The first half of the 2019-20 NHL season is in the books, and not everything went as we expected. There were coaching changes in Toronto, Calgary, Dallas, New Jersey and Nashville, some surprising teams have played their way into playoff contention, and we might have a player who is not Alex Ovechkin lead the league in goals this season. We look ahead to the second half of the season and 25 of the biggest questions to be answered along the way.
1 of 25
Is John Hynes enough to fix the Predators?
Christopher Hanewinckel, USATI
After a disappointing first half, Nashville Predators general manager David Poile did something he almost never does — he made a coaching change. Peter Laviolette is out; John Hynes is in. Hynes is just the third coach in Predators franchise history and now has the task of trying to get things back on the right track in Music City. He has a lot of talent to work with, and the Predators have been an outstanding 5-on-5 team this season even under Laviolette. The problem is the special teams and goaltending have completely abandoned them. If Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros do not play better, the coach may not matter.
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Will the Sharks ever get it figured out?
Darren Yamashita, USATI
This is one of the most baffling situations in the NHL this season. The San Jose Sharkswere supposed to be a Stanley Cup contender but have instead been one of the league’s worst teams. The goaltending duo of Martin Jones and Aaron Dell has, predictably, been a mess for the second year in a row. They have not been good enough as a team this year to mask that, and with Logan Couture now sidelined it is difficult to see the Sharks digging themselves out of this hole. The optimistic might look at the Blues from a year ago as an example pf how quickly things can turn around (bad start, in-season coaching change), but the Sharks do not seem to have a Jordan Binnington card to play like the Blues did.
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Will the new-look Maple Leafs break through?
John E. Sokolowski, USATI
After three straight first round exits and an underwhelming start this season, the Toronto Maple Leafs moved on from Mike Babcock and promoted Sheldon Keefe to head coach. The early results have been everything they could have hoped for. They are playing a faster, more aggressive style offensively, they are scoring goals like they should be given their roster and they just look like a better team. They are no longer trying to win every game 2-1 and are finally allowing their stars to play to their strengths. Will that be enough to get over Boston and Tampa Bay in the playoffs? Defense is still a question, but you have to like their chances based on the early results under Keefe.
The only reason the Pittsburgh Penguins kept Jarry as their backup goalie at the start of the season is because he cost them less against the salary cap than Casey DeSmith. He has since taken over the starting job in the short term. The combination of his play (which earned him a trip to the 2020 All-Star Game) and Matt Murray’s struggles has not only made him Pittsburgh’s goalie for now, but he also has probablythe team MVP to this point. Murray has always been seen as the long-term answer and already has two Stanley Cups on his resume, so you cannot count him out, but Jarry has pedigree as well (first goalie taken in his draft class) and has been the better goalie this season.
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Will the Oilers get McDavid and Draisaitl some help?
Perry Nelson, USATI
The Oilers have wasted the first part of the careers for Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, making the playoffs just one time in four years. Everything the team does has always been dependent on these two carrying the offense, and that has not changed this season. Thanks to a fast start, the Oilers have managed to stay in the playoff hunt but are far from a lock to make the postseason. What they still desperately need is more secondary scoring to take some of the pressure off the big two. If McDavid and Draisaitl don’t score, no one does, and that is no way for a team to contend for a championship.
Even though the NHL trade deadline is still two months away, it is not too early to start looking at the players who could be on the move. We already saw one of the biggest names make headlines this month when the New Jersey Devils traded Taylor Hall to the Arizona Coyotes. Here we look at 20 more players who could be wearing different jerseys this season. Rebuilding teams like the Devils, New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators are all well represented. 1 of 20
Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Ottawa Senators
For the second year in a row, the Senators should be one of the busiest teams at the trade deadline. They are still in the middle of their rebuild, and they have several veterans playing on expiring contracts. Pageau figures to be the most marketable on the trade market given his defensive play and the fact he is having a career year offensively. Just about every Stanley Cup contender in the league could find a spot for him.
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Chris Kreider, New York Rangers
This seems like a pretty obvious trade waiting to happen. Kreider is slowing down, he is not the player he was a few years ago, he is a free agent after this season and the Rangers are still looking more toward the future than the present. They should easily be able to get a first-round pick and a prospect (think similar package to the Taylor Hall trade for New Jersey) if — or more likely when — they decide to trade him. 3 of 20
Tyler Toffoli, Los Angeles Kings
The Kings are going nowhere again this season and need to rebuild their organization. It has been long overdue and the longer they keep putting it off, the worse off the team will be. One player who figures to be on the trade block is Toffoli, a veteran winger in the final year of his contract who is set to become an unrestricted free agent. He is not going to be a game-changer for a team, but he could be a strong secondary scoring option for a contender.
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Alex Galchenyuk, Pittsburgh Penguins
This situation is simply not working out. The Penguins acquired Galchenyuk in the Phil Kessel trade over the summer, and he has been a complete non-factor, more often than not being relegated to fourth-line duty. When the Penguins start getting key injured players back in the lineup, Galchenyuk figures to be the odd man out. He is in the final year of his contract, and general manager Jim Rutherford is quick to move on from acquisitions that turn out to be mistakes. This one has been a mistake. 5 of 20
Lias Andersson, New York Rangers
It was just three years ago that the Rangers made Andersson the No. 7 overall pick in the draft, and it already seems like it’s not going to work out. After struggling to carve out a niche for himself in the Rangers lineup, Andersson has requested a trade out of New York. The Rangers acquired him with the draft pick they got in the trade that sent Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta to the Arizona Coyotes. Even though he was considered a bit of an overdraft at the time, some team will no doubt see a low-risk, potentially high-reward gamble here with the hopes of grabbing lightning in a bottle.
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Ron Hainsey, Ottawa Senators
Hainsey is the exact type of veteran who gets traded every deadline for a mid-round draft pick. But he’s a veteran with playoff experience who is viewed as a solid leader and responsible player whom coaches can trust. Does it matter if the player is actually going to make a positive impact on the ice? Not at all! Some playoff team is going to add Hainsey for a fourth-rounder in January or February and play him 17 minutes a night on its third pairing through the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
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Tyler Ennis, Ottawa Senators
Ennis has done exactly what the Senators needed him to do: played well enough and produced enough offense to build up some trade value so they can add another pick or prospect. He does not have a future as part of the Senators rebuild and with his contract up this summer, a trade seems like an easy decision.
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Wayne Simmonds, New Jersey Devils
Simmonds was part of New Jersey’s big offseason that was supposed to bring the Devils back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It has not worked out that way. With the Devils stuck near the bottom of the NHL standings and Taylor Hall already traded, you know more moves are probably on the way. Simmonds is at the end of his career and a free agent after this season. He may not want to be a rental player for another team, as he was a year ago, but with no trade protections in his contract he may not have much of a choice.
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Zach Bogosian, Buffalo Sabres
His value will not be high, but he has reportedly requested a trade out of Buffalo. The Sabres already have a logjam on defense and are going to need to trade someone at some point. Injuries have severely impacted his career the past few seasons
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Colin Miller, Buffalo Sabres
If the Sabres wanted to deal from their defensive depth to help fill a hole at forward and get an actual return, Miller might be the player on the move. After a really strong run with the Vegas Golden Knights, he has not really fit in with the Sabres or fully gained the trust of their coaching staff. A fresh start somewhere else could do him well. 11 of 20
Mike Green, Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings are on track for a historically bad season, and general manager Steve Yzerman has a ton of work to do in trying to fix this mess. He has a few veterans he can dangle at the trade deadline, and the 34-year-old Green is a potential option. He has not been particularly good, and he has a no-movement clause, but you have to think he would welcome an opportunity to play for a contender one more time in his career. 12 of 20
Robin Lehner, Chicago Blackhawks
Lehner has been one of the few bright spots for an otherwise dismal Blackhawks team. They are headed for a third consecutive non-playoff season and with Lehner a free agent after this season, he would figure to be an attractive trade chip. He could also be a game-changer for a team in need of a goalie upgrade (looking at you, San Jose Sharks).
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Sami Vatanen, New Jersey Devils
This is another veteran player with an expiring contract whom the Devils could look to move. His name had surfaced in trade speculation more than a year ago, and with the Devils out of the playoff race, that figures to happen again over the next few months. He plays a lot of big minutes for the Devils, but he is probably best suited as a middle-pairing (or even third-pairing) defender on a contender. He will bring some offense, but he is not really a shutdown defender or possession driver.
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Erik Gustafsson, Chicago Blackhawks
He is not going to repeat the huge offensive season he had a year ago and he turns 28 later this season, so he is no longer a young, up-and-coming player. Do the Blackhawks see him as a part of their future? If not he could easily be on the move given his dirt cheap contract and the fact he can bring some offensive help from the blue line.
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Nick Bjugstad, Pittsburgh Penguins
He has been injured for most of the season, but he has a fairly big contract for what he provides to a team that is consistently pressed against the salary cap. The Penguins have some key restricted free agents to re-sign this summer, and they would still no doubt like to add to their NHL roster this season, as they start to emerge as a Stanley Cup contender. Trading Bjugstad’s contract for anything they can get would be a good way to create salary cap space to start that process.
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Mike Hoffman, Florida Panthers
Technically speaking the Panthers are still very much in the playoff hunt, so they may not be ready to sell just yet. But the overall mediocrity of the Atlantic Division is the only thing really keeping them in it at this point, and if Tampa Bay and Toronto ever get their acts together the Panthers could quickly slide down the standings. Hoffman is an unrestricted free agent after this season and while he has his flaws as a player — his play away from the puck — he can still fill the back of the net and add some offensive punch to a team’s lineup.
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Evgenii Dadonov, Florida Panthers
Another veteran on an expiring contract in Florida, Dadonov has been an incredible find for the Panthers and one of their top players since returning to the NHL from Russia. But if the Panthers slide out of the race, he would figure to be an attractive target on the open market. He offers the same sort of offensive production as Hoffman does, but he is a better all-around player.
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Mikael Granlund, Nashville Predators
Granlund was supposed to be one of the pieces to put the Predators over the top a year ago in their quest to win a Stanley Cup, but he has underwhelmed during his entire tenure with the the team. With Nashville off to a slow start and currently out of the playoff picture, his contract status (unrestricted free agent after this season) could make him a trade candidate if the Predators are unable to get back into playoff position.
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Kyle Turris, Nashville Predators
This seemed far more likely earlier in the season when Turris could not crack the Predators’ lineup, but this is a relationship that hasn’t really worked out. The Predators also have a ton of money invested in Turris over the next few years, and that is going to be a contract they are going to want to get out of at some point.
20 of 20
Anthony Duclair, Ottawa Senators
This is a real long shot because of how well he has played this season, but it also might be a sell-high situation for the Senators. Duclair is in the middle of a career year and will be due a pretty big pay raise this summer as a restricted free agent. A lot of teams gave up on Duclair too soon, and the Senators have benefited from it in the short term. Their confidence in his ability to maintain it might determine whether they want to sign him long-term or trade him. Ideally, the Senators keep him. But you can never tell what this team might do in a rebuild.
With the Toronto Maple Leafs’ firing of Mike Babcock, we have already seen one of the bigger coaching changes in the NHL this season. Babcock was the highest-paid coach in the league, the biggest name behind a bench and the person who was supposed to help bring the Stanley Cup back to Toronto. It did not work out, it had not been working for a while, and the change seemed inevitable after another postseason disappointment and the slow start to this season. It will not be the only major change made by a team this season. Here we take a look at some NHL players, coaches and GMs who are also on the hot seat.
Note: This list does not include Calgary Flames head coach Bill Peters, who is currently embroiled in a controversy that seems likely to cost him his job. 1 of 19
Jon Cooper, Tampa Bay Lightning (head coach)
Overall, Cooper’s tenure in Tampa Bay has been successful. The Lightning have been one of the winningest teams in the regular season, they have had deep playoff runs (Stanley Cup Final, two other Eastern Conference Final appearances) and won a Presidents’ Trophy with a record-tying 62 wins, all within the past five years. But their inability to close out playoff series and then getting swept in Round 1 a year ago in one of the most stunning upsets in Stanley Cup Playoff history, plus a slow start this season has no doubt put Cooper on his hottest seat yet. A coaching change is the one significant card this ultra-talented team has to play.
2 of 19
Stan Bowman, Chicago Blackhawks (general manager)
All eyes are on Bowman in Chicago. The Blackhawks have missed the playoffs two years in a row, they fired their future Hall of Fame and three-time Stanley Cup-winning head coach (Joel Quenneville) and attempted to retool around their core this summer by adding several players to the defense. So far not much of it has worked. A third consecutive non-playoff season should put even more pressure on Bowman than he is already facing. 3 of 19
John Hynes, New Jersey Devils (Head coach)
This is Hynes’ fifth season behind the Devils bench, and to date he has made the playoffs one time. Given all of the talent the Devils added over the summer, expectations were significantly higher this season and the team has — to this point — failed to deliver on them. The most disappointing part of their season is the fact they have lost four games in which they held multiple-goal leads.
4 of 19
Bruce Boudreau, Minnesota Wild (head coach)
This just seems to be a matter of when, and not if. You know at some point that first-year general manager Bill Guerin is going to want to bring in his own coach, and with the Wild stuck near the bottom of the NHL standings, it is worth wondering if the team will look to make a change in season. Boudreau is an excellent coach, but he does not have much to work with in Minnesota, and it might just be time for all parties involved to get a fresh start elsewhere. 5 of 19
Jeff Blashill, Detroit Red Wings (head coach)
Who would have ever guessed that Blashill would last longer in Detroit than Mike Babcock did in Toronto? That is exactly what has happened, though, as Blashill remains behind the bench for the Red Wings. But how much longer will he be there? It is impossible to put the team’s struggles on him given the state of the roster, but this is going to be a fourth consecutive non-playoff season for him, the team has one of the worst records in the league and new general manager Steve Yzerman is going to eventually want his own coach. 6 of 19
Martin Jones, San Jose Sharks (goalie)
The Sharks one Achilles’ heel remains in net where the duo of Martin Jones and Aaron Dell is again among the league’s worst. This is a Stanley Cup-caliber team if it can get some saves. Jones and Dell have not yet shown an ability to do that on a consistent basis.
7 of 19
Ilya Kovalchuk, Los Angeles Kings (forward)
Considering the fact the Kings have pretty much already relegated him to a permanent healthy scratch, it seems that “hot seat” might be underselling his current status with the team. Following a six-year stop in the KHL, the Kings brought Kovalchuk back to the NHL at the start of the 2018-19 season by signing him to a three-year, $18 million contract. It has proved to be a rather poor fit from the beginning. He never gained the trust of the previous coaching staff and does not really fit in the Kings’ current long-term plans as they look to rebuild. The only question that remains now is what team he finishes the season with because it will almost certainly not be the Kings.
8 of 19
Kyle Turris, Nashville Predators (forward)
A few years ago he was general manager David Poile’s big in-season acquisition and was supposed to be one of the final pieces of a Stanley Cup puzzle. The Predators immediately signed him to a long-term contract extension and made him a central part of their team. The results have not been what anyone involved expected, and now Turris has found himself as a healthy scratch on occasion this season while his production continues to decline. The Predators are paying him $6 million per year and not getting much of a return at the moment.
9 of 19
Alex Galchenyuk, Pittsburgh Penguins (Forward)
Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford is quick to move on from mistakes, and if Galchenyuk does not start producing more offense he might find himself as the latest example. Acquired in the offseason trade that sent Phil Kessel to Arizona, Galchenyuk went 14 games to begin the 2019-20 season before finally scoring a goal and really has not provided any of the offense the Penguins were hoping to get from him. With his contract up at the end of this season, it would not take much for the Penguins to move on with a trade.
10 of 19
Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida Panthers (Goalie)
When the Panthers signed Bobrovsky to a seven-year, $70 million contract in free agency, it was generally accepted that it was going to be a significant long-term risk. He might still be really good for a few years and help get the Panthers back in the playoffs, but what would his career look like on the back end of that contract? So far the Panthers aren’t even getting the short-term gain that was expected. Bobrovsky is off to one of the worst starts of his career and has not looked anything like the two-time Vezina Trophy winner the Panthers thought they were getting. Given his contract the Panthers don’t really have many options other than hoping he figures it out and gets back on track.
11 of 19
Ray Shero, New Jersey Devils (general manager)
The head coach is not the only person on the hot seat in New Jersey. Shero went all in this offseason on trying to fix his roster, but he made the costly mistake of not fixing the team’s biggest issue: goalie. He also has to deal with the Taylor Hall contract and decide whether he can get him re-signed, and if not, whether he has to trade his best player and a former league MVP. 12 of 19
Jason Botterill, Buffalo Sabres (general manager)
Botterill hasn’t had a lot of time to fully build a team in Buffalo, but ownership is desperate for a competitive team. The Sabres have already made another coaching change, tweaked the roster and have enough core building blocks in place that some meaningful progress should be made. They had a great start to the 2018-19 season before falling apart in the second half and are in danger of going in a similar direction this season. That will not be good news for the general manager.
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Peter Laviolette, Nashville Predators (Head coach)
Laviolette is an outstanding coach and if the Predators ever decided to go in a different direction, he would not have to wait long for his next head coaching job. But every coach has a shelf life, and with the Predators off to a disappointing start — after taking a step back a year ago — it is fair to wonder if Laviollete and Nashville have reached their ceilings together. This seems like a classic “we need a change to shake things up” situation.
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The Dallas Stars top line
The duo of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn are not really in danger of going anywhere, but the pressure is on them to perform because for the second year in a row they have found themselves the target of internal criticism for their play. A year ago it came from CEO Jim Lites (in a rather profane manner), and this year it is from head coach Jim Montgomery (before he later apologized). In both cases the criticism was probably a little unfair, but those are the stakes when you are the highest-paid and most visible players on the team. 15 of 19
Travis Green, Vancouver Canucks (head coach)
Green hasn’t done a bad job in Vancouver, and he hasn’t always had a great team to work with, but it all comes down to results. Ask yourself this question: How many head coaches get three years in a row without making the playoffs before being replaced? That is what Green would be looking at this season if the Canucks do not qualify in the Western Conference. It would probably take a huge meltdown for an in-season change to happen, but if they end up missing again, an offseason change could be on the horizon.
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Peter DeBoer, San Jose Sharks (Head coach)
The Sharks under DeBoer have been remarkably consistent, winning 45, 46, 45 and 46 games in his first full seasons behind the bench. That includes a trip to the Stanley Cup Final, another run to the Western Conference Final and six postseason series wins. He has taken two different teams to the Stanley Cup Final (New Jersey being the other) and has a strong track record. But the Sharks expect championship-level play, and so far this season they have not delivered on that. A coaching change might be a knee-jerk reaction, and I don’t think it is likely, but if the Sharks keep hovering around the .500 mark with this roster it might became a bigger discussion.
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Milan Lucic, Calgary Flames (Forward)
The options here are limited because Lucic’s contract is essentially buyout proof given how it is made up almost entirely of signing bonuses. Trading him would only get the Flames another undesirable contract in return. But you kind of have to put him on the hot seat given that he started with zero goals and four assists in his first 24 games, while the guy he was traded for (James Neal) scored 14 goals in his first 26 games for the Flames’ biggest rival (Edmonton).
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Brent Seabrook, Chicago Blackhawks (Defenseman)
It was probably overdue, but Seabrook found himself as a healthy scratch earlier this season and was not particularly happy about it. He still thinks he can contribute, but the Blackhawks at some point need to start thinking about the future and their long-term outlook. Seabrook was a major contributor to three Stanley Cup-winning teams and a mini-dynasty in Chicago, but it is not unfair to say his best days as an NHL defender are in the rearview mirror. At some point you have to begin a new chapter.
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Kyle Dubas, Toronto Maple Leafs (general manager)
He is not really in danger of being fired because the Maple Leafs are clearly committed to him and his direction. But make no mistake: With Mike Babcock out of the mix, this is now Dubas’ team in every way. His vision, his roster, his coach. I think it can work (and most likely will work), but if it does not there is only one other place to point the finger.
The Nashville Predators are one of a handful of teams in the NHL expected to be Stanley Cup contenders this season but are struggling to even string two wins together. The team is now on a five-game losing streak that includes blowout losses against the Colorado Avalanche (9-4) and Chicago Blackhawks (7-2), both division rivals ahead of Nashville in the standings.
Just like the other teams making changes to try and spark their clubs, the Predators decided to make Kyle Turris and his $6M cap hit a healthy scratch on Tuesday against the Winnipeg Jets. Turris will sit out again tonight when the Predators take on the Vancouver Canucks for the second time in four games, with Mathieu Olivier staying in the lineup on the fourth line.
Turris was labeled as a potential difference-maker for the Predators when they acquired him just two years ago. Nashville GM David Poile got involved in a three-way trade that saw Matt Duchene go from Colorado to Ottawa, flipping young defenseman Samuel Girard and forward prospect Vladislav Kamenev to the Avalanche in the process. Turris immediately signed a six-year, $36M contract extension with the Predators and was set to become the team’s long-term answer in the middle of the second line.
Turris had after all just posted a 27-goal campaign with the Senators and was off to a quick start in the 2017-18 season. After arriving in Nashville things went well for a while — the veteran center had 17 points in his first 17 games as a Predator — but by the time the playoffs rolled around his ice time had already been reduced. Turris averaged fewer than 16 minutes a night in the 2018 postseason, a sign of things to come.
Last season was an absolute disaster, with just seven goals and 23 points to his name in an injury-shortened campaign. This season even when he does play, Turris’ ice time has been extremely limited, and his responsibility almost completely removed.
Who has filled that second-line center role that Turris was penciled in to when he arrived? It’s none other than Duchene, who arrived in Nashville through free agency less than two years after the Predators were involved in that three-way trade. Duchene was given a huge contract in the summer to be the running mate down the middle for Ryan Johansen, as Poile and head coach Peter Laviolette decided that Turris wasn’t cutting it.
Scratching such a hefty contract for two straight games is a clear sign that the Predators are ready to move on. Turris’ name has been out there in trade speculation for some time, but getting any sort of value back at this point seems impossible for Nashville. With four more years (after this one) at a $6M cap hit, Turris is just too expensive for most teams to take on, especially not knowing exactly what he can offer right now.
With the 2019-20 NHL season a quarter of the way through, we are starting to get an idea of what each of the 31 teams should be capable of.
Some teams are exactly what we expected them to be on the good side (Washington, Boston, St. Louis) as well as the bad side (Ottawa, Los Angeles, Detroit).
Others have so far been better than we expected, and some significantly so (Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg).
This is not about any of those teams.
This is about the 10 teams that have been a disappointment so far this season. There is still time for some of them to turn things around and accomplish something significant. But they better start that process sooner rather than later because it can be incredibly difficult to make up lost points as the season goes on.
With that in mind, these are the 10 teams that have disappointed us so far.
1. Toronto Maple Leafs. No team has defined “disappointment” this season more than Toronto.
After a third straight third-place finish and a third straight Round 1 exit, the Maple Leafs made more dramatic changes to their roster this offseason by dumping Patrick Marleau, Nazem Kadri, Nikita Zaitsev, and Connor Brown and replacing them with Tyson Barrie, Alexander Kerfoot, Cody Ceci and Jason Spezza.
The early results are not positive.
They remain one of the worst defensive teams in the league and have not yet had the goaltending that can mask those flaws that have existed for more than three years now. Even worse, the team seems stale under the leadership of coach Mike Babcock, who is too often looking lost and being outplayed. This has been a .500 team through the first quarter of the season, and it needs some dramatic changes — both systematically and to the roster — to get to where it wants to be.
Babcock’s seat is almost certainly getting hotter, and we cannot ignore the fact that a team coached by him has not made it out of Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs since the 2012-13 season. Since then 28 different NHL coaches have won at least one playoff round, including two (Barry Trotz and Mike Yeo) who have won playoff rounds with multiple teams.
By this point in their development, the Leafs should be Stanley Cup contenders. Not only is this team not quite reaching that level, but it seems to be slipping further away from it.
2. San Jose Sharks. The Sharks are high on this list because they had an absolutely dreadful start. They were not just disappointing but literally one of the worst teams in the league through the first month.
The same goaltending duo that failed them a year ago is back and still struggling, their two big names on defense have not been as dominant as in the past and they started with one of the league’s worst records. To their credit they are starting to play their way out of that early hole by winning six in a row after a 4-10-1 start. If there is a team that could potentially duplicate what the St. Louis Blues did a year ago, this might be it because of the strong core in place. The Sharks’ biggest weakness is still in net, and the most disappointing part is they do not seem to have any interest in trying to fix it.
3. Vegas Golden Knights. Had they simply been able to not give up four power play goals on a five-minute power play in a Game 7, this is a team that probably could have gone on another lengthy postseason run a year ago. They brought back largely the same roster, which should have been even better because they were going to get Mark Stone — arguably the team’s best all-around skater — for a full season. The early results have been disappointing though, as they find themselves near the bottom of the Western Conference standings in mid-November. Their big problem: goaltending.
Marc-Andre Fleury is still an excellent starter, but they have not found any sort of capable backup to give him a rest, which is forcing Fleury to play entirely too many games for an almost 35-year-old. They can’t expect him to play 60 regular-season games and be fresh for the postseason. 4. Tampa Bay Lightning. A record-setting regular season in 2018-19 was followed by the most disappointing postseason performance in recent league history — maybe the entire league history. The Lightning followed that up by opening the 2019-20 season in rather underwhelming fashion, winning just nine of their first 17 games and not really carrying the play in any of them. They are showing signs of getting back to their 2018-19 level, but they are not consistently there. Nobody should have ever expected them to win 62 games again, but this roster is still way too talented be barely above .500 a quarter of the way through the season. 5. Calgary Flames. A lot of things went right for the Flames a year ago to allow them to — shockingly — climb to the No. 1 spot in the Western Conference. Some regression should have been expected. But this much? Probably the most disappointing aspect of this team in response to its Round 1 playoff exit to Colorado was to try and get more physical by trading for Milan Lucic instead of trying to counter the speed of a team like the Avalanche. Some of Calgary’s top players are off to slower-than-expected starts (Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Mark Giordano), but if they can get back on track it will go a long way toward getting the Flames to where they should be.
6. Nashville Predators. Losing Filip Forsberg for six games was a big blow, but the overriding issue here is the fact the goaltending duo of Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros has been subpar. That can sink an otherwise great team, and right now it is holding the Predators back. One positive development so far: The power play unit that was an insult to hockey has dramatically improved this season. If they can get the netminding back to its normal level, there still might be a potential lengthy playoff run here.
7. New York Rangers. The Rangers went all in this summer with the additions of Artemi Panarin, Jacob Trouba, Adam Fox and the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, Kaapo Kakko. It seemingly accelerated their rebuild and raised expectations dramatically, but as it turns out, maybe a little too much. They still have major flaws on the roster, especially at defense and center. Even with that, it still feels like this team should be a little better than what it has been. The Rangers may not be a playoff team just yet, and they have been overmatched in too many games.
8. New Jersey Devils. The Devils were one of the teams to win the offseason thanks to some draft lottery luck (getting the No. 1 pick and Jack Hughes), a couple of huge trades (P.K. Subban and Nikita Gusev for next to nothing), an intriguing free agent pick up (Wayne Simmonds) and the return of a healthy former league MVP (Taylor Hall). The problem is they forgot to address their biggest issue, which is in net. The lack of a top-tier starting goalie has played a huge role in some terrible late-game meltdowns that have seen them surrender several multi-goal leads (they have lost four games they led by two goals or more, including two games with three-goal leads) to turn a potentially competitive team into one that is right back near the bottom of the standings. With Hall’s contract status uncertain after this season, returning to the playoffs would have been significant, but they have a long way to go before they are in that discussion.
9. Minnesota Wild. Former general manager Paul Fenton was on the job for only one year but still managed to leave quite a mess behind for new general manager Bill Guerin. The team lacks star power, has too many big-money players over the age of 30 and made some misguided trades a year ago (specifically the Nino Niederreiter for Victor Rask swap). The playoffs always seemed to be a long shot, but through their first 20 games they have the second-worst points percentage in the league, ahead of only the Detroit Red Wings. This team is not particularly good, but it should not be this bad.
10. Dallas Stars. So far this has been a tale of two teams. The Stars were big spenders in the offseason once again, signing Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry as free agents to hopefully fix the depth of what was one of the league’s most top-heavy teams a year ago. Things did not get off to a smooth start.
They won just one of their first nine games, Pavelski had a miserable start, the goaltending struggled and their top duo of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn could not find the back of the net.
Suddenly, though, things are starting to get back on track. Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin are stopping everything in net, Pavelski has started to produce, Seguin and Benn are waking up offensively and the team went on a 10-1-1 run after a 1-7-1 start. Keep in mind that this was a team that was a double overtime Game 7 loss on the road from reaching the Western Conference Final a year ago. There is talent here and a potential contender. The Stars make the disappointment list for their rough start, but they are starting to become the team they should be.
It is hockey’s most valuable skill and the one that is most difficult to consistently do well — goal scoring. Some players are great at it because they have a great shot, a lightning quick release or just have a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Every team needs a great goal scorer to win, and here we take a look at the best pure goal scorer on every team in the NHL. Some you know well, but others may not get the recognition they fully deserve.
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Anaheim Ducks: Rickard Rakell
With Corey Perry now playing in Dallas, and Ryan Getzlaf getting older, the Ducks’ best goal scorer is the 26-year-old Rakell. His production slumped a bit this past season, but before that he scored 97 goals in the three previous seasons, including a pair of seasons with at least 33 goals. He does not get a lot of attention around the league, mainly because the team around him has not been great, but he is an outstanding player. 2 of 31
Arizona Coyotes: Phil Kessel
The Coyotes have not had a player like Kessel in more than a decade. He may be getting older and have his share of flaws away from the puck, but he can also still be one of the NHL’s best offensive player. Arizona needed an impact player who could be the focal point of the offense, and he provides exactly that.
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Boston Bruins: David Pastrnak
The Bruins have the NHL’s best line with Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Pastrnak. Bergeron and Marchand are the superstars, and Pastrnak is set to join them. He has topped the 30-goal mark in three straight seasons and had he not missed nearly 20 games due to injury a year ago, he would have been a near lock for 40 goals. If you wanted a sleeper pick for the NHL’s goal scoring crown this year, he would be a good choice given his talent and the quality of the players around him. 4 of 31
Buffalo Sabres: Jeff Skinner
After being a top goal scorer without the luxury of playing next to a legitimate No. 1 center in Carolina, Skinner arrived in Buffalo at the start of the 2018-19 season and found an instant chemistry alongside Jack Eichel. Playing next to one of the league’s best young players helped him produce his first-ever 40-goal season and landed him a huge long-term contract to stay in Buffalo. He may not score 40 every year, but with combination of his quick shot and Eichel’s playmaking, he should always have a chance to do it. 5 of 31
Calgary Flames: Matthew Tkachuk
Just three years into his career, and Tkachuk is already an impact player in every possible way. He scores goals, he makes plays, he agitates opponents and he plays on the edge of the line. He is basically the Western Conference version of Brad Marchand. He is going to be a 35-40 goal winger for a long time.
Carolina Hurricanes: Sebastian Aho
In just a couple of years the answer to this question will be Andrei Svechnikov, but for now Aho still gets the edge because he has done it consistently over three years in the league. He may not be a challenger for the league lead, but he is going to score 25-30 goals every year throughout his prime. Add in his playmaking and two-way game, and you have a great franchise player. 7 of 31
Chicago Blackhawks: Alex DeBrincat
Is it a bold call to choose DeBrincat over, say, Patrick Kane? Probably, and maybe Blackhawks fans disagree, but DeBrincat is just now entering his third year in the league and already has 70 goals in 168 games, including a 41-goal performance in his second year. He is going to be the foundation of the next chapter in the Blackhawks franchisee. He is also one of the latest examples that teams should not be afraid to take smaller, undersized players. Talent wins. 8 of 31
Colorado Avalanche: Nathan MacKinnon
After bursting onto the scene as an impact rookie at the age of 18, MacKinnon’s career kind of leveled off for a few years. Then he blossomed into a mega star and one of the league’s best players. He is the cornerstone piece of a team that should be a Stanley Cup contender for the foreseeable future and has scored 80 goals over the past two full seasons.
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Columbus Blue Jackets: Cam Atkinson
It is a good bet that Cam Atkinson is a lot better than you realize. One of the most overlooked players in the league, Atkinson has scored 35, 24 (in only 65 games), and 41 goals the past three seasons, respectively. With Artemi Panarin now in New York playing for the Rangers, Atkinson is going to have to be one of the go-to players in the Blue Jackets lineup. 10 of 31
Dallas Stars: Joe Pavelski
Pavelski was the Stars’ big offseason acquisition this summer, as they hoped he could be one of the missing pieces in their lineup. They needed secondary scoring, and Pavelski has been one of the league’s best goal scorers for the past six years. A late bloomer when it comes to being an impact player, Pavelski is coming off a 38-goal season for the Sharks, the fifth 30-goal season of his career.
Detroit Red Wings: Dylan Larkin
One of the league’s fastest players, Larkin finally had a big breakout goal-scoring year during the 2018-19 season and recorded his first 30-goal season. Even though it seems like he has been around forever, he is still only 23 years old and is one of the bright spots on a rebuilding Red Wings team. He figures to be a huge part of their future.
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Edmonton Oilers: Connor McDavid
He already has a pair of 40-goal seasons on his resume, and it is only a matter of time until he hits 50. Combined with his game-breaking speed and precision passing, he is the most complete offensive player in the sport and seems like a lock to finish near the top in every major offensive category every year as long as he stays healthy. He has already won two scoring titles, and there is almost certainly a goal scoring crown in his future.
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Florida Panthers: Aleksander Barkov
He is one of the league’s best all-around players and is an absolute steal under the salary cap. Along with his great defensive play and superb playmaking, he also has scored at a 30-goal pace the couple of years. He is only 24 years old and might still have his best days ahead of him.
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Los Angeles Kings: Ilya Kovalchuk
Maybe this is a testament to how far the Kings have fallen the past few years, but Kovalchuk probably really is the answer. At his peak he was one of the most dominant forwards in the league and was the league’s best goal scorer before Alex Ovechkin arrived. He spent a large chunk of his career playing in the KHL only to return this past season. The Kings coaching staff a year ago never seemed to trust him (or want him), but he should be poised for a bounce back year under Todd McLellan.
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Minnesota Wild: Eric Staal
This was a toss-up between Staal and Zach Parise. But with Parise slowing down and Staal being the best goal scorer on the team in recent years, we are going with him. A few years ago Staal looked like his career was about ready to come to an end, but joining the Wild seemed to spark something for him and he has been a completely different player, even hitting the 40-goal mark once.
Montreal Canadiens: Brendan Gallagher
Gallagher has really evolved over the years, going from a depth player whose biggest intention seemed to be rattling the cages of his opponents to a legit top-line player who can score 30 goals. He has hit the 30-goal mark in each of the past two seasons and has become one of the Canadiens’ best and most important players.
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Nashville Predators: Filip Forsberg
Predators general manager David Poile has assembled his team over the years through a series of major trades. The best of them all was getting Forsberg from the Washington Capitals for Martin Erat. Erat was a flop with the Capitals, while Forsberg has blossomed into one of the league’s best players and an outstanding goal scorer. Since joining the Predators, he has averaged more than 30 goals per 82 games. 18 of 31
New Jersey Devils: Taylor Hall
When healthy, Hall has been everything the Devils wanted him to be when they acquired him from the Edmonton Oilers for Adam Larsson. The big question for the Devils is whether they can convince him to re-sign with the team, especially as they are off to a brutal start of the 2019-20 season. 19 of 31
New York Islanders: Anders Lee
A sixth-round draft pick and at one time an afterthought in the Islanders organization, Lee has transformed into one of the best net-front players in the league and the best goal scorer on the team. With 28 goals a year ago, he showed that his production was not just the result of playing alongside John Tavares and that, yes, he can score on his own and help drive the offense. 20 of 31
New York Rangers: Artemi Panarin
From the moment he arrived in the NHL, Panarin has been one of the league’s most impactful offensive players. He is an outstanding playmaker who makes his linemates better, but he is also an outstanding goal scorer who is going to push the 30-goal mark every year. The Rangers signed him to a massive contract in free agency to be a significant part of their rebuild.
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Ottawa Senators: Brady Tkachuk
It is slim pickings on this Senators team for goal scoring talent. About 10 years ago the answer would have easily been Bobby Ryan, but he has not been that player for some time now. Brady Tkachuk is in only his second year in the league but has already shown a goal scoring touch and is one of the few bright spots that this team has to build around long term. 22 of 31
Philadelphia Flyers: James van Riemsdyk
Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Sean Couturier are the best players on the Flyers, but none of them has ever been a truly great goal scorer. Their brilliance is in their passing (Giroux, Voracek) and defensive play (Couturier). It is van Riemsdyk who has been one of the more overlooked goal scorers in the league and a truly good one. In his first year back with the Flyers in 2018-19, he scored 27 goals in only 66 games. 23 of 31
Pittsburgh Penguins: Sidney Crosby
Crosby is known more for his passing and “200-foot game,” but one of the most overlooked parts of his career is that he has two Rocket Richard Trophies on his resume. He makes the wingers around him better goal scorers, yet he is still the best goal scorer on his team — one of the best players ever.
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San Jose Sharks: Logan Couture
With Joe Pavelski now in Dallas and Patrick Marleau at the age of 40, the Sharks do not really have a great pure goal scorer on their roster. They have a lot of great all-around players and impact offensive performers but nobody who has really established himself as a great goal scorer every year. The closest is probably Couture, the team’s best forward. In a good year he will challenge the 35 mark but is usually a good bet to score close to 30 for the Sharks. 25 of 31
St. Louis Blues: Vladimir Tarasenko
He is probably the one player on the Blues’ 2018-19 Stanley Cup winning team who has a shot at the Hall of Fame. He is lock to score at least 30 goals every season and can carry the team’s offense on his back when he is at his best. He also proved to be a big-time performer in the playoffs with 33 goals in 70 career postseason games, including 11 during the team’s championship run.
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Tampa Bay Lightning: Steven Stamkos
The second best goal scorer of his era, trailing only the great Alex Ovechkin in Washington. Stamkos has five 40-goal seasons on his resume, including a pair of 50-goal campaigns (and one 60-goal season!). The disappointing thing is that his career could look even better had it not been for a run of serious injuries (plus a half-season lockout) between the ages of 23 and 26 that robbed him of a significant portion of his peak years. Even with that, he is still one of the most dangerous goal scorers in hockey.
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Toronto Maple Leafs: John Tavares
There is a convincing case to be made for Auston Matthews to get this call for the Maple Leafs (he has scored at a 40-goal pace over the first three seasons of his career), but Tavares is coming off a 47-goal season and has been scoring at an elite rate in the NHL for more than a decade now. That is worth something. A lot, actually. He came to Toronto, his hometown, with huge expectations and a massive free agent contract and not only never seemed phased by the pressure, but he actually had the best season of his career. 28 of 31
Vancouver Canucks: Brock Boeser
It would be tempting to put Elias Pettersson here after the rookie season he had, and he is certainly the Canucks’ most impactful player. But a lot of his rookie goal scoring total came off a hot stretch in the first month of the season that he may not be able to duplicate. Boeser, on the other hand, has shown over two full seasons that he can regularly put the puck in the net. The only thing that has slowed him down is injury. If he can ever play 82 games, he might have a 40-goal season in his future. 29 of 31
Vegas Golden Knights: Max Pacioretty
Mark Stone is the best all-around player on this team, but Pacioretty still gets the slight edge when it comes to pure goal scoring. He may not be the 40-goal threat he was a couple of years ago when he was at his peak in Montreal, but as long as he stays healthy enough to play a full season he should be good for 30-35 goals. 30 of 31
Washington Capitals: Alex Ovechkin
I mean, come on. Who else was this going to be? There is a convincing argument to be made that Ovechkin is the greatest goal scorer who has ever played in the NHL, and he has a legitimate shot to break Wayne Gretzky’s all-time goals record. Even if he does not, the fact he is going to seriously challenge it in this era of defensive, structured hockey with goaltending at the best level it has ever been is an incredible accomplishment.
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Winnipeg Jets: Patrik Laine
Laine has already proved to be such a great goal scorer that when he scored 30 goals during the 2018-19 season (only his third season in the league) it was viewed as a down year for him. He has scored at least 30 goals every year he has been in the league and seems destined to have a couple of 50-goal seasons in his future. The Jets being positioned to draft him with the No. 2 overall pick in 2016 was one of the biggest turning points for the franchise.
With NHL training camps starting to get under way and the start of the 2019-20 NHL season less than a month away, it is time to look back at the offseason and see what every team did to improve. We assign a grade for all 31 NHL teams. See which teams received a passing mark and which teams did not make the grade.
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Anaheim Ducks: D
This could be another long season for the Ducks. Their big move this summer was buying out Corey Perry’s contract, and they really didn’t add anything to a team that was one of the worst in the NHL last. year. Ryan Kesler won’t play, Ryan Getzlaf is a year older, and it is going to be up to John Gibson and Ryan Miller in net to carry this team to respectability. They are a great goalie duo, but they may not be great enough to do the impossible. 2 of 31
Arizona Coyotes: B
Acquiring Phil Kessel has given the organization a much-needed boost at the box office and has the potential to do the same on the ice. The Coyotes have not had an impact offensive player like this in more than a decade. His addition, the under-the-radar pickup of Carl Soderberg and what will hopefully be some better health luck might be just enough to get this young, exciting team over the hump and back to the playoffs. They also committed to another part of their young core by signing Clayton Keller to a huge long-term contract extension. 3 of 31
Boston Bruins: C
Not much here to evaluate. The Bruins lost a couple of depth players to free agency but are mostly returning the same team that was one game away from winning the Stanley cup. They might take a step back just because it is difficult to go through that postseason gauntlet two years in a row, but they are still going to be a contender. They just have not really added much this offseason.
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Buffalo Sabres: B
They paid a huge price to re-sign Jeff Skinner, but he seems to work really well with Jack Eichel. Marcus Johansson, Colin Miller and Jimmy Vesey are nice complementary additions to the core of Eichel, Skinner and Rasmus Dahlin. It was a good offseason and they should be a better team, but I am not sure they added enough to close the gap between them and the top teams in the Atlantic Division or the top wild-card teams in the Eastern Conference. 5 of 31
Calgary Flames: D
The Flames were outstanding a year ago, but a lot of things went right to help them climb to the top of the Western Conference standings. Will all of that happen again? Their big offseason moves were bringing in Cam Talbot to replace Mike Smith in net and trading James Neal for Milan Lucic. Hardly the type of moves that should excite fans and convince them that the team can take the next step this season. 6 of 31
Carolina Hurricanes: A
They will be without some important players from last year’s team (Justin Williams, Curtis McElhinney, and Micheal Ferland) but they did find some solid replacements in Erik Haula, Ryan Dzingel and James Reimer. They also added to an already stacked defense by signing Jake Gardiner to a four-year contract in early September. Their biggest offseason win, though, was the Montreal Canadiens signing Sebastian Aho to a restricted free agent offer sheet they were easily able to match, helping them avoid a summer of painful contract negotiations and getting their franchise player locked in on a team-friendly contract. 7 of 31
Chicago Blackhawks: B
The Blackhawks are banking heavily on their core still being good enough to win. Instead of making big changes and going for a rebuild, they worked to improve their defense with Olli Maatta, Calvin de Haan and the addition of goaltender Robin Lehner. The Blackhawks were one of the worst defensive teams in the league a year ago and are hoping these additions can help them improve enough to complement their offense. 8 of 31
Colorado Avalanche: A
The Avalanche are beginning to emerge as a power in the Western Conference with their young core of superstars led by Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. They added to that this summer with the additions of Andre Burakovsky, Joonas Donskoi and Nazem Kadri to bolster their forward depth. Combined with a young defense that will feature Cale Makar, Sam Girard, and eventually Bowen Byram (No. 4 overall pick this summer), they should be a Stanley Cup contender for the foreseeable future. 9 of 31
Columbus Blue Jackets: D
This is a tough one. Gustav Nyquist was a strong free agent addition, but this team was gutted in the offseason with Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky and Matt Duchene all moving on. They still have a strong core of young players, especially on defense with Seth Jones and Zach Werenski, but goaltending is going to be a huge question mark. 10 of 31
Dallas Stars: B
The Stars were the most top-heavy team in the NHL last season and needed to do something to address the lack of depth. They hopefully did that with the additions of Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry. Their impact will ultimately depend on how much both players have left in their tanks in their late 30s, but they at least tried to address their biggest shortcoming from a year ago. 11 of 31
Detroit Red Wings: C
This is only so high because they managed to get Steve Yzerman to return to Detroit and oversee this rebuild. He is one of the league’s top general managers and should give Red Wings fans reason for long-term hope. In the short-term? This is almost the exact same team that has been one of the league’s worst for three years now. Yzerman has a full cupboard of draft picks and some intriguing young talent in the system, but the NHL roster is as weak as it has been in years. 12 of 31
Edmonton Oilers: D
Ken Holland has his hands full with this rebuild. The team made a couple of OK depth signings and took a chance on James Neal rebounding from a down year in Calgary (dumping Milan Lucic’s albatross contract in the process), but Edmonton needs a lot more than that. The roster around Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is as weak as it has been over the past two years and there is little reason to think the results on the ice are going to be any different. This looks like another wasted year of McDavid’s prime. 13 of 31
Florida Panthers: B
There are real questions about how long Sergei Bobrovsky’s contract will be a good value, but in the short term he satisfies Florida’s biggest need. This team is good enough to make the playoffs this season with competent goaltending, and Bobrovsky should be able to provide that. Along with a franchise goalie, the Panthers also lured Hall of Fame coach Joel Quenneville to Florida and made a couple of solid depth signings with Brett Connolly and Anton Stralman. With Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau back, anything short of the playoffs would be a disappointment. 14 of 31
Los Angeles Kings: F
Other than hiring Todd McLellan as head coach, the Kings did nothing to fix what was one of the NHL’s worst teams a year ago. They have been stale for more than four years now and have been badly in need of a rebuild. That process still has not started. They are banking heavily on bounce back years from Anze Kopitar, Drew Doughty and Jonathan Quick, and while all three should be better than they were, improvements from them alone will not be enough to get them back in the playoffs. 15 of 31
Minnesota Wild: D
Mats Zuccarello is a decent enough signing, but he is another big-money player on the wrong side of 30, something the team already has too many of. The Wild also fired general manager Paul Fenton after just one miserable season, making the organization look like it is kind of directionless. Fenton was replaced by Bill Guerin. Guerin is obviously an unknown, but he is going to have a lot of work to do in cleaning up the mess Fenton left behind. 16 of 31
Montreal Canadiens: D
want to give them credit for being bold and signing Carolina’s Sebastian Aho to a restricted free agent offer sheet, but it was such a lame effort that was so easy for the Hurricanes to match that I can’t even give them credit for that. In fact, it makes me actually lower their grade. As if that wasn’t enough, they also made a run at free agent Jake Gardiner only to have him turn them down to sign with, you guessed it, Carolina. Their big addition was Ben Chiarot. Jesperi Kotkaniemi could be ready for a breakout season, but there might be some regression from Max Domi and Tomas Tatar. 17 of 31
Nashville Predators: C
Matt Duchene is a big addition and gives the Predators another top-line forward and hopefully someone who can help fix their awful power play. But to get him they had to dump P.K. Subban’s entire contract, which meant they received almost nothing for him. They have plenty of depth on defense, and they did need forward help. I just don’t know if they are a significantly better team today than they were before that sequence of transactions. 18 of 31
With the second round of the NHL playoffs underway, the chances of a perfect bracket are slim to none. According to NHL.com, there are only five perfect brackets remaining.
Because of the chaos, there have been many surprises since the first game of the 2019 NHL playoffs. We look at the biggest shockers of the first round.
Lightning sent home thanks to Blue Jackets
Led by head coach John Tortorella , the Columbus Blue Jackets swept the President’s Trophy winners, even after Tampa’s historical regular season.
The Lightning were one of the best offensive teams in the league this season but were outscored, 19-8, in the series and had scarce offensive output from their best players.
With 128 points during the regular season, Tampa’s Nikita Kucherov registered only two assists in four games for the Bolts.
This is the first time in NHL history that a No. 1 overall seed has been swept in the first round of the playoffs.
The Jets were grounded after six games
After making it to the Western Conference finals last season, the Winnipeg Jets were the most favored Canadian squad to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Jets lost in six games to the St. Louis Blues, who have won 12 of their past 16 games dating back to March 16.
All of Winnipeg’s losses came by one goal, as well as both their victories.
Even in their own arena during Game 5, the Jets allowed three goals in the third period and lost, 3-2.
Some of the league’s top players were shut down
Arguably the best player of the past decade, Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby registered one assist in the playoffs — the lowest postseason point total of his career. He finished with a minus-4 in four games, the worst mark of his postseason career.
Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau also finished with one assist in five games with a minus-2 rating after scoring 99 points in the regular season.
Ryan Johansen had a goal and an assist for the Predators and was not much of a factor, and the Dallas Stars took advantage, taking the series in six games.
Steven Stamkos also had a goal and an assist, with a plus/minus of minus-8. You could say he was a defensive liability for the Lightning.
Golden Knights get robbed in Game 7
Up 3-0 in Game 7, Vegas’ Cody Eakin cross-checked San Jose’s Joe Pavelski to the ice. Eakin was given a 5-minute major and a game misconduct.
San Jose had an unreal comeback, netting four goals on the 5-minute power play to take the lead, with two goals coming from Logan Couture.
The Sharks won with two minutes left in overtime thanks to a goal from Barclay Goodrow, who only played two shifts the entire period.
On Thursday, the NHL apologized to the Golden Knights and admitted the referees were incorrect on Eakin’s penalty. That does not change anything for the Golden Knights.
A “Bunch of Jerks” beat the defending champs on the road in Game 7
One of the biggest underdogs in the playoffs, the Carolina Hurricanes took the Washington Capitals to double overtime and advanced on a goal from Brock McGinn.
The Caps’ Alex Ovechkin had seven goals in the series but finished with a minus-2. He was a force in the offensive end but not so much on defense.
Warren Foegele led the Canes with four goals. In 77 regular- season games, Foegele had 10 total goals. The third liner has been great in his first playoff series.
The Hurricanes advance to the second round for the first time since 2009, when they made it to the Eastern Conference finals.
In a lot of ways the 2019 NHL trade deadline was a predictable one.
The Ottawa Senators sold off their few remaining good players. The Nashville Predators were heavy buyers. Teams like the Calgary Flames and New York Islanders that appear to be ahead of schedule did not mess with what has worked for them so far and decided to stay the course and see where their current rosters can take them. There also were not really any major shockers, outside of maybe Mikael Granlund being traded by Minnesota, in terms of the players who did get moved.
But there were still a few surprises thrown in.
The Columbus Blue Jackets went wild and mortgaged their short-term future for the hope of even shorter-term success, the San Jose Sharks doubled down on their confidence in Martin Jones, the Vegas Golden Knights went after the big fish again and the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals made some minor tweaks to their rosters.
We examine all of that and more with 10 thoughts and observations after the NHL trade deadline.
1. Columbus has everything riding on this season
Keeping Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky was a pretty good indication that the Columbus Blue Jackets were willing to see what they could do this season instead of being resigned to the fact they will lose both over the summer, and thus trading them before the deadline. But then they doubled down on that by being the biggest buyers at the deadline by giving up draft picks and prospects for rentals Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, Adam McQuaid and Keith Kinkaid. That leaves the Blue Jackets with six unrestricted free agents after this season (including Panarin, Bobrovsky, Duchene and Dzingel) and only two draft picks in the 2019 class: a third-rounder and a seventh-rounder. That is the definition of “all-in.” The wild thing about this is that they are not even a lock to make the playoffs. This could all go south very quickly if they do not secure one of the top eight seeds in the Eastern Conference.
2. The Sharks have everything riding on Martin Jones
The San Jose Sharks made themselves better at the trade deadline by getting Gustav Nyquist from the Detroit Red Wings, making an already deep team that much stronger. They did not, however, address the biggest question mark facing them: goaltending. The tag-team duo of Martin Jones and Aaron Dell has not played up to a championship level this season and that could prove to be the team’s ultimate undoing in the playoffs. Jones has never been one to steal games for the Sharks, but he has always been, at worst, a league-average to slightly above-league-average starter. If he can return to that form and play at that level, the Sharks will be a formidable team in the playoffs. If he does not, it could derail a potential championship season.
3. The Flames have a lot of faith in their team
The San Jose Sharks added Nyquist. The Vegas Golden Knights added Mark Stone. The Nashville Predators added Mikael Granlund and Wayne Simmonds. The Winnipeg Jets added Kevin Hayes. All of the top contenders in the Western Conference added a significant player. The Calgary Flames? Added Oscar Fantenberg. A depth defender. No insurance in goal. No additional depth up front. They are riding into the playoffs with the team that has gotten them to this point in the season. Sometimes that is a good thing.
4. The Detroit Red Wings probably should have done more
It is a few years overdue, but the Detroit Red Wings have finally started to rebuild their aging, expensive, declining roster. They have assembled a ton of draft picks and have at least set themselves up for a chance to restock the cupboards. But why didn’t they do more? Trading Nyquist was a necessary move, given his pending status as a UFA, but was there really no market for Jimmy Howard, Niklas Kronwall, Thomas Vanek or any other veteran on the team? It just seems like there was a chance here to move more players and get even more draft picks for the future.
5. The Nashville Predators love blockbusters
David Poile has assembled a powerhouse team in Nashville and somehow still kept his team well under the league’s salary cap. He’s also scored some of the biggest trades in the NHL over the past few years acquiring P.K. Subban, Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen, and Kyle Turris as part of blockbuster deals. He added to that at the trade deadline by pulling a stunner when he sent Kevin Fiala to the Minnesota Wild for Granlund and then acquiring Simmonds from the Philadelphia Flyers. Oh, and don’t forget about that pre-deadline deal to get Brian Boyle from the New Jersey Devils. That is what going all in looks like for a Stanley Cup contender, and, amazingly, his team is still in a great position under the salary cap in future seasons. A lot of times when GM’s swing for the fences on big trades, they start to eventually come up empty. That has yet to happen for Poile, who just keeps hitting home runs.
6. The Vegas Golden Knights go big
Even though they were in the Stanley Cup Final a year ago, it is still remarkable to see the Vegas Golden Knights, in Year 2 of their existence, going after the big-ticket players. They went all in trying to get Erik Karlsson. When that failed they traded for Max Pacioretty and signed Paul Stastny. Now they pulled off one of the biggest scores of the deadline in getting Stone from the Ottawa Senators, then agreed to a new contract. Stone is a star, a true top-line winger, and a player who can make a difference for an already strong team that is a contender. He is still in the prime of his career, making this a huge score for both the short term and long term.
7. Did Boston do enough?
The Boston Bruins are an outstanding team and a sneaky contender in the Eastern Conference, getting lost in the shadow of Tampa Bay and Toronto. But the top half of their lineup is as good as anybody’s in the league, and they have two goalies playing at an extremely high level in Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak. Their big question has been depth, as there has been little offensive production after Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, David Krejci, Charlie McAvoy and Torey Krug (when they are healthy). They attempted to address that by acquiring Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson. They are solid additions, and Johansson has been especially hot lately now that he is healthy. But will they be enough to get the Bruins through what will almost certainly be a daunting playoff run in the Atlantic Division that will probably include both the Maple Leafs and Lightning?
The Boston Bruins should get a boost just in time for the Winter Classic on Tuesday against the Chicago Blackhawks. NHL.com’s Dan Rosen reports that Brad Marchand should be ready to go after practicing today, barring any setbacks. He missed Saturday’s game with an upper-body injury, but it looks like it wasn’t a serious issue.
Marchand is having another solid campaign with 12 goals and 41 points in 39 games this season.
Rosen also reports that defenseman Charlie McAvoy remains questionable for the big game. McAvoy has missed two games with a lower-body injury and did not practice today. The gifted defenseman has struggled with injuries and has appeared in just 17 games this year, although he has 11 points.
In other NHL injury notes:
Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post writes that Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen will be out Monday against Nashville and miss his second straight game with an undisclosed upper-body injury. However, the team got better news on Brooks Orpik, who is listed as a game-time decision for Monday after missing 27 games with a right-knee injury. Khurshudyan reports both players practiced Sunday and are close to returning. The team has also been without Christian Djoos.
The Pittsburgh Penguins could be without forward Bryan Rust and defenseman Olli Maatta on Monday as both are listed as day-to-day, according to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Matt Vensel. Rust didn’t practice today with an undisclosed injury, and Maatta suffered a lower-body injury during Saturday’s game against St. Louis, but finished the game. He also didn’t practice today.
Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun reports that Senators center Jean-Gabriel Pageau is close to a return. While he’s not expected to play Monday, he could be back not long after that. The 26-year-old has been out all season after having surgery to repair a torn Achilles. He had a six-month timetable in mid-September and is well ahead of schedule. Pageau had 14 goals and 29 points last season.