New York Rangers: Stanley Cup Champions In 2015-2016?

In the last four years, the New York Rangers could very well making case that they are the most consistent NHL team to not have at least one Stanley Cup title during that time period. They have made in the Eastern conference finals in three of those four years, and in 2014, they made it to the Stanley Cup finals. Being consistently good is definitely exciting, but fans really want to see them win their first Stanley Cup since 1994. Even though it is the summer, how does the team stack up against some of the other challengers heading into next year?

It was a bit of an unexpected run in 2013 to get all the way to the Stanley cup finals. They were a bit overmatched once they were there, but they put up the good fight against Los Angeles. This past season, everyone expected them to get back to the Stanley Cup finals, but the Tampa Bay Lightning were able to knock them off. It was still a very successfully year, but they didn’t take care of business in the most crucial parts of the series. Continue reading

Mid-Round Picks Worth More than Meets the Eye

With the NHL Draft finally getting underway tomorrow evening, the value of draft picks is usually a topic of discussion around this time of year. Every media outlet, whether it be Sportsnet or TSN, has taken a stab at trying to determine the true value of a given draft pick. The measuring stick most used to figure out if a draft pick was successful is NHL games played. While I also implement the games played factor, I’ve opted to go in a bit of a different direction. Instead of trying to quantify the value of a given pick (or range of picks) I focused on the value of a pick in regards to the trade market.

I took the basic stats (games played, goals, assists, points) of every player who dressed in at least one NHL game this season. I also included if and where in the draft every player was selected, and how he was acquired by his current club, with the help of HockeyDB, Hockey Reference, and various team websites.

This is only one season of data so the results of the data do not reflect any decades long recipe for success or anything, but it does paint a pretty nice picture of where the league is today and where it may be headed. Continue reading

Five Playoff Predictions

The other day, we posted a somewhat funny, somewhat sad mock game day poster making fun of the Sabres and Maple Leafs for their battle for “Least In The East.” It’s a sad state of affairs for Buffalo fans, but at this stage of the season it’s not as if such things are surprising anyone. At this point, the best hope is a strong draft and a quick regrouping in a sport that allows for faster turnarounds than the other three major U.S. sports. Continue reading

How the Sabres’ Prospects Fared at 2015 WJC’s

Every year the World Junior Championships is used by top NHL prospects as a showcase to prove to scouts that they are either worthy of a 1st round pick, deserve that first pro contract, or maybe a first shot in the show. As we are now three days removed from Canada’s triumph in the gold medal game the final sprint to June 26 in Sunrise is now underway. As evidenced by ISS’s January Top 30, scouts place a premium on performance (or lack thereof) at the World Juniors.

Sabres fans enduring the three-way battle royale for 30th place this season can take solace in the results from this year’s tournament, as many of their current prospects helped their cause, while some names they may have interest in come June also performed well. Here’s a look at how current Sabres farmhands fared in Toronto and Montreal, as well as how some 2015 draft eligible players helped or hurt themselves. Continue reading

Outdoor game fatigue highlighted in this year’s Winter Classic

Since 2008 the Winter Classic has stood as one of the most unique and impressive pillars in the four major sports leagues. An outdoor spectacle that was made for TV helped give legitimacy to a league that had lost far too much in the first half of the 2000s.

The 2012-13 lockout not only caused a cancellation of the Red Wings and Maple Leafs at the Big House but also cut away a great deal of fan allegiance after a second lockout in fewer than 10 years. The league compensated for the loss of half a season, an outdoor game and a great deal of revenue with six outdoor games last season.

With this year’s Winter Classic fast approaching, I find myself very disinterested in the build up to the game. Overall my level of interest for the game is incredibly low and it is somewhat amplified by the general lack of hype for what has previously been appointment television.

Losing 24/7 and the punch brought to the table by HBO certainly helps to amplify the lack of buzz or hype about the game, but the apathy surrounding the event seems to extend beyond that of the chatter regarding a pay-cable network’s inside look at the two teams.

What’s interesting is that the Epix production of Road to the Winter Classic has been excellent, in my opinion. I really enjoyed each of the first two episodes and I’m looking forward to the final pair. But even that hasn’t helped to boost my excitement for the upcoming game.

Even the jersey unveilings were just part of the white noise of the NHL in the summer. Maybe if one or both jerseys were more attractive I’d personally feel differently, but there hasn’t been all that much discussion on either since they were unveiled.

The entire practice just feels tired. Continue reading

What To Expect Out Of Jonathan Drouin

By Matt Scully

Tampa Bay certainly did not wait long in the 2014-2015 regular season to call up top prospect Jonathan Drouin. Just a couple of weeks into the regular season, the 19-year old is set to make an impact at the NHL level right away. While the hype is real surrounding the forward, just how good can he be from a fantasy hockey perspective in year one?

During the preseason, some thought that Drouin would be ready to play on opening night of the regular season. However, a fractured right thumb held him out of some important training opportunities, so Tampa Bay sent him to Syracuse to begin the season.

At the beginning of his NHL career, Tampa Bay expects to play him regularly. After all, it would be silly for them to call up a promising youngster and place him on the bench instead of allowing him to get reps. He will most likely be on the third line at first, and his playmaking at center or left wing should allow him to contribute in fantasy hockey right away. He is worth taking a risk on, especially if a person is in a keeper league.

Tampa Bay is off to a decent start so far this season, as they stand at 3-1-1 on the year. They feel like they have a chance to be pretty competitive in the Eastern Conference if they are able to stay healthy. Drouin is going to have a chance to make this team a serious threat for the Stanley Cup if he is as good as advertised. The Lightning will not be putting huge expectations on him just yet, but they do think he has a chance to be a franchise type of guy down the road once he gets familiar with this level of play.


Surprises on Opening Night Rosters

Every year there are relatively unknown players that work their way onto opening night rosters. Luke Adam for the Sabres in 2011 and Cory Conacher for Tampa Bay in 2012 are examples of players not only finding their way onto rosters, but contributing right away. While those immediate impacts were short lived, and instances of a relatively unknown player bursting onto the season as those two did are pretty rare, there are players on every roster that no one expected to be there. Here is one player from every NHL team (except the Sabres) who are surprises on opening rosters, unknown to the league (and the fans) or both.

William Karlsson, Anaheim Ducks– The 21 Swede spent the majority of last season playing in Sweden before making cameo with Norfolk of the AHL. He posted nine points in nine regular season games and three points in eight games for the Admirals. While he is on the opening night roster, he looks to be in a battle with Rickard Rackell, who got his first extended look in the NHL last season, for the Ducks’ last center spot.

Justin Hodgman, Arizona Coyotes- He’s bounced around from Fort Wayne to the KHL before signing a two-way deal with Arizona at the age of 26. He’s not a scorer, having neot registered a 20 goal season since he was in the OHL, but may find a home on the Coyote’s 4th line.

Bobby Robins, Boston Bruins- The 32 year old journeyman racked up over 300 career AHL games, along with making stops in Great Britain, Austria, and Slovenia, before cracking an NHL lineup with the Bruins on Wednesday night. He even got in his first NHL fight, with Luke Schenn.

Johnny Gaudreau, Calgary Flames- Gaudreau is not exactly an unknown to hockey fans after he torched the NCAA during his two years at Boston College. He got a one game audition towards the end of last season with the Flames and found the back of the net. He’ll get a chance to stick with the big club during his first full pro season.

Patrick Brown, Carolina Hurricanes- The 22 year old will start his first professional season in the NHL after four years at Boston College. He begins the years on the ‘Canes’ 4th line with Riley Nash and Chris Terry.

Trevor van Riemsdyk, Chicago Blackhawks- The kid brother of Toronto’s James van Riemsdyk made the Blackhawks roster after the team had to trade Nick Leddy because of cap issues. The 23 year old has been skating alongside Niklas Hjalmarsson in practice recently.

Dennis Everberg, Colorado Avalanche- Everberg is new to North America after playing the last five years in Sweden. At 6’ 4” Everberg definitely has the size, and will get a look on the Avalanche’s 4th line. Continue reading