Sunday, October 4, 2015



The Central Division is the toughest division is hockey. You can make a case for every team making the playoffs and almost every team winning the division.  The defending champion Chicago Blackhawks may not take the regular season seriously but they are the best team in the division. The Winnipeg Jets hope to build on last year’s surprise playoff appearance. The Dallas Stars added veteran leadership to bounce back from a disappointing 2014. This is a make or break year for the perennial disappointing St Louis Blues. The Avalanche made changes to escape the division cellar. The Wild made no significant changes and may find them in the cellar.

1.   CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS- Chicago had a tough off season but the Blackhawks are the champs. They have the best leadership group on and off the ice in the NHL. Jonathan Toews is this generations Mark Messier. Patrick Kane , assuming he’s not in jail,  is the best scoring winger hockey. Marian Hossa  is one of the best two way wingers in hockey.  Chicago lost Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp in the off season. Both were accomplished, skilled championship wingers. They were replaced by Ryan Garbutt, Marko Danno and Artem Anisimov. Each player fills a need in the Windy City. Teuvo Teravainen and Andrew Shaw’s emergence in the playoffs proves this franchise doesn’t rebuild it reloads. The Defense is anchored by arguably the best defenseman in the business Duncan Keith. Trevor Daley comes in from Dallas to add more offense from the back end. Chicago hopes he can be as durable and reliable as Johnny Oduya was. Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson round out the top four with their Stanley Cup pedigree. Last year’s Cup run proved Corey Crawford is a big time goaltender and Scott Darling is the super clutch back up.

2.   WINNIPEG JETS - Winnipeg surprised everyone last season by making the playoffs. They may not surprise anyone this year but they will forecheck them into submission. The Jets have a bunch of skilled wingers with size. The captain Andrew Ladd leads the top line with handsy Bryan Little and large Blake Wheeler. The relatively small Mathieu Perreault leads the second line with Mark Sheifele and Drew Stafford. The bottom two lines centered by Alex Burmistrov and Adam Lowry enable the Jets to matchup with anyone in the West. On defense the Jets go as deep as anyone this side of Nashville. Jason Trouba and Toby Enstrom are reliable and Dustin Byfuglien and Tyler Myers are massive men with offensive skills. If net minder Ondrej Pavelec can hold up or Michael Hutchinson fills in as admirably as last year a deep playoff run is possible.

3.   DALLAS STARS – The Dallas Stars had their season ripped away from them last season when Tyler Seguin got injured. This season the Stars added what they so desperately needed. Leadership, defense and goaltending. Patrick Sharp brings his three Stanley Cups to Dallas to show superstars Jamie Benn and Seguin how to win. Benn And Seguin definitely know how to score. Valeri Nichushkin needs to rebound from injury and Ales Hemsky needs to rebound from a mediocre season.  John Klingberg is all star in the making on defense. While no one else on the blue line falls into that category Johnny Oduya will bring defensive responsibility to the Dallas blue line. If former Stanley Cup champion Antti Niemi takes Kari Lehtonen goal tending job Head coach Lindy Ruff will have something he’s never had in Texas, reliable goaltending.

4.   ST LOUIS BLUES – The St. Louis Blues are classic underachievers.  Head coach Ken Hitchcock’s style of play leads to a lot of regular season wins and not very many in the post season. Captain Kangaroo’s Blues play a tight defensive style in the regular season then don’t have enough offense in the post season. Vlad Tarasenko cannot be blamed for lack of offense. He is a scoring machine and one of the best players in the league. Paul Stastny needs to prove he’s worth his big contract and David Backes needs to prove he deserves to wear the C. Alexander Steen and Jaden Schartz do just enough to avoid blame. TJ Oshie didn’t and was shipped out for the Capitals warrior Troy Brower. On defense  Kevin Shattenkirk and Jay Bouwmeester think you can stop people with your reputation.  Alex Pietrango is a young stud hopefully he doesn’t learn his team mates bad habits. St. Louis’ goaltenders are average. Jake Allen and Brian Elliot may not be the number one reason the Blues underachieve but they never come up big in net.

5.   NASHVILLE PREDATORS- The Nashville Predators have the best defense in the NHL. Shea Weber and Roman Josi are the best blue line pairing in the league. Both of them are Norris quality. Young gun Seth Jones is a ridiculously talented defenseman who only gets better. Fliip Forsberg leads the forwards and can be described the same way Jones was. The Predators season fortunes will fall into the hands of old men, centers Mike Ribeiro and Mike Fisher. Fisher you can put your faith in, Ribeiro probably not. Colin Wilson and Craig Smith are proven if not flashy goal scorers. Flashy DayLight Savings James Neal escaped Geno Malkin’s shadow and proved his critics wrong. Pekka Rinne when healthy is a top five goalie. Carter Hutton is a capable backup but Rinne needs to play for Nashville to make the playoffs in the tough division.

6.   COLORADO AVALANCHE- The Avalanche are a team that could win the division or come in last. They have as much talent as anyone, but will they play smart hockey. Fiery Head coach Patrick Roy is not on the hot seat because he’ll pick up that chair and throw it at his team. Nathan MacKinnon, Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog are a talented young nucleus. They need to bounce back from last season’s disappointments. Hall of Famer Jerome Iginla led the team in scoring last season and is still a highly productive player. Carl Soderberg and Blake Comeau have been brought in to add depth to the forward unit. Francois Beauchemin signed with the Avs. and is everything the Colorado blue line needed last year. Toughness. Size. Responsibility. Erik Johnson returns from injury and will be paired with the offensive minded Tyson Barrie. The Avalanche net minder Semyon Varlamov can look unbeatable horrible, sometimes in the same game. Calvin Pickard who looked good last season if Varlamov falters.

7.   MINNESOTA WILD- The Wild did almost nothing in the off season and will regret that decision. Minnesota did resign goalie Devan Dubnyk. Dubnyk saved their season last year. Can he do it again this season? Dallas and Colorado got better in the off season so probably not. Zach Parise is a good player but he’s not a franchise changer thus he makes too much money in a cap league. Nino Niederreiter has an upside but Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville are underachievers. Ryan Suter is an All –Star defenseman. The rest of his blue line mates are mobile but not very physical.  The Wild always seem hell bent on getting rid of Head coach Mike Yeo. It seems like this will be the year.

 The Pacific Division will be won by a team in Southern California.  The Ducks were one game away from the Stanley Cup Finals and the Los Angeles Kings are one season removed from winning the Stanley Cup. The San Jose Sharks and Calgary Flames figure to be in the playoff hunt. The Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks will fight for fifth place. Edmonton would consider fifth in the division a good season Vancouver would not. No one will be fighting Arizona for last place.

1.   ANAHEIM DUCKS- The Anaheim Ducks were one game away from the Stanley Cup Finals and will be right there again. Ryan Getzlaf is Superman and Corey Perry is Batman. Last season’s addition of Ryan Kesler gives the Ducks a Justice League of hockey. Anaheim rearranged some wingers in the off season. Carl Haglin a burner with clutch hands was added. Cris Stewart an underachieving giant with flashes of skill also joined up in Orange County. Jakob Silfverberg and Andrew Cogliano can fill the net. A big question in Anaheim will be if Richard Rackell can move into a third line center role. Newly acquired Kevin Bieksa will be asked to fill Francios Beauchimin role as the teams defensive rock. Hampus Lindolm is a blue line star in the making. Simon Depres looks like he’s finally living up to his potential. Fredrik Andersen is trying to fight off the hyped, oft injured John Gibson for goaltending duties.  Head coach BBQ Bruce Boudreau always toys with his net minders. Boudreau better figure it out or he will be out in Anaheim.

2.   LOS ANGELES KINGS – Kings Head coach Darryl Sutter may also on the hot seat.  Difference being Darryl Sutter has two Stanly Cup rings from coaching the Kings.  The Kings have the best number one line in the league.  Anze Kopitar is a great two way center and Marian Gaborik is a sharpshooter extraordinaire. Milan Lucic puts the power in power forward. Fellow big man Tanner Pearson is back from injury to give the Kings all of their Super Seventies back. Jeff Carter, Tyler Toffoli, Dwight King and Jordan Nolan.  Drew Doughty is a phenomenal defenseman but he played too many minutes last year. Slava Voynov can solve that problem if he remains out of jail and in the country. The rest of the defensemen  need to rebound from last season’s lack luster efforts. Jonathan Quick needs to return to his Vezina level because Jhonas Enroth is not the back-up Martin Jones was.

3.   SAN JOSE SHARKS – The San Jose Sharks changed Head coach but  kept their underachieving former captains Joe Thorton and Patrick Marleau. Joe Pavelski should be the captain. He has the talent and the passion. Logan Couture had a good 2014 campaign but 2013 rookie sensation Tomas Hertl had a sophomore slump. Joel Ward was added to this team to score big goals and hopefully fill some of the leadership vacuum. Paul Martin will fill any vacuum on the blue line because nobody in the leagues plays a steadier twenty five minutes a game then him. Martin’s partner will be the Brent Burns. Burns is so good offensively he has played top line forward for the Sharks. Burns is also good in his own end. The rest of the blue line core is non-descript but will not hurt you. Martin Jones is the team’s new goaltender and will bring stability to crease.

4.   CALGARY FLAMES – The Calgary Flames had a Cinderella 2014.  Jack Adams winner Head coach Bob Hartley seemed to do it with mirrors. Johnny (Hockey) Gaudreau scored big goal after big goal. If Gaudeau gets half the bounces he got last year he’ll still be very lucky. Johnny is also lucky he has a legitimate number one center in Sean Monahan. Jiri Hudler adds a versatile veteran presence to the top line.  Sam Bennett adds fresh legs and skill to the second line. Michael Frolik adds a little bit of everything else to that line. Mark Giordano anchors an impressive defense crew. TJ Brodie, Kris Russell and Dennis Wideman gave Calgary a marvelous top four last year. The Flames acquired Dougie Hamilton to crowd the blue line when that money could have been spent on forward depth. Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo split the net duties. The Flames need one to get a hot hand as they did last year.

5.   EDMONTON OILERS – The Edmonton Oilers are sick of losing. The Eighties legacies were thrown out and GM Peter Chiarelli and Head coach Todd McLellan were brought in. Connor McDavid is billed as the team’s newest savoir. Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent Hopkins Edmonton’s previous saviors are still trying to harness their immense talent. Jordan Eberle has played the best of the high draft bunch and Nail Yakupov the worst. Drafting McDavid is not Edmonton’s only reason for optimism, the Oilers also brought in Andrej Sekara. He is an an actual top four NHL defenseman.The Oilers also acquired Eric Gryba. Gryba is a  thumper with a snarl to protect the kids from the back end. Also Edmonton finally now has a goal tender. Cam Talbot is solid in the crease. Hope is flowing like water in Edmonton.

6.   VANCOUVER CANUCKS – The Vancouver Canucks got embarrassed the playoffs last season. So what did Vancouver do, the threw away most of their grit and toughness and added the softest Sutter of all time. The Sedins are still in town but can Radim Vrbata play over his head like he did last year on their off wing. Chris Higins and Alex Burrows are still around too. Shawn Matthias, Brad Richardson and Zach Kassian are not. That’s a lot of size and grit for new over achiever Brandon Prust fill. The Vancouver defense is mobile but not overly tough. Alexander Elder, Chris Tanev and Dan Hamhuis are mobile but not exactly tough. Goalie Ryan Miller has never been considered tough and now he’s not even considered a good goaltender. Vancouver in a few seasons went from a team with too many good goalies to a team with none.

7.   ARIZONA COYOTES – The Arizona Coyotes best forward was a healthy scratch for the Chicago Blackhawks in the playoffs.  Antoine Vermette did score a couple big goals for Chicago when he was in the lineup. This season Arizona fans will get to see young  forwards Max Domi and Anthony Duclair develop. They will also see forwards Steve Downie and John Scott commit violent felonies on the ice. Oliver Ekman Larsson is a Norris level defenseman but he cannot play sixty minutes.  Zbbynek Michalek is a human orange traffic cone. Fellow blue liner Nick Grossman is only slightly more mobile than Slow Z. The usually effective goalie Mike Smith needs to bounce back after a horrible 2014. If he doesn’t Arizone will show up in court begging the franchise to move.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015



Tampa Bay is best team in the Atlantic. Detroit’s new coach Jeff Blashill will inject life into the year’s playoff lock Red Wings. Montreal’s old coach Mike Therrien has maybe one last chance in Montreal. Florida gets the nod over Ottawa. Their kids have higher pedigrees. Boston could either bounce back into playoffs or trade their way to rock bottom. Speaking of rock bottom, Toronto will win more games the Buffalo. The Sabres may have a better roster but Toronto has a better coach.

1.   Tampa Bay Lightning – Anytime Steven Stamkos is not on your number one line you have a great team. The number one line is the triplets Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat seem to be able to score at will sometimes.   Alex Killorn and Ryan Callahan will also help a team that did not lose any important players from last year’s Stanley Cup Finals. Defense leader Victor Hedman is scary good. Andrej Susr is a big kid with promise. The rest of the defense is steady but not spectacular. The team’s biggest question is mark is at goal. Ben Bishop did lead the Lightning to the Finals but count this writer as one of his skeptics. If the puck continues to hit him and Stamkos’s contract negotiions aren’t too distracting the Lightning are the team to beat in the Atlantic.

2.   Detroit Red Wings – New Detroit coach Jeff Blashill has many weapons. Two future Hall of Famers Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are joined by young studs Gustaf Nyquist and Tomas Tatar. The Wings have tons of talented youth including Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco. Conn Smythe winner Brad Richards was signed to help the maturation process. Gritty Justin Abdelkader is not young anymore and leads by example with his heart on his sleeve. A steady defense is led by rock solid Nick Kronwall. A little Mike Green could go a long way to add scoring from the blue line. Petr Mrazek took the starting  goaltending job from Jimmy Howard and is a top flight young goalie.

3.   Montreal Canadiens – Michel Therrien might have more pressure on him than anyone in the league due to his team’s early playoff exit. Montreal has a talented group of forwards who need to put it all together when it counts. The Canadiens named Max Pacioretty their newest captain. Max now has to add leadership to his impressive scoring resume.  David Desharnais, Brendan Gallagher, Tomas Plekenac and Alex Galchenyuk may not be the biggest guys but they have ample skill and heart. Zack Kassian was brought in to help Dale Weise in the size and toughness department. If Devan Smith –Pelly can get in shape he could be a wild card. P. K. Subban is one of the NHL’s best human beings as well as the league’s best defensemen. Jeff Petry will be in Montreal all season so will the oft injured Andrei Markov hopefully. Jarred Tinordi is a young monster who could add snarl to this steady group. Carey Price is the best goaltender in the World. Price keeps Montreal in contention every year.   

4.   Florida Panthers – The Florida Panthers are reeping the benefits of a decade of high draft picks. Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov and Nick Bjugstad have all star pedrigree. Mixed in with the young star are veterans  Dave Bolland, Jussi Jokinen and Shawn Thorton. Living legend Jaromir Jagr seems to drink from the fountain of youth every year. Locker room leadership is covered in Florida.  Calder (rookie) Trophy winner Aaron Eckblad’s next trophy maybe the Norris (defenseman). The rest of the defense can get the job done with two time Cup winner Willie Mitchell and playing on the edge Dmitry Kulikov. Veteran goalie Roberto Luongo seemed rejuvenated last year. Florida needs that Bobby Loo to make the playoffs.

5.   Ottawa Senators – The Senators had a fairy tale regular season and goaltender hero that would make Disney proud. Andrew Hammond become a cult hero and in season replacement coach looked like a genius. The trick will be doing it two years in a row. Captain in the making Curtis Lazar will keep emotions high but it maybe too much to ask Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman, Mika Zibanejad and Kyle Turris to all play over their heads this year too. It’s not too much to ask of Norris trophy winner Erik Karlsson. The Karlsson/Marc Methot pairing is a classic offensive guy and stay at home defenseman pairing. Cody Ceci is an underrated number three blueliner. Craig Anderson has already been named number goaltender for this year. Let’s see if he’s the starter at the All – Star break. Consistency and durability are not Anderson’s strong suits.

6.   Boston Bruins – Boston coach Claude Julien is on a short lease. It will turn into a noose if the one two center combination of Patrice Bergeron and David Kejci sleep walk thru another season. Injuries were a factor but the Bruins lost their big, bad swagger last year. King of the rats Brad Marchand had a good season but he was an outlier. Matt Beleskey needs to bring scoring and some fresh air into the Bruins locker room. On defense the great Zdeno Chara is showing his age. Dennis Sidenberg and Adam McQuaid are top four on any team. Minature Torey Krug I’m not sure about. Tuuka Rask was a top five goal tender. He wasn’t last year.

7.    Toronto Maple Leafs – Uber boss Brandon Shanahan handed the keys to the franchise over to two Hall of Famers. GM Lou Lamoriello and Head coach Mike Babcock.
I think Mike Babcock can get a few wins with forwards James Van Riemsdyk, Tyer Bozak and Joffrey Lupul. Leo Komarov is a gutsy winger. The kind of player Babcock gets the best out of. Dion Phaeuf is still a Leaf. The rest of the blue line is filled with journeyman, what Phanuef maybe be very soon. In net Jonathan Bernier has to finally win the starting job from James Riemer. If Bernier can’t outplay Reimer all of Babcock’s genius will go to waste.

8.   Buffalo Sabres – The Buffalo Sabres won Jack Eichel this summer. Second is winning when you live in Buffalo. Sam Reinhart is Buffalo’s the other big time talent. Evander Kane now is Buffalo’s head ache, hopefully it won’t be as big as Ryan O’Reilly’s head ache after his late night activities. Z Girgensons will be a favorite of new coach Dan Blysma’s. The defense has some skilled veterans like Zach Bogosian and Josh Gorges who may play well in hopes of getting moved at the deadline. Robin Lehner is the Sabres goalie. Knowing how much Disco Dan stressing defense and responsibility, Robin better makes sure he stretched.
The top four teams in the Metro Washington, Pittsburgh and the two New York teams each could win this division if things break their way. They are the cream of the crop. If you could box them like a lottery pick I would. The Capitals and Islanders have the deepest rosters. The Rangers have high end talent but rely too much on the aging Henrik Lunqvist. It appeared the Brandon Saad trade catapulted Columbus into the Metro’s big four then Pittsburgh traded for Phil Kessel and jumped back over them. The Flyers have some high end talent but no depth. The Devils don’t have much high end talent. The Hurricanes can plan their golf vacations now.

1.   Washington Capitals – The Capitals will continue regular season dominance under coach Barry Trotz in his second season in Washington. Alex Ovechkin and Nicholas Backstrom lead the Caps as arguably the game’s best center/ winger combo. The Capitals will miss forwards Joel Ward and Troy Brower’s goals and  toughness but Marcus Johansson,  Evgeny Kuznetsov and Andre Burakovsky are young guns are ready for bigger roles. TJ Oshie should bounce back in his new city. Justin Williams was brought in to score those elusive big playoff goals. On defense Trotz will worry that Brooks Orpik will look his age but John Carlson and Karl Alzner are steady two way blueliners in their prime. Goalie Braden Holtby is bona fide star.

2.   New York Islanders – The Islanders have the best 1-12 forwards in the East. John Tavares is one the top five players in the league. Tavares’ running mate Kyle Okposp is ready to roll after injuries marred his 2014 season. Josh Bailey, Ryan Strome and Anders Lee will add depth scoring. The best fourth line in hockey Cal Clutterbuck, Matt Martin and Casey Cizekas will have the hipsters rocking in their new Brooklyn home. The defense is also the best top to bottom in the East. Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy get a lot of the press but Travis Harmonic is as good as he is underrated. The only question is Brooklyn maybe is whether Jaroslav Halak is a Stanley Cup net minder.

3.   Pittsburgh Penguins – Everything in Pittsburgh starts with Sidney Crosby and Geno Malkin and this year is no different. What is different though is now the Penguins will have four lines. The additions Phil Kessel, Eric Fehr and Nick Bonino give the Pens depth they haven’t had in years. The youth movement will be put on hold another year as Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz and Patric Hornqvist return for yet another run for Sid and Geno to get number two.
Two is the number of high quality defenseman the Penguins have. Kris Letang and Ollie Maata need to stay healthy on defense because they’re great, the rest of the defensemen are question marks because they’re either too young or too old. Marc Andre Fleury, a Cup winning goalie is playing remarkable net who hopes he doesn’t need to be counted on quite as much in 2015.

4.   New York Rangers – The Rangers once again are counting on the ever aging goaltender Henry Lunqvist to carry them to the promised land. Henry is great but last year it was Cam Talbot who won a large chunk of their regular season games while Hank was on the self. The Rangers traded Cam Talbot. The Rangers and new back Antti Raanta hope Lundqvist stays healthy.  Rick Nash silenced critics last season with a great 2015 campaign. The Rangers acquired Jared Stoll to go along with Derek Stepan and Derick Brasssard at center. All three are good solid centers but the Rangers still do not have a bona fide first line center. 2015 is the year big Chris Kreider needs to put it together for a whole season. The Blue Shirts top four defensemen Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal and Kevin Klein are as good as anybody’s. The problem is in the third pairing where Dan Boyle is old and Keith Yandle is soft.

5.   Columbus Blue Jackets - The Blue Jackets ended last season on fire. Can they keep it going this year? Well you can’t say the front office isn’t trying. Columbus traded away three productive forwards for Brandon Saad. Saad is a clutch two way performer. He is only twenty four and he already has two Cups. Saad gives center Ryan Johansen a big time winger for years to come. Newly named Captain Nick Foligno will be asked to duplicate last year’s career year. Boone Jenner and Cam Atkinson will be throwing their big young bodies around and hopefully some pucks in the net. The Jackets are counting on rugged forwards Scott Hartnell and David Clarkson to regain the form they had at other organizations. The Jacket’s defense led by Jack Johnson and Feder Tyutin is big and tough but not the most skilled bunch. Goaltender Sergei Bobrosky needs to be more consistent. He is either lights out or he can use the red light as a tanning bed.

6.   Philadelphia Flyers – New head coach Dave Hakstol has a potent power play led by Jacob Vorachub who had a career year in 2015 and premier center Claude Giroux. Wayne Simmonds is a superb power forward but after those three the cupboard is bare. Flyer fans who are used to Flyers management making sweeping changing are stuck this season with Brayden Schenn, Michael Raffi and Sean Couturier playing major roles.  The Flyers hope the once great Vinnie Lecavialier can live up to at least some of his bloated contract. The Flyers defense adds little offense but is more mobile than recent additions. Gritty Radas Gudas was added. Marc Streit and Andrew MacDonald are adequate but can anyone believe that Micheal Del Zotto will have two good years in a row. The one thing Philly has going for it is they may have finally solved their generational goal tending woes with the steady if not spectacular Steve Mason. Dave Hakstol will need to make the Flyers at least look like they’re trending upward because Flyer management and fans are notorious for having no patience.

7.   New Jersey Devils - The post Lou Lamoriello Devils are interesting. New Jersey has twelve pretty good forwards. That’s the problem they’re all pretty good, no one is very good. Patrick Elias was great. Stefan Matteau could be in the future. In between those two are the likes of Travis Zajac, Adam Henrique and new comer Kyle Palmieri. The defense is adequate but inexperienced. Andy Greene and Adam Larsson need to mature fast. Goaltender Cory Schneider needs to peek out from beyond Marty Broduer’s huge shadow and play great in net to give new coach John Hines and new GM Ray Shero a shot at the playoffs.

8.   Carolina Hurricanes – The only truly promising thing about the Canes is their young defenseman Justin Faulk. He will be teamed with the ancient James Wisniewski. There is no reason to pile on the Canes defense if the Staals ( Eric & Jordan ) continue to underwhelm. They will be golfing somewhere else after the trade deadline. Jeff Skinner could be a bright spot if he stays healthy. Odds are goaltender Cam Ward will either be injured or traded. Eddie Lack, who wanted to play more in Vancouver will see all the pucks he wants in Carolina. It’s a long rebuild for Ronnie Francis and we wish him the best luck. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015


NHL Off Season Report Cards
 September means our summer of discontent is over, the puck drops soon enough. Here’s my off season grades.
Pittsburgh- A- The  Penguins made a big splash by taking Toronto’s disgruntled scoring star Phil Kessel. Turning Brandon Sutter into Nick Bonino and Eric Fehr may have saved GM Jim Rutherford’s job. Not replacing Paul Martin’s 25 + minutes of quality defense was a big mistake though.
NY Rangers- C- Rangers fans saw the Blue Shirts take other teams AHL garbage and not replace goalie King Henry superb back up Cam Talbot. Jared Stoll’s signing was a rare positive in what has been a disastrous off season and that’s only if Stoll overcomes his personal problems. Marty St Louis retired. Carl Hagelin was traded for Emerson Etem to give the Rangers some size though Hagelin’s timely goals will be missed.
 Philly- C- A team known for a making big changes made very small ones and is a long way from being a playoff team. Michal Neuvith  is an upgrade over Ray Emery for back up goalteander  and losing meat head Zac Rinaldo has to be a plus. On the bright side Captain Claude Giroux didn’t assault a cop or break his hand golfing.
 Columbus - A Columbus added Brandon Saad, a great young talented forward. They gave up three forwards productive forwards Artem  Anisimov, Marko Danno  and Corey Tropp but Columbus now has something they’ve never had a bona fide big time winner.  
NYI- C+ The Islanders added Thomas Greiss to play backup goaltender, not a huge move but a needed one because starter Jaroslav Halak is no iron man. The skaters can be tweaked in season when their needs are more glaring because this team is a deadline deal away from real Stanley Cup contention.
New Jersey - C-  The Devils new GM Ray Shero added Kyle Palmieri, a nice pick up but he needs about fifteen more to turn this franchise around. Lou Lamoriello is now in Toronto so New Jersey not only needs to find goals they need to find a heart and soul.
Carolina  –  C-  Eddie Lack will now be facing a hurricane of pucks in Carolina. GM Ron Francis is hanging on to the Staals like his favorite t shirts  and like old t shirts pretty soon they can only be used for rags.
Washington- A + The Capitals, who never win big games signed Mr. Game 7 Justin Williams.  Goal scorer T J Oshie should flourish in a new environment.  When Braden Holtby signed a very reasonable contract to play net at a Vezina level this summer was a hat trick for Caps fans.
Detroit- B+ Budding star Gustav Nyquist has been secured for the future and Brad Richards bring his wealth of skill and leadership to a proud franchise in transition. New coach Jeff Blashill will bring a new energy to this group of very talented youngsters. Mike Green can be a plus on the blue line if he’s not asked to play too much defense.
Ottawa- C- The Senators only move was dump goalie Robin Lehner who was expendable. The Senators are drinking their own Kool Aid.
Toronto- B+ Toronto installed a Hall of Fame management team with Lou Lamoriello as GM and Mike Babcock as Head Coach.  Shawn Matthias  and PA Parenteau can help but the latter will not be around when the Leafs are finally good.
Boston- D+ Boston off season makes you wonder if they think Connor McDavid is in next year’s draft. Milan Lucic was the Big Bad Bruins and Gregory Campbell was always a good soldier in Boston. I didn’t understand why they let the serviceable Carl Soderberg go but Matt Beleskey was a nice addition.  The addition of Zac Rinaldo makes no sense.
Florida- B  This talented team only needs to gain experience. The Panthers kept the immortal Jaromir Jagr to help guide them on their journey to greatness.
Tampa Bay- B  The Eastern Conference champs held steady. Steve Yzerman knows what he’s doing.
Buffalo- B-   Ryan O Reilly came to town looked around and got a DUI. Robin Lehner gives the Sabres a competent goalie and they will need him to a great them under Disco Dan Bylsma’s porous system. Jack Eichel is a nice silver medal though.
Montreal - B  The Habs lost middle weight Brandon Prust but acquired heavyweight Zack Kassain. He will play well under Mike Therrien the question is will the mercurial Alex Semin.
Chicago – B+  It’s hard giving a positive grade to a team that lost Brandon Saad but I like what they got in return. Anisimov is a big second line center (needed in the West), Danno can score and Tropp is a large individual.  Trading Patrick Sharp to a division rival was risky but Ryan Garbut is full of grit and Trevor Daley is a younger Johnny Oduya with more offense but maybe not as durable
Winnipeg – B When your franchise is on the rise don’t fix what isn’t broke.
Dallas- A   Antti Niemi will give the Stars a much needed number one goalie, sorry Kari Lehtonen.  Patrick Sharp gives the ultra talented young forwards a leader and Johnny Oduya gives the blue line someone who is defensively responsible.
St Louis- C The Blues secured their best player Vlad Tarasenko for years to come and dropped the underachieving T J Oshie but all of the overrated defensemen are still there as well as coach Captain Kangaroo Ken Hitchcock.
Minnesota- B-  The Wild locked up goalie Devan Dubnyk long term and made no mistakes. Unfortunately the Wild the Av and Stars both got much better.
Colorado-  A The Avs got exactly what they needed a big, steady top pair defenseman in Francois Beauchemin .Versatile  top nine forward Carl Soderberg from Boston for nothing was an added bonus. ****
Nashville- C The Predators needed more help up front and only marginally added to their already strong defense with Barrett Jackman
Los Angeles  –  B  You would think that acquiring Milan Lucic would give the Kings an automatic A but they lost reliable backup goalie Martin Jones and did not pick up a top four defenseman.
Anaheim -  B   The Ducks got tough and steady defenseman Kevin Bieksa  to replace Francois Beauchemin and Carl Hagelin to replace Matt Beleskey. Chris Stewart could turn his career around if he emulates the leaders on this Cup or bust team.  BBQ Bruce Boudreau is still their coach at least until Thanksgiving when coach in waiting Paul McClain in ready.
Vancouver – D  Vancouver lost defenseman Bieksa and forwards Bonino, Matthias and Kassian and went out and got the only Sutter sister. Sorry Brandon.
San Jose- A-  The Sharks acquired the underrated Paul Martin so their defense is improved. Martin Jones will play good to great in net. Joel Ward’s go to the net skill is an excellent addition. There are a lot of positives  but Thorton and Marleau are still on the team,
Calgary  - B-   Calgary’s big move was to give the overrated Dougie Hamilton too much money and crowd their already solid blue line core. I do like the addition of forward Michael Frolik though.
Edmonton- A+ Super job by Edmonton. They finally got a few capable defensemen.  Andrej Sekera is a top four and Eric Gryba who’s a big thumper and can protect those talented kiddie forwards. The Oilers also got Cam Talbot ,their first good goaltender in a generation. Oh. I almost forgot  Conor McDavid.
Arizona - F  John Scott is a sideshow, Zybnyk Michalek is a orange traffic cone and Steve Downey is due to implode.

**** Disclaimer, I did not address the Patrick Kane situation

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Thoughts on the Finals and Awards

I picked the Chicago Blackhawks to win the Stanley Cup in October and they made me look smart but actually it was an easy pick. They are the best team in the league and a modern day , salary cap dynasty.

The Hawks Big 3 is the best in hockey. Jonathan Toews is the game's best captain and is now in the Yzerman , Messier class. Patrick Kane is the game's premier scoring winger and Duncan Keith is the best all around defense in the league. You add future Hall of Famer Marian Hossa and steady D man Brent Seabrook and the Chicago core is as good as it gets.

The BlackHawks 3rd and 4th defensemen are finally getting their due Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson are both warriors with more offense skill than they are given credit for.

Chicago GM Stan Bowman started the Western Conference 2nd line center arms race by acquiring former Conn Smythe winner Brad Richards, Ryan Kesler, Jason Spezza, Paul Stastny went to rivals but Richards proved to be the right man coming up big when it mattered most in the Finals.

Patrick Sharp maybe on the way out but Brandon Saad is not a star in the making but a star right now. Teuvo Teravainen is right behind Saad on the star meter.

Antoine Vermette was the most prized trade deadline day acquisition and came thru with two game winning goals in the Finals

Steven Stamkos's reputation needs to take a hit after the Finals. Yes he battled and competed but legends like Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux's and Jaromir Jagr score on all of those chances or at least the breakaway.

Victor Hedman showed why he's was a number two overall all pick and may become this decade's Zdeno Chara.

Jon Cooper had a hell of a year but was out coached by Joel Quenneville in the Finals. Cooper had the Dan Blysma , standing firm on a sinking ship quality thing going. He never mixed up the top lines to find a spark and he relied to much on the Brandon Morrows and Matt Carle and not enough on Stamkos and Hedman.

Usually Brian Boyle steps up in big games, he had a disappointing Finals.

Nikita Kucherov's injury early in game five changed the series more than anything Jon Cooper did or didn't do.

Ben Bishop is still a question mark for me, he made so HUGE saves but he once again came up injured. Hate to blame a kid for injuries but you need to stay healthy.

The Awards--

Hart/ MVP ( Alex Ovechkin, John Tavares, Carey Price) Price is out to me because the Vezina is the goalie award, I love Tavares but the Islanders faded down the stretch. I 'd vote Ovechkin . He scored his usual ton of goals but this year he played defense. He threw big hits without being out of place. In general he bought what new Coach Barry Trotz.was selling.

Vezina/ Best Goalie ( Carey Price, Devan Dubnyk, Pekka Rinne ) Notably absent- Andrew Hammond Dubnyk ressurected his career and the Minnesota Wild and was lights out but he only did it for half a year. Ditto Hammond in Ottawa. Rinne was never the same after his mid season injury. Price was stellar all season and gets my vote.

Norris/ Best Defenseman ( Drew Doughty ,Erik Karlsson, P K Subban ) Notably absent - Duncan Keith , Shea Weber. The Norris always prefers offensive defenseman and this year is no different. Doughty played too many minutes this year and his play suffered. This was not Subban's best year. Karlsson was great in the half when his partner Marc Methot came back but its about all eighty two games. Duncan Keith is the best overall defenseman in the leauge but I vote for Shea Weber who played amazing on the overachieving Nashville Predators.

Calder/ Rookie ( Aaron Ekblad, Mark Stone, Johnny Gaudreau ) Notably absent - Filip Forsberg. Forsberg dropped out of running when Stone and the Ottawa Senators exploded. I'd love to give the award to Eckblad . He played remarkably steady defense for a rookie but Johnny Hockey led the Calgary Flames charge that burned so hot it knocked the Kings out of defending their title. Johnny Hockey gets my vote.

Selke/ Defensive Forward ( Patrice Bergeron, Anze Kopitar, Jonathan Toews ) Notably absent- Marian Hossa. This award is almost always given on reputation. This year in no different. Bergeron and Kopitar's teams didn't even make the playoffs. Toews is a magnificent leader who wins faceoffs but I'll take the best backchecker in the league, Marian Hossa.

Lester Patrick / Coach ( Bob Hartley, Peter Lavoilette, Alain Vigneault) Notably absent - Paul Maurice. Vigneault had a good year but he had a good team. Lavoilette took Nashville back to the playoffs by getting Ribiero to play hard and James Neal to score after Easter. Maurice navigated a minefield in Winnipeg and made the playoffs but I vote Bob Hartley , he tok an AHL team to the playoffs

GM- ( Glen Sather, Bob Murray, Steve Yzerman) Notably absent - Stan Bowman . Sather paid way to much for the skirt Keith Yandle. Sather should be embarrassed he's up for this award. Murray acquired Kesler from Vancouver for peanuts and Stevie Y runs a nice ship in Tampa but giving this award to anyone but Stan Bowman is ludicrous.

Lady Byng / Gentlemanly play ( Pavel Datsyuk, Anze Kopitar, Jiri Hudler) I always found this award to be kinda of a backhanded compliment but any excuse to praise the witch Datsyuk is cool.

Mark Messier / Leadership ( Jonathan Toews, Ryan Getzlaf, Andrew Ladd ) Jonathan Toews is the modern day Mark Messier without all of Mess's snarl, Ryan Getzlaf is Messier without all of Mess's rings but this season Andrew Ladd in Winnipeg led the Jets to playoffs for the first time since relocating to Winnipeg while enduring a plethora of injuries, big trades and the Evandaer Kane drama. Ladd gets my vote. 

Ted Lindsay / Outstanding Player ( Jamie Benn, Carey Price, Alex Ovechin) I gave Price the Vezina. and Ovi the Hart. Jamie Benn carried Dallas after Tyler Seguin got hurt. It appeared Dallas''s season was over but Benn kept them in it down to the wire. Benn gets Terrible Ted's award.

Bill Masterton / Perseverance ( Kris Letang ,Andrew Hammond, Devam Dubnyk) Letang makes too many comebacks, he needs to stay healthy. Hammond turned the Ottawa Senator season around in miraculous fashion but Ottawa made other roster moves and changed head coaches. Dubnyk did the same thing in Minnesota but with no major roster changes. I vote for him.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

2015 Stanley Cup FInals

The Tampa Bay Lightning rallied from certain extinction to beat the Detroit Red Wings, trampled the Montreal Canadiens and went into Madison Square Garden and did what no one has ever done, won a game 7. So with all of that you’d think I’d pick them to win the Cup. No, I picked the Chicago Blackhawks to win the Stanley Cup in September so I’m not going to change my pick now. The reason the Hawks have not won 4 straight Stanley Cups is the Los Angeles Kings and their excellent goal tender Jonathan Quick. I knew the Kings wouldn’t repeat, no one does anymore so I picked the Hawks. The Hawks are a great team. They use the regular season to get ready for the playoffs and once they realized their nemesis Kings didn’t even make the playoffs the Hawks knew destiny is theirs.
Strategic notes –
If the Ducks couldn’t wear down the Hawks defense the Lightning won’t be able to. Runblad and Chumisky are enabling Hawks coach Joel Quenneville to even out some minutes on the back end.
 Ben Bishop has played very well but this is the very deep end of the pool and he’s never seen a team as gifted as the Blackhawks.
Both teams have 2 great star studded top lines but Chicago’s bottom 6 forwards  are much better than Tampa Bay’s.

Conference Finals thoughts
Toews is the best leader in hockey. His name is now spoken in the same reverence as Messier and Yzerman. Stevie Y says Toews is a better player than he was, but that might be some Bob Dylan esque pre Finals mind game.
Kane was supposed to be out until the Finals. But instead he’s second in the playoffs in points. He and Toews are the best 1-2 in hockey.
Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry were the best 1-2 in the regular season but shrunk when it mattered most in games 6 &7 of the Western Conference Finals. Getzlaf was on the ice for the 6 of Chicago’s last 9 goals.
 Joel Quenneville outcoached BBQ Bruce Boudreau which is not hard. Putting Kane on Toews line and benching pitiful Kimmo Timonen changed the series.
Brandon Saad is already a great player.
Hossa plays like he was born in Canada.
Duncan Keith secured his place the Hall of Fame after this playoff season.
The Ducks have a great team and have a bright future, they are closer to Chicago and Los Angeles than St. Louis  and San Jose.
Steven Stamkos went from being a great player to being a great leader this season.
The Triplets- Tyler Johnson, Andrei Palat, Nikita Kucherov went from being the best second line in hockey to the best line in hockey ( when Toews and Kane don’t play together)
Victor Hedman is playing like the number 2 overall pick he was.
Ben Bishop does not look good in net but he is always in position, or just too big and the puck hits him but whatever the case he went into Madison Square Garden and won a game 7. Kudos to him.
Much like other past Ranger teams the Rangers relied too much on Henry Lundqvist.
Alain Vigneault was out coached by Jon Cooper. The Lightning took away the wall and the Rangers didn’t adjust.
Brassard and Steppan are nice number 2s but Rangers need a bona fide number 1 center.
The Rangers quit forechecking and played it too safe.
Hayes and Nash should have been on the same line and used their big bodies to wear on and slow down the Lightning.
The Rangers played their srubs too much. Glass was ineffective and Dominic Moore was a minus 2 in Tampa’s 2-0 game 7 victory.
One thought on Mike Babcock-
 Mike Babcock is not afraid of a challenge. He went to the only team that can ruin his legacy. Any other team and Babcock could end up on a network panel when it doesn’t go right and all would be forgiven, but not in Toronto. The Leafs got 6 million dollars worth of balls.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Ist Round thoughts 2nd rounds picks

I told you 2015‘s Opening round winners’ were the toughest to pick since in a decade. I went 5 of 8 my worst in years. A bounce here a bounce there things would be different but that’s what all the losers say. The next round should by easier because round 1 is for upsets rounds 2-4 are for champions. First though a few thoughts on round 1.

The Rangers dispatched the Penguins in 5 games. The games were close but the series never was. Rangers played as hard as they needed too. Geno Malkin did absolutely nothing 0s across the board but Marc Andre Fleury hopefully won over his critics with an outstanding series. The Rangers will need to play better in round 2 especially Nash and Kreider. Getting Klein back on defense will help lesser how many times Boyle and Yandle are scared in the corners.

The Capitals/Islanders series was by far the most entertaining in round 1. Both teams, every player finished every check, usually viciously every game. It was secondary scoring that was the difference as Washington had a little more skill and just as much grit as the Islanders. Troy Brouwer knocking Calvin de Haan out left New York weak on the back end and it showed in Game 7.

Montreal took care of business against the Senators. Ottawa pushing it to 6 gave the Canadiens just enough of a scare to help them down the road. The Ottawa fairy tale ended when the Hamburgler’s did.

Detroit had Tampa Bay beat and let them back in. Just like last year when they let Boston off the hook.  Mrazek was awesome for Detroit as was Datsyuk and Tatar. The Niklas Kronwell suspension hurt but it should not have gone that far. Tampa Bay needs to thank their lucky stars that Tyler Johnson didn’t disappear like Steven Stamkos did. Ben Bishop Looked scared in net and was lucky when the puck hit his big body.

Out West Anaheim swept Winnipeg which was a shame because each game was a war. The big bodies on both teams were crushing each other. Anaheim’s goalie Frederick Anderson played better than Winnipeg’s Ondrej Pavelec but really came down to the Duck’s experience. They scored clutch goals and didn’t take stupid penalties. Anaheim’s Dynamic Duo of Getzlaf and Perry looked like they were waiting since October for that series and Kesler looked like has was waiting since 2012.

The Calgary Flames kept their Cinderella season going by beating the Vancouver Canucks.  The Canucks new found depth and grit didn’t bring it in the playoffs. The Flames top line of Monahan, Hudler and Johnny Hockey looked unstoppable at times. I don’t understand the Canucks not playing Vrbata with the Sedin twins but in the end the Canucks D looked old and the Flames wanted it more.

The Chicago Blackhawks toyed with the Nashville Predators. You knew Chicago was going to score whenever they really had too. Chicago was flip flopping goalies and they never seemed concerned. That’s Championship ped
igree and the Hawks have it. Toews, Kane (who came back from injury firing on all cylinders) Hossa, Sharp, Keith the names go on and so will their quest for the Cup. Nashville has nothing to hang their heads about the Hawks are loaded. The Predators played without their leader and super defenseman Shea Weber and watching Seth Jones take his minutes showed they have another super defenseman
The St Louis Blues are the ones who should hang their heads. What an absolute disgrace. Don’t blame the kid goaltender Allan. It’s St Louis’s rotten core. Their overrated Canadien Olympic defense and overrated top line Backes -7, Oschie -10, Steen -5 . The Blues always claim they needed secondary scoring well Tarasenko got a hat trick and more. Taking nothing away from the Wild though, goaltender Devan Dubnyk was outstanding and Zach Parisse is a Prince among men.

On to round 2.

I love the way the Capitals play but the referees won’t let them play that way against the Rangers. The refs will make it a special teams fest and King Hank and the Blueshirts will eek out the series. Remember the Capitals defensemen took a beating against the Islanders and the fresh Rangers D are adding Klein Rangers in 7

Canadien/ Lightning
Lightening star Stephen Stamkos is in a slump so the last thingg he want to do is face the best goalie in the NHL Montreal’s Carey Price. The worst goalie still playing is Tampa’s Ben Bishop. He got upset by the tactics of noted rabble rouser Tomas Tatar ( sarcasm) what’s he gonna due with Monteal’s angry midgets) Gallagher, Galchenyuk) Throw out the regular season  Canadiens in 6

Blackhawks / Wild
Devan Dubnyk had an amazing year. He’s going to need to have a super amazing series against the Hawks if the Wild have a chance. The Hawks come in waves and I don’t see the smallish Minnesota defense being able to withstand the constant pressure. Matt Cooke can only take out so many knees. Hawks in 6

Ducks /Flames
Everyone in Canada wants the Flames to win. Sorry I don’t think even BBQ Bruce can mess this one up. Ducks in 6

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

2015 Stanley Cup Playoff Preview Round 1

Eastern Conference-
NY Rangers vs Pittsburgh Penguins
The Rangers are the best team in the East and the once powerful Penguins are limping into the series. The Rangers have the best defense in the East ( McDonagh, Girardi, Staal ,Klein) and a well balanced fast offense led by Hart candidate Rick Nash. The Penguins Big 4 Crosby, Malkin, Letang and Fluery is reduced to 2.5 with Letang out and Malkin injured. Fluery is having a career year but he won’t tilt the series because the Ranger’s goaltender is Henrik Lundqvist Rangers in 6.
Washington Capitals vs New York Islanders
These are not your same old Capitals. Barry Trotz got Alex Ovechkin to buy in to his system and play a little D. The Capitals acquired defensemen ( Orpik,Niskanen) over the offseason and are now formidable on the back end, It’s not all Ovie, Backstrom is a talented center and in Holtby the Capitals finally have a top goaltender. The Islanders have a number one pick/stud of their own in John Tavares and the best 4th line in hockey ( Clutterbuck, Martin, Cizikas)  but something happen as the snow melted so did their secondary scoring and their netminder Halak looked like Halak.   Capitals in 7
Montreal Canadiens vs Ottawa Senators
Montreal’s Carey Price may win the Vezina and Hart this year he has been that good. No Montreal goalie had ever won 42 games before. Montreal folks not Carolina. Ottawa’s Andrew Hammond has been just as impressive saving Ottawa’s season by being a stone wall the last two months of the season. Ottawa’s forwards are big and young ( Stone, Hoffman, Lazar ), Montreal’s are quick and skilled ( Pacioretty Gallagher, Galchenyuk). PK Subban and Erik Karlsson will have dueling Norris trophy rushes from the back end. Ottawa has all the momentum, Montreal has newly sainted Jean Beliveau looking down on them.   Canadiens in 6 
Tampa Bay Lightning vs Detroit Red Wings
Tampa Bay has Steven Stampkos and the best 2nd line in hockey led by Tyler Johnson . The problem is after Victor Hedman Tampa’s defense is ordinary and their goalie Ben Bishop is unproven. Detroit not only still has Datsyk and Zetterberg but Nyquist and Tatar are ready to blossom this spring. The Wings defense is steady and Mrazek is an upgrade over Jimmy Howard in net.  Red Wings in 6
Western Conference
Anaheim Ducks vs Winnipeg Jets
What would the playoffs be without Anaheim coach BBQ Bruce goalie controversy. This year he’s added messing with the defense. That’s the Ducks problem, they have two good goalies ( Gibson, Andersen), seven good defensemen led by Beauchemin so BBQ has to make decisions. Winnipeg has an abundance of big, talented forwards (Little, Wheeler, Scheifele)  and a solid defense led by Big Dustin Byfuglien .  Winnipeg’s team is huge and most of them play with bad intentions. That makes Winnipeg a fun team to watch, unfortunately they won’t have much fun watching the Dynamic Duo of Getzlaf and Perry. Those superheroes won’t let BBQ blow it. Ducks in 7
Vancouver Canucks vs Calgary Flames
Calgary has been a great story all year.Calgary was the little team that could. Even losing Captain Mark Giordano didn’t stop them from sending the Champion LA Kings golfing. The Flames though are a one line team. As great as Monahan, Hudler and Johnny Hockey are they are one line teams get shut down in the playoffs.  Vancouver is coming in with their best team in years, The Sedins are rejuvenated and the Canucks now has an abundance of much needed playoff grit ( Kassain , Matthias, Dorsett).  The Vancouver blue line is also revived by the comeback seasons of Elder and Bieksa. If Vancouver goes with Lack and not Miller in net Vancouver should storm into round 2. Vancouver in 5
St Louis Blues vs Minnesota Wild
This could be the Blues year. They finally added enough scoring ( Tarasenko, Stastny) to go with their big bruising forwards led by their captain Backes. Their defensemen maybe a bit overrated but there’s enough quality 1-6 to shut down most teams.  While St Louis can’t decide who will be in net between Elliot and Allen Minnesota has no such problem. Devan Dubnyk has been the Wild’s savivor and work horse this season. Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are earning their big money contracts but there’s only so many Blues Matt Cooke can hurt in one series. Blues in 5
Chicago Blackhawks vs Nashville Predators

The Chicago Blackhawks are the best team in the NHL without Patrick Kane but news out of Chicago is Kane will be ready to play in the playoffs. It’s not the Toews, Hossa, Sharp ,Saad and the rest of the forwards need any help. Coach Q played around with his veteran defensemen ( Keith, Seabrook,Hjalmarsson,Oduya) this season but they should be all on the same page for the post season. Chicago Corey Crawford is a Cup winner but not considered on the same level as Nashville’s Pekka Rinne. Not only is Rinne impressive the Predators defense maybe the best unit in the NHL led by the top pairing of Weber and Josi. Problem is who is going to score for Music City ?  Streaky Ribeiro, Rookie Forsberg or Daylight Savings Time James Neal.   Hawks in 5