Archive for the ‘2013-14 Team Previews’ Category

Crosby Malkin

Backhand Shelf’s previews for the 2013-14 NHL season are going to work like a choose your own adventure novel, because fans only hear what they want to hear anyway, so we might as well embrace it.

You’ll get the flippant barstool prediction, the push-the-glasses-up-your-nose numbers take, the team is going to be good take, the team is going to be bad take, and then we’ll try to bring it back full circle at the bottom. Let’s get to it.

Click here for the previews you may have missed.

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Added: Rob Scuderi
Subtracted: Jarome Iginla, Tyler Kennedy, Matt Cooke, Brenden Morrow

The Penguins are going to be good

It’s ridiculous that I even have to explain this to you. I should just cut a paste a picture of their roster. They have the World’s Best Hockey player Sidney Crosby, for one. Like, thee actual guy. Not someone “in the conversation,” the universally accepted “best in the world at this sport.” That guy. Last year he played in 36 of the 48 games and lost the scoring title by a few points. He was dominating the league when he left, and uh-oh, he’s healthy this year and had a healthy summer of training. Ohhh, and they also have a guy who’s arguably the second best player in the world in Evgeni Malkin. He’s only won a Calder, a Hart, a Lindsay, an Art Ross, a Conn Smythe and a Stanley Cup. Then they have some fill-in schulbs like James Neal, who has a 40 goal season on his resume, and scored 21 times in 40 games last season.

It’s an embarrassment of riches: Pascal Dupuis scored 20 times in a shortened season last year, and hit 25 the year before. Chris Kunitz might make Team Canada after scoring 22 in 48 games last season (and was coming off two prior 20+ goal seasons). Jussi Jokinen has scored 30 before. Brandon Sutter is a stalwart defensive center who’s scored 20+ in the past. It never ends, even coming from the back-end, where they have one of the best defenseman in the league in Kris Letang (over a point-per-game last year, 38 in 35), and other talents like Paul Martin. Then they’ve solidified the group with tough-to-play dudes like Brooks Orpik and Rob Scuderi, who play in front of Stanley Cup champion Marc-Andre Fleury. You know, the guy people give a hard time to who finished with an above average save percentage last year? (.916 with a 2.39 goals-against). If they don’t win the Cup, it’s been a disappointing year. They’re stacked.

The Penguins are going to be bad

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Foligno Bobrovsky

Backhand Shelf’s previews for the 2013-14 NHL season are going to work like a choose your own adventure novel, because fans only hear what they want to hear anyway, so we might as well embrace it.

You’ll get the flippant barstool prediction, the push-the-glasses-up-your-nose numbers take, the team is going to be good take, the team is going to be bad take, and then we’ll try to bring it back full circle at the bottom. Let’s get to it.

Click here for the previews you may have missed.

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Added: Nathan Horton, Jack Skille
Subtracted: Vinny Prospal

The Blue Jackets are going to be good

The Blue Jackets have finally arrived. Well actually, they arrived last season and were badly hurt by the shortened season. They ended the year on a tear, winning 11 of their last 14 games, and going 19-5-3 in their final 27. They missed playoffs by a mere point, but there’s good news: it’s a new year, and they’ve taken that same roster and added Nathan Horton, a guy who’s won a Stanley Cup, been to two finals, and can hit, fight and score. Marian Gaborik might be the most electric player to ever wear a Blue Jackets jersey, and he’s been tearing it up in pre-season. Mark Letestu is coming off a career year. And, they’re no longer a one-man show as they were in the Rick Nash days. They have pure skill in big man Artem Anisimov, they have grindy skill in Brandon Dubinsky and RJ Umberger, and hell, they finally have young skill too. Boone Jenner could be a huge asset for this team, and Ryan Johansen already is.

Speaking of young assets, the number two overall pick in the 2012 draft behind Nail Yakupov, a one Mr. Ryan Murray, is back from his shoulder surgery and set to jump into the lineup and make an immediate difference. And that’s to compliment the likes of an already rock-solid group with the offensively gifted Jack Johnson, the hard-hitting James Wisniewski, and the underrated Fedor Tyutin.

Oh-and-by-the-way, they have the best goaltender in the entire NHL from last year, Sergei Bobrovsky, who won the Vezina Trophy on the back of his .932(!) save percentage and 2.00(!) goals-against-average. They’ve re-signed the 25-year-old to a two year deal, so they’re likely to be in the top-10 in goals-against-per-game for at least a couple years. This team started to show their true colors last year, and they’ve only gotten better.

The Blue Jackets are going to be bad

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San Jose win

Backhand Shelf’s previews for the 2013-14 NHL season are going to work like a choose your own adventure novel, because fans only hear what they want to hear anyway, so we might as well embrace it.

You’ll get the flippant barstool prediction, the push-the-glasses-up-your-nose numbers take, the team is going to be good take, the team is going to be bad take, and then we’ll try to bring it back full circle at the bottom. Let’s get to it.

Click here for the previews you may have missed.

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Added: Tyler Kennedy, Scott Hannan
Subtracted: Thomas Greiss, T.J. Galiardi

The Sharks are going to be good

The Sharks are an absolute top-to-bottom force. They’ve got the type of elite talent teams drool over in Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau (both in the league’s top-30 in points-per-game over the past three seasons). And hell, it goes way further than that with the Sharks these days: Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski are among the league’s best at what they do too. Brent Burns is a monster on the forecheck who can chip in offensively, and Martin Havlat still has some of the niftiest hands in the league. The best part is, their depth forwards are legitimately great when compared to other teams. They’ve added Tyler Kennedy from the Penguins, and they still have one of the more underrated players in the league in Raffi Torres (people forget because of his suspension history that he can actually play).

Dan Boyle is a great puck-mover on the back-end who’s still one of the league’s most prolific offensive defenseman, Brad Stuart is skilled and reliable, and they have one of the most exciting new d-pairs in the league in Canadian Olympic camp invitee Marc-Edouard Vlasic and young Justin Braun. Put them all in front of elite talent and Cup winner Antti Niemi, and it’s not unreasonable to think this is one of, if not the best team in the West.

The Sharks are going to be bad

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St. Louis Blues

Backhand Shelf’s previews for the 2013-14 NHL season are going to work like a choose your own adventure novel, because fans only hear what they want to hear anyway, so we might as well embrace it.

You’ll get the flippant barstool prediction, the push-the-glasses-up-your-nose numbers take, the team is going to be good take, the team is going to be bad take, and then we’ll try to bring it back full circle at the bottom. Let’s get to it.

Click here for the previews you may have missed.

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Added: Derek Roy, Magnus Pajaarvi, Maxim Lapierre
Subtracted: David Perron, Kris Russell, Andy McDonald

The Blues are going to be good

I don’t know how the defense corps is on your favourite team, but unless that team is Chicago, I doubt it’s as good as Bouwmeester, Pietrangelo, Shattenkirk, Jackman, Leopold and Polak. And even then, I’m not sure.  The Blues have the perfect style group for today’s NHL – puck-movers who can skate that also happen to be strong enough to play in their own end. And, they’ll be so good at breaking the puck out, that’ll mean a lot more opportunities for their group of forwards, which is one of the deeper groups around themselves.

Playing the Blues isn’t going to be easy. One of their best offensive players, David Backes, is an absolute beast. As is another scorer, TJ Oshie. As is another scorer, Chris Stewart. That’s not fun to play. Their depth is pretty ridiculous – guys like Alex Steen, Patrik Berglund, and Derek Roy can help put pucks in nets to go with elite-offensive talent Vladimir Tarasenko (and Jaden Schwartz ain’t no slouch either). They’re just quality thoughout the whole lineup, even as you get down to names like Sobotka and new additions Paajarvi and Morrow.

All of that talent stacks up in front of one of the best goaltending duos in the NHL in Jaroslav Halak And Brian Elliot. This team is going to win a ton of hockey games.

The Blues are going to be bad

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toews hossa

Backhand Shelf’s previews for the 2013-14 NHL season are going to work like a choose your own adventure novel, because fans only hear what they want to hear anyway, so we might as well embrace it.

You’ll get the flippant barstool prediction, the push-the-glasses-up-your-nose numbers take, the team is going to be good take, the team is going to be bad take, and then we’ll try to bring it back full circle at the bottom. Let’s get to it.

Click here for the previews you may have missed.

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Added: Nikolai Khabibulin
Subtracted: Dave Bolland, Michael Frolik, Viktor Stalberg, Ray Emery

The Blackhawks are going to be good

Yeah? You’re going to make me do this, eh? Oooookey doke, here we go *writes 2000 word essay*

There’s “top-end talent,” like every team has, then there’s Top End Talent. Winnipeg’s “top-end” forwards, as a random example, do not include names like Jonathan Toews, who is potentially the best all-around hockey player in the world (at the very least in the top three). Patrick Kane might have the best hands in hockey. Marian Hossa might be one of the toughest players to defend in the game (all he can do is shoot hard, pass, protect the puck and use x-ray vision, though). And ho-hum Patrick Sharp is a two-time 30 goal-scoring all-star. That’s top-end.

They have young players like 20-year-old Brandon Saad, who was a Calder Trophy candidate and could center Sharp and Hossa this year. That’s if the job doesn’t go to 22-year-old Brandon Pirri, who led the American League in scoring last year with 75 points in 76 games. Hell, maybe they’ll give that spot to 23-year-old Marcus Kruger who’s developed nicely.

They’ve re-signed the beast Bryan Bickell who was a huge part of their cup run. They’ve got more grit in a guy like Andrew Shaw, who was also a huge part of their Cup run. And we’re this far down the lineup, and a proven veteran like Michal Handzus exists. And this is at forward.

They might have the best d-corps in the league, too. Duncan Keith, Olympian and all-star. Brent Seabrook, Olympian and all-star. Hjalmarsson is an underrated star they just extended. Leddy’s a dynamite young defenseman. Then you have rock-solid vets like Oduya and Roszival. C’mon now.

In net, you have some bum who pitched a .926 save percentage last season, but totally choked in playoffs, posting a .932. He damn near won the Conn Smythe along with the Stanley Cup.

So you tell me. Might they make playoffs? Mayyyybe.

The Blackhawks are going to be bad

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Stamkos Hedman 2

Backhand Shelf’s previews for the 2013-14 NHL season are going to work like a choose your own adventure novel, because fans only hear what they want to hear anyway, so we might as well embrace it.

You’ll get the flippant barstool prediction, the push-the-glasses-up-your-nose numbers take, the team is going to be good take, the team is going to be bad take, and then we’ll try to bring it back full circle at the bottom. Let’s get to it.

Click here for the previews you may have missed.

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Added: Valtteri Filppula, Jonathan Drouin
Subtracted: Vinny Lecavalier, Mathieu Garon, Brendan Mikkelson, Benoit Pouilot

The Lightning are going to be good

The Lightning are poised to be seriously good. This is home to last year’s Art Ross winner (his second title) in Martin St. Louis, and the man doesn’t age. This is home to the NHL’s undisputed best goal scorer in Steven Stamkos (since 2010-11 he’s scored 32 times – a great season’s worth – more than Ovechkin, so it’s not even a debate). Ryan Malone is a 20-goal scoring power forward who’s healthy again, new additional Valtteri Filppula had 66 points in his last full season, and Teddy Purcell is probably the most underrated offensive player in the NHL. In the past three seasons (one shortened), he’s racked up 152 points, which gives him a higher point-per-game average than guys like Stastny, Mike Richards, Wheeler, Heatley, Skinner, Alfredsson and other all-stars. The points is, this team has the horses on offense. AND they’re adding the most dynamic offensive talent from the last draft in Jonathan Drouin to the mix, and he could win the Calder. Their D-corps is stacked – Victor Hedman is a stud, Matt Carle is too, and guys like Salo, Ohlund and Brewer aren’t exactly duds. The best part is, they have two gigantic goaltenders dying for the chance to break out as starters (they’ve been buried in the past, but they’re on the verge), meaning they’re all-but guaranteed that at least one of them gives them quality goaltending. They have all the pieces.

The Lightning are going to be bad

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Eric Staal Alex Semin

Backhand Shelf’s previews for the 2013-14 NHL season are going to work like a choose your own adventure novel, because fans only hear what they want to hear anyway, so we might as well embrace it.

You’ll get the flippant barstool prediction, the push-the-glasses-up-your-nose numbers take, the team is going to be good take, the team is going to be bad take, and then we’ll try to bring it back full circle at the bottom. Let’s get to it.

Click here for the previews you may have missed.

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Key additions: Andrej Sekera, Anton Khudobin, Mike Komisarek, Nathan Gerbe
Key subtractions: Joe Corvo, Dan Ellis, Jaime McBain, Chad LaRose

The Hurricanes are going to be good

Carolina is going to kill it this year. They boast one of the best top-sixes in the league, sprinkled with the right amount of grit and flash. The Staals are absolute beasts to play against, both owning a rare mix of size and skill. Jeff Skinner is a 21-year-old who already has a 30-goal season on his resume, and is primed to blow past that. Alexander Semin is one of the most pure offensive talents in the league (his 40 goal year was okay) – so much so that when he was in Washington people called him “the most talented player on the team.” Y’know, on a team with Ovechkin. And Tuomo Ruutu has averaged 20 goals a year over his past four full seasons. They’ve even got a cupboard full of bright young stars that could step in and surprise (Lindholm, Rask, Dalpe). That’s all in front of one of the best goaltenders in the league in Cam Ward, a former Cup and Conn Smythe winner who’s going to have a chip on his shoulder in an Olympic year. Their D is solid and reliable with guys like Gleason and Sekera, and even sports a bright young star in Justin Faulk (with Ryan Murphy not too far away either). This team is going to be a beast to play.

The Hurricanes are going to be bad

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