Dallas Stars 2016-17 season preview

It is hard to tell if the Dallas Stars off-season was good or bad. They lost two quality defenseman in Alex Goligoski (ARI) and Jason Demers (FLA). Kris Russell also was a free agent but has not signed with a team yet. They did dign D Dan Hamhuis to a 2 year deal but it won\’t be too long until Hamhuis, who is now 33, starts to decline. Dallas also signed RW Jiri Hudler to a one year deal to potentially play along side superstars Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn. They also have John Klingberg, who is a superstar defenseman and is fairly young. The team has a big problem in net. Both Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi are inconsistent and aren\’t young at ages 32 and 33. In the first round of the 2016 NHL draft, the Stars drafted LW Riley Tufte with the 25th overall pick. Tufte projects to be a career second line LW with Jamie Benn, being one of the best LWs in the league, taking up the first line spot. The strong point of this Dallas team is their center core. They have all-star Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza, even though he\’s 33, Cody Eakin (who\’s hurt) and Radek Faska. The Stars projected lines look like this:
 Jamie Benn- Tyler Seguin- Jiri Hudler
 Patrick Sharp- Jason Spezza- Ales Hemsky
 Patrick Eaves- Radek Faska- Brett Richie
 Antoine Roussel- Curtis McKenzie- Adam Cracknell
 On defense is:
 Dan Hamhuis- John Klingberg
 Jordie Benn- Stephen Johns
 Johnny Oduya- Jamie Oleksiak
 In net is Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi. F Devin Shore and D Patrick Nemeth are scratched. C Mattias Janmark and C Cody Eakin (who will be a third line center with Faska as a fourth line center and Craknell scratched when he comes back soon) are injured.
 Finally, for my prediction, the Dallas Stars, a good team but one desperate for a goalie, will make the playoffs in 2016-17 and will contend for the Stanley Cup.

Columbus Blue Jackets 2016-17 season preview

The Columbus Blue Jackets seem to underachieve expectations every year. They always are supposed to make the playoffs or contend for a spot but come up with a last place finish. They started off 0-8-0 until hiring John Torterella, but they remained a .500 team. When you talk about the Blue Jackets\’ off-season, you\’re not talking about much. They signed C Sam Gagner to a one year deal. They lost D Justin Falk to Buffalo but he\’s really just depth. The only really \”notable\” thing they did in the off-season is trade prospect LW Kirby Rychel to the Maple Leafs in exchange for D Scott Harrington and a 5th round pick. Captain Nick Foligno leads an offense that could use an improvement. The leader of the team is 23 year old d-man Seth Jones. Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky was amazing in the world cup for team Russia and hopes to rebound after a terrible 2016-17 campaign. Columbus is hoping Joonas Korpisalo can have a breakout year as a backup because Curtis McElhinney is 33 and declining. In the first round of the 2016 NHL draft, the Blue Jackets selected C/LW Pierre-Luc Dubois with the 3rd overall pick. It\’s questionable why Columbus picked Dubois over RW Jesse Puljujarvi who seems to be what Columbus needs more but Dubois is still a solid prospect. He can center Nick Foligno and Brandon Saad in the future. The Blue Jackets\’ projected lines look like this:
 Brandon Saad-Boone Jenner-Cam Atkinson
 Nick Foligno-Brandon Dubinsky-Scott Hartnell
 Oliver Bjorkstrand-Alexander Wennberg-Matt Calvert
 Sam Gagner-William Karlsson-Gregory Cambell
 On defense is:
 Ryan Murray- Seth Jones
 Jack Johnson- David Savard
 Cody Goloubef- Dalton Prout
 Sergei Bobrovsky and Curtis McElhinney are in net.  RW Josh Anderson and G Joonas Korpisalo are scratched. David Clarkson is injured.
 For my prediction, the Columbus Blue Jackets, a team slowly on the rise, won\’t make the playoffs in 2016-17.

Colorado Avalanche 2016-17 season preview

The Colorado Avalanche did a solid job in the off-season despite having about all their depth leave. They lost d-men Andrew Bodnarchuk (DAL), Nate Guenin (ANA), Zach Redmond (MTL) and Brandon Gormley (NJD) but re-signed their top defenseman (Tyson Barrie) to a 4 year deal. To replace those d-men, they signed Fedor Tyutin and Ryan Stanton to one year deals. Patrick Wiercioch was signed to a 2 year deal for more defensive depth. Forwards Mikkel Boedker (SJS), Shawn Matthias (WPG) and Taylor Beck (EDM) are all out of town and C Joe Colborne and Ben Smith are in. Joe Whitney and Mike Sislo, who were both signed to one year deals, will fight for a 4th line spot but mostly will be scratched. Goalie Semyon Varlamov is looking for another solid season with Calvin Pickard having the backup spot easily with the departure of Reto Berra. Youngster Nathan Mackinnon had an amazing world cup for team North America and Gabriel Landeskog and Matt Duchene were solid for Sweden and Canada. In the 2016 NHL draft, Colorado selected C Tyson Jost with the 10th overall pick. It\’s questionable why they picked a center when you already have centers Nathan Mackinnon and Matt Duchene. Jost can play alongside LW Gabriel Landeskog and Mackinnon if they decide to put one of them on the wing. He might also play with Duchene or RW Mikko Rantanen. The Avalanche\’s projected lines look like this:
Gabriel Landeskog-Matt Duchene-Nathan Mackinnon
Joe Colborne-Carl Soderberg-Jarome Iginla
Blake Comeau-Mikhail Grigorenko-Mikko Rantanen
Andreas Martinsen-John Mitchell-Cody McLeod
 On defense is:
  Eric Gelinas- Erik Johnson
  Tyson Barrie- Nikita Zadorov
  Francois Beauchemin- Fedor Tyutin
 Seymon Varlamov and Calvin Pickard are in net. D Ryan Stanton and LW Joe Whitney are scratched.
 For my prediction, the Colorado Avalanche, a contending team with a solid future will just miss out on the playoffs in 2016-17.

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.