2017-18 Bench Life NHL Previews: 11. Montreal Canadiens

Part 21 of 31 in our NHL previews where Burgess, Waind and I rank each NHL team 1 through 31 and give you an outlook on their season. Each of our previews will be given to you in order of where we collectively power ranked that team.

Check out our other previews:

#31. Colorado Avalanche , #30. Vegas Golden Knights, #29. Vancouver Canucks, #28. Detroit Red Wings, #27. New Jersey Devils, #26. Arizona Coyotes, #25. Buffalo Sabres#24. Winnipeg Jets#23. New York Islanders, #22. Florida Panthers, #21. Los Angeles Kings, #20. Carolina Hurricanes, #19. Philadelphia Flyers, #18. New York Rangers, #17. Calgary Flames, #16. Boston Bruins, #15. Ottawa Senators, #14. San Jose Sharks, #13. Toronto Maple Leafs, #12. St. Louis Blues

2016-17 Recap

Record: 47-26-9 (103 points) 1st in Atlantic Division (7th Overall)
GFPG: 2.76 (15th)
GAPG: 2.44 (4th)
PP%: 19.57 (13th)
PK%: 81.12 (14th)
Corsi for %: 51.3% (7th)

The Canadiens are coming off of what was a pretty impressive year from a regular season standpoint, capturing an Atlantic Division title after improving 21 points on their 2015-16 season total. This was largely because they received excellent performances from Carey Price throughout the entire season following a year he only managed to make 12 starts due to injury. This just goes to show how important Price is to this team, and frankly, how he is the only reason they have a chance at success.

Max Pacioretty once again had a quietly excellent season as the Habs offensive leader, as number 67 accounted for 67 points – 35 of which were goals. 2016-17 was also the debut of Shea Weber in a Canadiens uniform, who provided a stabilizing presence for their blueline and was relied upon for 25:04 per game, three minutes more than any other skater on the team. Due to the superiority of the Metropolitan division last year, the Canadiens drew a playoff matchup with the 102-point New York Rangers who fell into a wild-card position, and ultimately lost to them in the first round in 6 games.

Shea Weber Read more

Bench Life NHL Previews: 12. St. Louis Blues

Part 20 of 31 in our NHL previews where Ballantyne, Waind and I rank each NHL team 1 through 31 and give you an outlook on their season. Starting from the worst, we’ll be giving you the reasons why we ranked each team where we did.

Check out the other parts to this series:

#31. Colorado Avalanche , #30. Vegas Golden Knights, #29. Vancouver Canucks, #28. Detroit Red Wings, #27. New Jersey Devils, #26. Arizona Coyotes, #25. Buffalo Sabres#24. Winnipeg Jets#23. New York Islanders, #22. Florida Panthers, #21. Los Angeles Kings, #20. Carolina Hurricanes, #19. Philadelphia Flyers, #18. New York Rangers, #17. Calgary Flames, #16. Boston Bruins

2016-17 Recap

Record: 46-29-7 (99 points) 3rd in Central Division (10th overall)
GPG: 2.84 (12th)
GAPG: 2.63 (12th)
PP%: 21.8% (8th)
PK%: 84.8% (3rd)
Corsi For %: 49.5 (20th)

Like many teams that make a coaching change midseason, the Blues played like two different teams last season. After starting the year with a 24-21-5 record, St. Louis fired head coach Ken Hitchcock, who had been with the team since 2011. To replace him, they promoted assistant coach and former Minnesota Wild head coach Mike Yeo. With the coaching change, the Blues went on the finish the year on a 22-8-2 tear. After knocking out the Wild in the first round, the Blues were knocked out by the Predators in 6 games in the second round.

Read more

2017-18 Bench Life NHL Previews: 13. Toronto Maple Leafs

Part 19 of 31 in our NHL previews where Ballantyne, Burgess and I rank each NHL team 1 through 31 and give you an outlook on their season. Each of our previews will be given to you in order of where we collectively power ranked that team.

Check out our other previews:

#31. Colorado Avalanche , #30. Vegas Golden Knights, #29. Vancouver Canucks, #28. Detroit Red Wings, #27. New Jersey Devils, #26. Arizona Coyotes, #25. Buffalo Sabres#24. Winnipeg Jets#23. New York Islanders, #22. Florida Panthers, #21. Los Angeles Kings, #20. Carolina Hurricanes, #19. Philadelphia Flyers, #18. New York Rangers, #17. Calgary Flames, #16. Boston Bruins, #15. Ottawa Senators, #14. San Jose Sharks

2016-17 Recap

Record: 40-27-15 (95 points) 4th in Atlantic (14th)
GPG:
3.05 (5th)
GAPG:
2.85 (22nd)
PP%:
23.8% (2nd)
PK%: 
82.5% (10th)
Corsi For %: 50.1 (14th)

Coming off of a dizzyingly bad 2015-16 season, one that saw the Leafs finish with a league-worst 69 points and Leo Komorov as their only All Star representative, it all paid off when the Leafs locked up the first overall pick in the draft. The selection of Auston Matthews turbo-charged Toronto’s rebuild and the Leafs rocketed up the standings because of revamped young roster. The acquisition of Freddy Andersen in net and contributions from a huge and talented group of rookies went a long way in the Buds jumping up 26 points and grabbing a Wild Card spot.

The Leafs received an unprecedented amount of scoring from their rookies. Matthews led the way with 40 goals, Nylander and Marner each had 61 points, Connor Brown had 17 regular strength goals (Ovechkin finished with 16 last season), Nikita Zaitsev seamlessly stepped into a second pairing role, Hyman showed-off his elite puck-retrieval skills on Matthews’ left wing and Leivo, Soshnikov and Kapanen were very effective in limited action. The future is definitely bright.

Read more

2017-18 Bench Life NHL Previews: 14. San Jose Sharks

Part 18 of 31 in our NHL previews where Burgess, Waind and I rank each NHL team 1 through 31 and give you an outlook on their season. Starting from the worst, we’ll be giving you the reasons why we ranked each team where we did.

Check out the other parts to this series:

#31. Colorado Avalanche , #30. Vegas Golden Knights, #29. Vancouver Canucks, #28. Detroit Red Wings, #27. New Jersey Devils, #26. Arizona Coyotes, #25. Buffalo Sabres#24. Winnipeg Jets#23. New York Islanders, #22. Florida Panthers, #21. Los Angeles Kings, #20. Carolina Hurricanes, #19. Philadelphia Flyers#18. New York Rangers, #17. Calgary Flames, #16. Boston Bruins, #15. Ottawa Senators

2016-17 Recap

Record: 46-29-7 (99 points) 3rd in Pacific Division (11th Overall)
GFPG: 2.67 (19th)
GAPG: 2.45 (5th)
PP%: 16.67 (25th)
PK%: 80.66 (18th)
Corsi For %: 50.5 (10th)

Following a year that culminated with an unexpected Stanley Cup Finals appearance, the Sharks managed to find their way back to the postseason, claiming the third spot in the Pacific division. This standing left them in a first round meeting with the young Edmonton Oilers that proved to be too much to handle, as they were eliminated in six games. The Sharks were carried by the usual suspects in 2016-17, as Brent Burns, Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton provided the offence we’ve come to expect. Starting goalie Martin Jones put up a solid year in his second season as the Sharks starter, finishing 6th in Vezina trophy voting, proving he is a legit, reliable starter moving forward. The Sharks downfall in this season was their secondary scoring production. After a dreadful debut for Mikkel Boedker, and an injury to Tomas Hertl contributing to what was almost a bottom third finish in goals per game for the team.

2017-18 Outlook

List of Key Additions: errrrr, nobody?

List of Key Departures: Patrick Marleau, Mirco Mueller, David Schlemko, Tommy Wingels

The San Jose Sharks obviously didn’t do anything to help themselves this offseason, all you need to do is take a look at their offseason additions and subtractions. This means making the playoffs this season could be one of the more challenging times in a while. If you can believe it, this Sharks franchise has only missed the playoffs twice dating back to 1997. That’s 17 of the last 19 seasons(!!!). The common denominator for that stat? That was the rookie season of Patrick Marleau, who will be suiting up with another team (Toronto) for the first time in his career. The Sharks still have a solid core despite the loss of Marleau and I believe that they’ll be right there in the race for a playoff spot at the end of the season, but it’s going to be tight. Their offence this season comes with a fair amount of questions, so don’t be shocked if they’re on the outside looking in.

X-Factors:

Team MVP – Brent Burns

After a 2015-16 season that included a 75 point outburst, few would’ve believed that Burns could top that unreal production. But the “bearded one” is coming off of a 76 point season, that included a jump from -5 to +19, and we were quickly shown that Burns had another gear. This showing led to Burns being awarded the Norris trophy as best Defenseman in the NHL. Very well deserved for Burns, as this was a season that included him leading all defensemen in goals, points (9th among all skaters) and leading the entire league in shots on goal. Burns’ ability to produce high end offensive numbers as a defenseman is extremely rare and it’s why he’s the go to guy in the Shark tank.

 

brent-burns

Team’s Strength – Seasoned Veterans

The Sharks are certainly not short of experienced players on their roster, which is an asset they can use to put towards success. This is the third oldest roster in the NHL at an average of 29.1 years old (younger than just Detroit and Ottawa) and the main pieces of this group have been together for a long time. The Sharks have been a perennial playoff team recently, and those appearances have included a number of disappointing playoff exits, but also a Western Conference Championship in 2015-16 too. The likes of Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic – who has the best nickname in the league by the way, “Pickles” -and Paul Martin can be relied upon to supply the production they have been for their entire careers and their leadership qualities will be key to this team’s success. While these guys aren’t getting any younger, they each have the ability to uplift the production of their supporting cast on the offensive and defensive ends.

Screen Shot 2017-10-11 at 8.30.28 PM.pngTeam’s Weakness – Goal Scoring

The San Jose Sharks finished 19th in goals for last season, which is simply not good enough for a team with Stanley Cup aspirations. On top of that, they lost Patrick Marleau in free agency to the Maple Leafs. You’re probably thinking “Marleau is old anyways, it doesn’t matter”, but the fact remains, he was one of four guys to score 25+ goals on this team last year (Burns, Pavelski, Couture). The highest scorers after those four guys? Chris Tierney and Melker Karlsson with just 11. Losing 25% of the group that carried this team’s goal scoring and not replacing him is going to be an issue for them. The Sharks have to be banking on Mikkel Boedker to bounce back from his horrendous debut season. Another player that needs to take a step is forward is Tomas Hertl. Hertl missed 33 games last season due to injury and needs to return to his 2015-16 form when he scored 21 goals.

This team’s defense is solid and Martin Jones is a legit high end starter in the NHL, but they’ll need to find a way to score with regularity in order to keep this group’s dwindling Cup hopes alive.

Rookies/Farm –

No Sharks rookies have cracked the roster for this season, as the youth movement on the current roster is led by a pair of sophomores, 22 year-old Kevin Labanc and 21 year-old Timo Meier. Each made their appearances fairly quietly last year, but this year will look to fill the offensive void up front for the Sharks.

As for the draft, the Sharks took Josh Norris 19th overall in the draft this past offseason, and he’ll play for the University Michigan this season. Norris impressed at the NHL Combine before the draft this past summer and it’s clear the Sharks have an impressive athlete in him. He finished first out of all prospects in five of the events at the Combine including the Wingate Bike test, Pro Agility test (left and right), Vertical Jump and Standing Long Jump. The 6’1”, 190lbs Norris is an impressive physical prospect and his 61 points in 61 games last season with the U.S. National Development Program is encouraging. It’ll be interesting to watch his development going forward.

Key Player – Logan Couture

We know that Joe Pavelski can be relied upon to produce offense, because of his six consecutive 60+ point seasons (not including the lockout shortened season), and Joe Thornton is Joe Thornton, but after that there are questions for the Sharks up front. Logan Couture has shown flashes in years past of taking a step towards being a star, like during the 2015-16 Sharks cup run when he led the team in points with 30 in 24 games, but the Sharks need him to produce at a high level for a full season in order to succeed. Couture has displayed some inconsistencies in large part due to his health. His games played in the past four seasons have been all over the map at 73, 52, 82 and 65 due to various injury issues. But over those four seasons, Couture has managed to put up a solid 0.77 points per game in the regular season. Couture is now 28, so he’s likely not going to show anything more than what we’ve already seen of him, but there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. It’s just imperative he stays healthy, because now more than ever the Sharks need his production night in, night out.

couture

Our Rankings

  1. Ballantyne: 15th
  2. Burgess: 16th
  3. Waind: 15th

Although this team has achieved regular season success for many years, they haven’t managed to get over the hump and win a cup with this core, even in the times when they may have been “favoured” to. The Sharks time may be running out. This core has lost a signature piece in Patrick Marleau, and it’ll be interesting to see how this team reacts to that major change. A lot of expectation is still being placed on 38 year-old Joe Thornton after he signed a 1-year $8 million deal in the offseason, but he needs Mikkel Boedker and Tomas Hertl to bounce back and support him as Jumbo Joe can’t do it alone. Burns and Pavelski are incredible talents, and Jones, Vlasic and Couture are solid too, but if this group misses the playoffs…have we seen the end of these Sharks as we know them?

2017-18 Bench Life NHL Previews: 15. Ottawa Senators

Part 17 of 31 in our NHL previews where Ballantyne, Waind and I rank each NHL team 1 through 31 and give you an outlook on their season. Starting from the worst, we’ll be giving you the reasons why we ranked each team where we did.

Check out the other parts to this series:

#31. Colorado Avalanche , #30. Vegas Golden Knights, #29. Vancouver Canucks, #28. Detroit Red Wings, #27. New Jersey Devils, #26. Arizona Coyotes, #25. Buffalo Sabres#24. Winnipeg Jets#23. New York Islanders, #22. Florida Panthers, #21. Los Angeles Kings, #20. Carolina Hurricanes, #19. Philadelphia Flyers, #18. New York Rangers, #17. Calgary Flames, #16. Boston Bruins

2016-17 Recap

Record: 44-28-10 (98 points) 2nd in Atlantic Division (12th overall)
GPG: 2.51 (22nd)
GAPG: 2.56 (10th)
PP%: 17.0% (23rd)
PK%: 79.7% (22nd)
Corsi For %: 48.3 (25th)

The Senators exceeded the expectations of almost everybody last season, despite having Craig Anderson missing about half of the season. When Anderson did play however, he was stellar, leading Ottawa to 25 wins with his 2.28 GAA and .926 SV% in his 40 games last season. Anderson missed time to be with his wife who was diagnosed with cancer last fall. While he was away, the Sens relied heavily on backup Mike Condon, playing 38 games and winning 19 of them. Despite not having a true #1 goalie, the Senators goaltending actually held up well last year, finishing 10th with just 2.56 goals allowed per game.

However, the biggest strength of last year’s Senators team was their captain Erik Karlsson. Putting together a season that would have been more than worthy of a Norris Trophy if not for the play of San Jose’s Brent Burns, Karlsson finished the year with 71 points in 77 games, while adding another 18 points through 19 games in the playoffs.

Read more

2017-18 Bench Life NHL Previews: 16. Boston Bruins

Part 16 of 31 in our NHL previews where Ballantyne, Burgess and I rank each NHL team 1 through 31 and give you an outlook on their season. Each of our previews will be given to you in order of where we collectively power ranked that team.

Check out our other previews:

#31. Colorado Avalanche , #30. Vegas Golden Knights, #29. Vancouver Canucks, #28. Detroit Red Wings, #27. New Jersey Devils, #26. Arizona Coyotes, #25. Buffalo Sabres#24. Winnipeg Jets#23. New York Islanders, #22. Florida Panthers, #21. Los Angeles Kings, #20. Carolina Hurricanes, #19. Philadelphia Flyers, #18. New York Rangers, #17. Calgary Flames

2016-17 Recap

Record: 44-31-7 (95 Points) 3rd in the Atlantic Division (13th Overall)
GPG: 
2.83 (13th)
GAPG:
2.55 (9th)
PP%:
21.7% (7th)
PK%:
85.7% (1st)
Corsi For %: 54.3% (2nd)

Six years after their 2011 Stanley Cup the Boston Bruins were thought to be slowing down. Last season they put those doubts to bed. Backed by yet another solid season from Finnish goalie Tuuka Rask, who is now 30(?!), the Bruins were surprisingly good at keeping the puck out of their net given their shaky blueline. You blink and this guy goes from the fresh-faced teen traded for Andrew Raycroft to an absolute veteran.

At forward, Bergeron put together yet another spectacular season at both ends of the ice and really was the backbone of this playoff team. The Bruins scoring punch was spearheaded by 21 year-old winger David Pastrnak’s 34 goals and super-pest Brad Marchand with his 39 goal, 85 point campaign.

After the team had started off to an uninspiring 26-23-6 record under Claude Julien, they were able to rally to a playoff spot with a 18-8-1 record with interim coach Bruce Cassidy. Despite losing to the eventual conference finalist Ottawa Senators in the first round of the playoffs, last season had many positive notes for a Bruins team in transition.

Read more

« Older Entries