the playoffs for a second consecutive season.

3) Ottawa Senators: This offseason was one of the most shocking ones in Senators history. The captain and face of the franchise for almost two decades Daniel Alfredsson signed with the Red Wings. To fill his presence, GM Bryan Murray acquired Bobby Ryan for Jakub Silfverburg and a first round pick in next years draft. He also signed Clarke Macarthur from the Leafs with the idea that both of them can put some punch in the goal scoring department. As well, he re-added Joe Corvo who replaces Sergei Gonchar on the back end. The Senators were able to make the playoffs last year despite a ton of injuries to their core. If they manage to stay healthy for an entire 82 game season, watch out as they have a ton of weapons like Jason Spezza, Mika Zibanejad, Erik Karlsson, and Kyle Turris along with goaltender Craig Anderson.

4) Montreal Canadiens: After finishing dead last in 2011-2012, the Habs were one of the biggest surprises last season. They managed to finish first in the Northeast with strong play from players like Brendan Gallagher, a healthy Andrei Markov and PK Subban. However, while they made noise in the regular season, they were eliminated in five games by the Ottawa Senators due to be outplayed physically and poor goaltending by Carey Price. GM Marc Bergevin addressed the physical need by acquiring George Parros from a trade with Florida that should reduce the load that Brandon Prust took care of most of last year. As well, he added scoring touch by finally signing Daniel Briere for a two year contract. When healthy, he can produce. With almost the same roster as last year, the only way Montreal can make the same impact as last year is if goaltender Carey Price can bounce back and stop giving up soft goals when games count.

5) Edmonton Oilers: After another season that saw Edmonton miss the playoffs, more changes happened. Gone are GM Steve Tambellini and Head Coach Ralph Krueger and replaced by Craig Mactavish and Dallas Eakins. Mactavish already made his mark by trading Shawn Horcoff to the Stars and Magnus Paajarvi to the Blues for David Perron. Mactavish also brought more toughness by signing Andrew Ference and drafting hulking defenceman Darnell Nurse (assigned to OHL team). Their success however lies with the young core with Taylor Hall, Nail Yakupov, Jordan Eberle, Justin Schultz and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (injured indefinitely). The core have great potential but they need to use it to win more games and end the current playoff drought.

6) Winnipeg Jets: The Jets made improvements last year but it was not enough to make the playoffs. That was because their offence with guys like Andrew Ladd, Evander Kane and Blake Wheeler were not reaching their potential every night. GM Kevin Chevaldayoff did little to address this need but managed to acquire Devon Setoguichi from the Wild. He brings speed and scoring touch that can help the team notably on the Powerplay as they were dead last. Chevaldayoff also acquired Michael Frolik from the Blackhawks who did a terrific job on killing penalties and should be able to help the team in that category. If the Jets hope to finally make the playoffs in the Western Conference this year, their core has to step it up big time and goalie Ondrej Pavelec has to bounce back after disappointing for the majority of the shortened season.

7) Calgary Flames: While GM Jay Feaster does not want to say it, the Flames are clearly in rebuild mode. After trading longtime face of the franchise Jarome Iginla and Jay Bouwmeester, he traded Alex Tanguay and Corey Sarich to Colorado for Shane O'Brien and David Jones and seeing longtime goalie Miikka Kiprusoff retire. While Feaster was able to stockpile a ton of prospects during the draft, he also added depth on forward and defence with acquiring TJ Galiardi and Kris Russell. They have a decent core with guys like Mike Cammalleri, Lee Stempniak, Curtis Glencross, Jiri Hudler and new goaltender Kari Ramo. The only issue is if they have a hard time finding the back of the net and playing up to par with the best guys on other teams, it could be a long year in Cowtown.