Chicago Blackhawks 2016-17 season preview

The Chicago Blackhawks had to re-sign a big free agent in Andrew Ladd but Ladd was really just a rental player. Ladd then signed a 7 year deal with the New York Islanders. They signed depth player Jordin Tootoo to replace Dale Weise after he signed with the Flyers. They also signed D Brian Campbell to replace Christian Ehrhoff (who hasn\’t signed but might go to Boston). Jonathan Toews and Art Ross/Hart trophy winner Patrick Kane lead a still spectacular offense which also has Calder winner Artemi Panarin. Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson lead an amazing defensive core. Corey Crawford is an elite goaltender with Scott Darling backing him up. The Blackhawks didn\’t have a first round pick in the 2016 NHL draft after trading it to the Winnipeg Jets in the Ladd trade.
 The Blackhawks projected lines look like this:
   Artemi Panarin- Jonathan Toews- Marian Hossa
   Richard Panik- Artem Anisimov- Patrick Kane
   Spencer Abbott- Mark McNeil- Ryan Hartman
  Andrew Desjardins- Marcus Kruger- Jordin Tootoo
  On defense is:
        Duncan Keith- Brent Seabrook
        Brian Campbell- Niklas Hjalmarsson
        Trevor van Riemsdyk- Ville Pokka
    Corey Crawford and Scott Darling are in net. C Nick Schmaltz, LW Tanner Kero and D Michal Rozsival are scratched.
   For my prediction, the Chicago Blackhawks, a win now team with an uncertain future will make the playoffs in 2016-17.

Q & A with Islander Eric Boulton

Today I had the pleasure to interview New York Islanders\’ LW Eric Boulton. Boulton, 40, was drafted 234th overall in the 9th round of the 1994 NHL draft by the New York Rangers. While he never played for the Rangers, he\’s played for the Buffalo Sabres, Atlanta Thrashers and New Jersey Devils before signing with the Islanders in 2012. He has 31 goals and 48 assists for 79 points in 654 career NHL games. Boulton, more known as an enforcer, has 1,421 penalty minutes in his career, 710 from fights. Boulton is 5th on the active list for career penalty minutes.  After Jaromir Jagr and Patrick Elias, Boulton is the 3rd oldest active player in the NHL.  

Q1: Do you think the Islanders additions/subtractions in the off-season will take the team a step forward or a step back?
A1: When you lose three players like Okposo, Nielson and Martin, it\’s a tough loss. I think Garth (Snow) did a great job filling those spots. We got veteran leadership in Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera. Ladd was a captain and won Stanley Cups. P.A. Parenteau has been here before and has great chemistry with John Tavares.

Q2: Do you think C Mathew Barzal will make the team this year?
A2: Coming from juniors, it\’s a different game. He has skill and is a very talented kid.
He opens eyes every time he\’s on the ice. Whether or not he is good enough away from the puck only time will tell, but so far he\’s looked great.

Q3: In the locker room, who is the team\’s biggest presence?
 A3: I would have to say John Tavares, obviously because he\’s our captain and because of his great work ethic in practice and his professionalism. He\’s not a rah-rah guy but he leads by example.

Q4: What team is your favorite to play against and why?
A4: The New York Rangers. It\’s a great rivalry with the Isles. The area gets into the game. It seems like half the fans at our arena are Ranger fans and vice versa at MSG. It\’s easy to get pumped up for these games.

Q5: Which is better, playing at Nassau Coliseum or playing at Barclays Center?
A5: You can\’t compare. Barclays is nicer, newer, and fresher. There aren\’t many places left with the atmosphere of the coliseum. It was the loudest building I ever played in and it\’s tough to replicate that.

Q6: Which goalie do you think will get the nod on opening night?
A6: Greiss had a great playoffs last year, he really stepped up but it\’s up to the coaches. I think they\’ll go with whoever is healthy and playing best.

Q7: Growing up, what was your favorite NHL team?
A7: The Edmonton Oilers. They won lots of cups with Gretzky and Messier. They were very easy to like, they were winners when I was growing up.

Q8: What is better, scoring a goal or winning a fight?
A8: Scoring! I don\’t score too many so it\’s fun to get one once in a while. I\’m used to fighting so it\’s different to chip in offensively.

Q9: Now that Matt Martin is gone, who do you think would win a fight between you two?
A9: Good question, me!

Q10A: Who is the toughest fighter in the NHL?
A10A: Got to say myself

Q10B: Besides yourself?
A10B: St. Louis Blues\’ Ryan Reaves, he\’s a tough guy.

 Q11:You are now 40 years young. How many more years do you have left in you?
A11: (laughing) How old is Jagr? I think it will be my last, but I\’ve said that the last 4 years.

Q12: Any thoughts what you might do after you retire?
A12: I want to stay in the NHL either as a coach or as a broadcaster. I love the game and would love to stay in it.

Carolina Hurricanes 2016-17 season preview

 The Carolina Hurricanes weren\’t a loud team this offseason. They re-signed a bunch of players including Victor Rask (six years). Which will help their team. What won\’t help the team is loss of depth. They lost Nathan Gerbe, (NYR) Brad Malone, (WSH) Riley Nash (BOS) and Chris Terry (MTL). They signed 2 players to replace 4. Veterans Viktor Stalberg and Lee Stempniak come in to help the depth. Matt Tennyson was signed for a top 6/7th d-man spot. Justin Faulk leads a defensive core which is growing with prospects Haydn Fleury, Noah Hanifin, Jaccob Slavin, Brett Pesce and Roland McKeown growing to the NHL level. Cam Ward isn\’t an all-star goalie anymore but he\’s still a starter for Carolina. Eddie Lack had a rough first season last year and is looking to rebound this year. In the 2016 NHL draft, the Hurricanes selected D Jake Bean with the 13th overall pick and RW Julien Gauthier with the 21st pick. Bean is another young d-man for them to play along side Slavin or Pesce. Gauthier can play along Jeff Skinner and maybe Jordan Staal In future years. The Hurricanes\’ projected lines look like this:
    Jeff Skinner- Jordan Staal- Lee Stempniak
    Teuvo Teravainen- Victor Rask- Andrej Nestrasil
     Joakim Nordstrom- Elias Lindholm- Phillip Di Giuseppe
     Bryan Bickell- Jay McClement- Viktor Stalberg
 On defense is:
     Noah Hanifin- Justin Faulk
      Jaccob Slavin- Brett Pesce
      Haydn Fleury- Ron Hainsey
  Cam Ward and Eddie Lack are in net. RW Sebastian Aho, D Matt Tennyson and D Ryan Murphy are scratched.
 For my prediction, the Carolina Hurricanes, a team slowly on the rise, will not make the playoffs in 2016-17.

Calgary Flames 2016-17 season preview

The Calgary Flames had the leagues\’ worst goal-tending last year. Jonas Hiller, Karri Ramo and Joni Ortio all were terrible last year. That\’s totally changed with all three of them out. On draft day, the Flames finally got a legitimate starting goalie when they traded for Brian Elliot. In free agency, they signed backup Chad Johnson. Even though Johnson is just a backup, he\’s better then all the goalies the Flames had last year. Prospect Jon Gillies looks to be ready next year. One of the Flames\’ two best players, Sean Monahan signed a massive contract extension. Their other best player, Johnny Gaudreau hopes to sign a contract soon. Troy Brouwer signed with the team and could either play with Gaudreau and Monahan or the second line with Sam Bennett. Brouwer replaces C Joe Colbourne, who went to Colorado. The also signed depth forward Linden Vey, to replace depth forward Josh Jooris, who went tho the Rangers. Captain d-man Mark Giordano is looking to stay healthy after 2 injury plagued seasons. T.J. Brodie and Dougie Hamilton can take over the defensive core this season. In the 2016 NHL draft, the Flames selected LW Matthew Tkachuk with the 6th overall pick. While the Flames needed a RW more, Tkachuk was still an amazing pick at no. 6. He has a nice future playing with Sam Bennett.
      The Flames\’ projected lines look like this:
Johnny Gaudreau- Sean Monahan- Troy Brouwer
Lance Bouma- Sam Bennett- Michael Frolik
Michael Ferland- Mikael Backland- Alex Chiasson
Hunter Shinkaruk- Matt Stajan- Linden Vey

On defense is:                                           
  T.J Brodie- Dougie Hamilton  
  Mark Giordano- Dennis Wideman
  Jryki Jokipakka- Deryk Engelland
 In net is Brian Elliot and Chad Johnson. Brandon Bollig is scratched and Ladislav Smid is injured.
  For my prediction, the Calgary Flames are a team on the rise, but not yet a playoff team.

Buffalo Sabres 2016-17 season preview

 The Buffalo Sabres saw free agency as their chance to get another star player. Kyle Okposo then signed with the team on a 7 year deal. Unlike most teams, the Sabres\’ depth wasn\’t hurt too much. They did lose goalies Chad Johnson (CGY) and Nathan Lieuwen (COL) but then signed Anders Nilsson to replace Johnson as the backup. Forward Chad Ruhwedel went to Pittsburgh but the Sabres didn\’t really need him. 7th d-man Matt Donovan signed with Frolunda HC but they signed Justin Falk (not the Hurricanes star Justin Faulk) to replace Donovan. The defensive core is solid with young star Rasmus Ristolainen leading the way. The offense is full of young stars like Ryan O\’Reilly, Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel. In net is Robin Lehner looking to bounce back after an injury sidelined him for a while. Nilsson should fit in well as a backup. In the 2016 NHL draft, with the 8th overall pick, the Sabres selected LW Alex Nylander. Nylander, brother of William Nylander on the Maple Leafs, could fit in well on a future line with Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart. The Sabres\’ predicted lineup looks like this:
  Evander Kane- Ryan O\’Reilly- Kyle Okposo
  Tyler Ennis- Jack Eichel- Sam Reinhart
  Marcus Foligno- Zemgus Girgensons- Brian Gionta
  Matt Moulson- Johan Larsson- Nicolas Deslauriers
On defense is:                                           
Dmitry Kulikov- Rasmus Ristolainen
Josh Gorges- Zach Bogosian
Jake McCabe- Cody Franson
  Robin Lehner and Anders Nilsson in net. C Cal O\’ Reilly and D Justin Falk are scratched.
For my prediction, the Buffalo Sabres will not be a playoff team in 2016-17 but will make the playoffs next year if they don\’t screw up big time.