Assessing the Possible 2014-15 Ducks Roster

The Anaheim Ducks made small, but impactful moves for their team this upcoming season, and went for size and power this time around to mirror the success of the Los Angeles Kings. A few restricted free agent players remain, including Jakob Silvferberg, and Devante Smith-Pelly, while Sami Vatanen was recently signed for 2 years with the team on a one-way deal. Both are still expected to be on the team in October. Questions surrounding Sheldon Souray might have already been answered with the new numbers coming out, as Nate Thompson is set to take over #44. Continue reading

Assessing the Possible 2014-2015 Islanders Roster

Although losing big name left winger in March of last year, downgrading their top line big time, the Islanders are revamped and ready to come out of the gates swinging in 2014-2015. With a team full of young talent and limitless potential, Garth Snow has molded the perfect combination to put on the ice up front. Although the defense is subpar, the goaltending has improved, which was the biggest weakness last year. After a taste at the playoffs in 2013 only to fall into the depths of the bottom 5 in the league the next year, the Islanders are ready to compete once again for a playoff spot.

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Penguins Projected Lineup Analysis

The 2014-15 season will be one to closely watch in the Penguins universe. A new head coach, management and roster leaves room for many questions that can only be answered when the season starts. One of the biggest questions so far has been how the new acquisitions will fit in the starting lineup with the departure of wingers James Neal, Jussi Jokinen and virtually the entire bottom six. Here we will analyze the forward, defense and goaltender positions to what seems to be the lineup that makes the most sense for the Penguins.

Forwards: Chris Kunitz – Sidney Crosby – Steve Downie

The biggest surprise to this first line is without a doubt Steve Downie. Normally taking the right wing position to accompany Kunitz and Crosby would be Pascal Dupuis. For years the Penguins have lacked a player like Downie to be the enforcer for Crosby. Because of this lack of intimidation, the Penguins have been one of the easiest teams to play against during the playoffs. Big name talent stars with little grit win single game series, not playoffs. This is the model that we see in the olympics; single game series, and the reason we don’t see goons playing for Canada and the Penguins dominating the regular season. That lack of understanding is one of the reasons previous general manager Ray Shero was fired, by failing to acquire tougher players.

“I can guarantee there won’t be any liberties on those players this year,” Said Downie on protecting Crosby and Malkin. “Whatever team I’ve played on, I like to go out of my way to stick up for teammates. Every team needs a couple guys like that.”

Downie can finally be the answer to the enforcer quest the Penguins have been dying to add to the roster. A big question is if Downie would be able to hang with Crosby and not drag his talent down, however, Downie has played with talent before in the likes of Steven Stamkos. This experience is crucial. Having played alongside one of the best players in the game will prepare Downie to be alongside the flying Crosby and even be able to put up some points himself.

Beau Bennet – Evgeni Malkin – Patric Hornqvist

For this second line the only new face is Patric Hornqvist, adding Beau Bennet gives Malkin a sense of some familiarity and chemistry with no James Neal. Bennet played alongside Malkin early in his rookie season before becoming injured and having Jussi Jokinen take over the role. Assuming Bennet can finally stay healthy we can expect to see him contributing a lot this season. Hornqvist on the other hand, is a “James Neal” caliber player even with less points. However we have to remember, James Neal wasn’t “James Neal” until he really played alongside Malkin. Neal was an average NHL player before being on the wing with one of the best in the world,his production went sky high and it made him a better player. Who’s to say the same can’t happen with Hornqvist? In fact, before Malkin, Neal’s highest goals in a season was 27. After joining the Penguins, Neal will leave Pittsburgh with a goal high of 40.

Now lets take a look at Patric Hornqvist’s stats. In his time with Nashville, his highest goal mark was 30. That’s a 10 goal differential, keep in mind Hornqvist has never played with a center man even remotely as good as Evgeni Malkin. Add in his work ethic and “go to the net” mentally you get a player far superior than Neal. Neal became known for taking dirty hits and getting suspended, Hornqvist has became known as the guy diving to prevent an empty net goal.

Yeah, I can get used to this.

Blake Comeau – Brandon Sutter – Pascal Dupuis

Now it comes to the bottom six, and this is where things get interesting. The bottom six has the most room for changes and different looks making this the most difficult part of the forward process to look at. Comeau has proven his time in Columbus he is a solid third liner and Pittsburgh saw some of that in the playoffs. Brandon Sutter will remain the center again and is expected to have a raise in production. Although Sutter has disappointed somewhat in his statistics, he was playing along side atrocious wingers that have almost all been released in the unrestricted free agency. Sutter has the ability to perform but only if his line mates can keep up. Players like Tanner Glass just aren’t going to help you. As for Dupuis being dropped to the third line, this might be best for his career and health. Dupuis usually is on the first line alongside Crosby, however, you can’t expect a player in his mid 30’s who is coming off a season ending injury to be the same old player you know and love. Even despite his workout ethic in the off season.

Kasperi Kapanen – Marcel Goc – Nick Spaling

This is the most diverse and unexpected lineup yet. Although at this time the Penguins have not yet signed Spaling to a deal, it is sure to come soon. The deadline for arbitration approaching and the Penguins need a player that has the ability to play any forward position the way Spaling does. Playing for a team that is very injury prone, this is a huge asset. Marcel Goc will most likely get his chance at the center position, an early injury in his time with Pittsburgh didn’t give him the time to shine as he had liked. We can expect Goc to work extra hard to show his skills because of this. Perhaps most surprisingly, Kasperi Kapanen will be on the wing. This is a player that has greatly impressed the Penguins staff with his play in the Finnish league and in the Penguins prospect camp. Everyone is raving about this guy, he’s been signed to an entry level contract. Kapanen very well might be the winger solution Pittsburgh has also been searching for, at least the temporary solution. It has been a long time since Pittsburgh has had a great young forward in the organization since being blessed to draft Crosby and Malkin.

Defense: Kris Letang – Paul Martin

This is most likely the safe bet when it comes to who is where on the blue line for Pittsburgh. Letang has been the first line guy for a while and his physical strength and conditioning prove that he can handle it season in and out. Along side him would be the steady defenseman Paul Martin. After having a quite embarrassing regular and post season in 2012, Martin has really bounced back and impressed everyone. He is sure to have some first line time.

Olli Maatta – Christian Ehrhoff

This will be Olli Maatta’s second NHL season after his very impressive rookie year. Maatta’s maturity and IQ on the ice for a young player is staggering, giving him the chance to play with the newly acquired Ehrhoff could develop his skills even more.

Robert Bortuzzo – Rob Scuderi

This pair has had some playing time together last season and it’s a safe bet to see them both together again. Bortuzzo seems to be the new hard hitting Brooks Orpik for the Penguins franchise. Having a hard hitting defenseman on your team is something everyone looks for and with the departure of Orpik, Bortuzzo will be the guy that makes players think twice about coming down his side of the ice. Scuderi is coming off a fairly bad season. His positioning seemed to be just off by a mark, players were passing and getting through his side often. An ankle injury or age catching up might be a cause for his unusual playing ability last season, he will be looking to put that behind him this year.

Simon Despres will most likely get rides on this line after signing a one way deal with the new management staff. Despres finally has his real NHL shot to show what he can do scratching in and out with Brotuzzo and Scuderi. Fans could also get to see Derrick Pouliot, who’s former minor league coach is now behind the bench for his professional team. If injuries come looming their ugly head on the Penguins blue line again, he will most likely be the call up guy to take someones place temporarily until he is fully NHL ready.

Goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury Thomas Greis

There’s no doubt Fleury takes the cake for starting position, he has proven him self over the years to be the starting goaltender. The change here comes with Thomas Greis. Before him came Vokoun, who’s age and injury will leave him out of the team and Jeff Zatkoff. Although Zatkoff has improved last season to what we have seen before, he’s just not quite there. Greis is a more of an NHL level goaltender. Regardless, the two of them will have to compete for the back up position during the off and pre season. The backup position will be a temporary problem as Tristan Jarry prepares himself to come to the big leagues from the minors.

Leafs Continue to Add Depth with Winnik Signing

In another effort to add depth to their lineup, the Maple Leafs have signed 29 year old centerman Daniel Winnik.

After registering a career high in assist (24) and points (30) with Anaheim, Winnik will look to provide a physical, defensive edge to the bottom of the roster.  Having a 33.3 Zone Start percentage last season, it is very evident that Winnik was used in a very defensive role last season.  Winnik also spent considerable time on the penalty kill this past season, an average of 2:31.
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Examining the Sharks Projected Lineup

With seventy-two days remaining until the start of the season for the San Jose Sharks, their opening night roster is taking shape. San Jose Sharks general manager Doug Wilson has seemingly moved around some not-so-key pieces to the Sharks lineup so far this off-season, leaving very little room for competition within the organization. We will examine the projected top forward lines, defensive pairings, and the goal-tending situation.

-First Line: Hertl-Thornton-Pavelski

This projected top line for the Sharks remains relatively similar to that of last season, with the exception of Pavelski playing the RW instead of Burns. Continue reading

Jakub Voracek: Advanced Stats Warrior

Flyers fans have grown accustomed to the lethal tandem of Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek on the top line. Giroux’s success and talent are apparent to all hockey fans, but Voracek’s contributions are not as well known. Voracek broke out in a big way in the lockout-shortened 2013 season, scoring 46 points in 48 games. He followed that up with 62 points in 82 games this past season; he did this while posting his lowest shooting percentage since 2010. Voracek’s production ability is very strong, and it is reasonable to see him be just short of a point per game pace next season (think 75-80 point range). Continue reading