One of the biggest stories in the offseason was the trade that sent Jaroslav Halak to St. Louis, but that obviously wasn’t it for offseason action. Players like Mike Modano and Simon Gagne, who had played their entire NHL careers with the same franchises, also found themselves on new teams when the puck dropped this season. They had their homecoming games last week. Sergei Gonchar, who spent the last five seasons with the Penguins, returned to Pittsburgh last night for the first time as a member of the Ottawa Senators. Several other players changed jerseys this offseason, but now that’s all in the past. During the summer NHL franchises make adjustments to their teams in an attempt to improve them. During the season the world discovers whether or not these adjustments pay off.
Today we’re going to take a look at some of the higher profile players to suit up for new teams this year and see how they’re doing.
It still feels weird seeing Modano without some sort of Star on his chest. Modano’s played in all five Red Wings games this season and he’s averaging 14:19 in ice time, which is almost identical to his ice time last season. He scored five minutes into his first game in a Red Wings jersey, but that was his only goal of the season thus far. Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said he was most impressed with Modano’s most recent game as a Wing.
“I said to him after the game, his third period was the best period he’s played with the Red Wings,” Babcock said. “He was competitive, he got after it. He should have won the game in overtime twice.”
The Lightning are off to a good start this season, but Gagne still has not recorded a point for his new team. He’s averaging over 18 minutes of ice time each game, but hasn’t hit the back of the net yet. His responsibilities and possibilities should increase with the recent injury to Vincent Lecavalier as Gagne has been tasked with taking Lecavalier’s spot on the team’s number one power play.
Sergei Gonchar did not have a pleasurable trip back to Pittsburgh yesterday. Despite recording an assist in the game, the veteran defenseman was on the ice for many of the Penguins’ five goals. He only has two assists so far this year, but Gonchar is also a notorious slow starter. The struggling Senators can only hope his play picks up soon.
The Altanta Thrashers have shifted Byfuglien back to defense, but that hasn’t hurt his scoring touch very much. Byfuglien scored the game winning goal against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night. He currently has three points in five games for the Thrashers.
Kris Versteeg was also shipped away from the Hawks during the summer. His new team, the Maple Leafs, are off to one of their best starts in recent memory and Versteeg seems to be enjoying his time in Toronto. He has a goal and an assist on the year and has been effective on the team’s first line alongside Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak. He wasn’t very happy following the Leafs first loss of the season.
“It’s crappy… We controlled the game the whole way, it wasn’t even close.”
That kind of passion has been missing from Leafs Nation for a while now.
Halak’s play in Montreal was one of the main stories of the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Now with St. Louis, the hockey world wants to know if he can do it again. It looks like so far, so good right now. Halak has a 2-1 record this season and has been pretty solid for the Blues who have only lost once in regulation thus far.
Martin played only 22 games with the New Jersey Devils last season due to a broken forearm. He signed with the Penguins in the offseason as the team attempted to replace the offense lost by Sergei Gonchar’s departure. So far Martin has a goal and six assists with the Penguins, which ties him for second on the team in scoring.
If you predicted that Clarke MacArthur would be one of the hottest players at this point in the season when he signed with the Leafs in the summer, you probably also made a lot of money with the long shot stock picks you chose. MacArthur already has five goals and five assists this season and his line with Nikolai Kulemin and Mikhail Grabovski has been impressive for Toronto.
The Devils signed Anton Volchenkov to bolster their defense this season. Unfortunately, he’s only played in two games for the team due to injury. Volchenkov was hit in the face with a hard shot from Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom and he suffered a broken nose and a stiff neck as a result. He remains on the shelf.
After having his rights traded twice during the offseason, Dan Hamhuis signed with the Vancouver Canucks on July 1st. Hamhuis has played in all five Canucks games this season, but is doubtful for tonight’s game against Minnesota due to a foot injury he sustained while blocking a shot. Last week he missed practice with a sore groin, so the Canucks have to be hoping he’ll manage to stay healthy all year. He has typically been a very durable defender, playing between 78 and 82 games in each of his six previous NHL seasons.
After a disappointing stint with the Pittsburgh Penguins during the end of last season, Ponikarovsky is looking for a fresh start with the Los Angeles Kings. So far he only has one assist in four games with the Kings this year, playing alongside Wayne Simmonds and Michal Handzus. The line hasn’t quite clicked yet, but it’s still early.
Frolov is currently tied for second in scoring on the Rangers with three points (1 goal, 2 assists.) The Rangers lack of offense is due to some pretty significant injuries, so Frolov will be expected to step up and score some of the goals that would usually be scored by the injured Marian Gaborik and Chris Drury. Due to the injuries, Frolov has been moved to a line with Derek Stepan and another player on a new team this season: Ruslan Fedotenko.
Of course, several other players are suiting up in new cities thus far. Who would you say has had the greatest success in with his new team? Who has been the biggest disappointment so far?