Archive for December 2013

Saturday Night Special

Flames burn up Penguins

It was a gritty affair between the Flames and Penguins
Calgary Flames (7) vs Pittsburgh Penguins (5)......
The Flames came into Pittsburgh, losers of two of their first three games of the season, most recently a 4-0 blanking at the hands of the LA Kings. Calgary came out firing, scoring twice in a span of 1:53, both goals by Dustin Byfuglien, his 2nd and 3rd of this young season. Patrick Marleau (2nd) scored just four seconds later to cut the lead to one. Later in the period with the score at 3-1 Calgary, the Penguins would strike three straight times to close the first on goals by Patrick Kane (3rd) and the ageless Teemu Selanne (1st,2nd) putting Pittsburgh up by one with just over a minute and a half remaining.
Patrick Marleau scored his second of the game (3rd) just thirty-six seconds in to put the Pens up by two on a gorgeous cross-crease pass by Patrick Kane. Now it was the Flames turn to score two to close a period as this two squads traded offensive attacks, goals by Andrew Ference (2nd) and Travis Hamonic (1st) five minutes apart would pull the Flame even with Pittsburgh.
Calgary's Jamie Benn (2nd) would score on a back-hand shot assisted by Byfuglien (Dustin's 4th point of the night) at 7:14 of the third to take a one goal lead. The Pens tried to get the equalizer and pulled out all the stops as they yanked goalie Daniel Larsson for the extra attacker, it however back-fired as Adam Hall whalloped Kevin Shattenkirk with an open ice hit and Flames Matt Greene picked up the loose puck and fed it up to a streaking Mike Richards who was on a two on one with young Sean Couturier, Richards dropped the puck back for Couturier and he put it in the gapping six by four for the insurance marker with just forty seconds remaining.
Rookie tender Daniel Larsson was seeing his first action of the season and stopped 24 of 30 Flames shots. Cam Ward would make 28 saves for his second win of the season.
1 - Andrew Ference (Cal)..... 2 goals, +1, 2 shots, 4 hits.
2 - Dustin Byfuglien (Cal).... 2 goals, 2 assists, 5 shots
3 - Patrick Marleau (Pit)...... 2 goals, 5 shots, 24:58 TOI
Steven Stamkos (Cal)..... 4 assists, 4 shots.
Pittsburgh's top defensive unit of Dan Hamhuis and Jack Johnson who went -4 on the night.

The Penguins will hope to get back on track as they host the Dallas Stars in their next game, which on paper would look like a sure win for the Pens, but if we've learned anything in the WCHL, there are no sure things. Dallas is 0-4 to start the season and will be looking for any spark to rekindle their drive to get back in the win column. David Clarkson leads the struggling Stars with nine points in four games.
Calgary is right back at it Sunday night as they are home to host the Wild of Minnesota. The Wild won their only other road game, their season 18 opener versus the Winnipeg Jets 4-2. The Wild are led by center Tyler Bozak who has four gaols and nine points in four games.

Reporting for the WCHL Network this has been........
Peter Puck

Happy New Years from the WCHL reporters office and until next weekend," Keep your head up and your stick on the ice."

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Saturday Night Special

Avs dump Rangers in high scoring affair

The Avalanche celebrate one of their eight goals on the night.
Colorado Avalanche (8) vs New York Rangers (5).........
David Krejci scored a natural hat trick for the Avs as they embarrassed the Season 17 Eastern Conference Champs by the tune of 8-5, thanks in large part to a six goal first.
The Rangers got on the board first with a shorthanded goal just 1:11 into the game on a goal by Gabriel Landeskog (2nd of season). Then cue the Krejci show, as he scored his first three of the season in just over one minute (1:02), his third on the powerplay as Dennis Seidenberg was serving a major misconduct penalty for goaltender Henrik Lundqvist who was subsequently ejected from the game (apparently video of Lundqvist throwing his goal stick in the vicinity of referee Dan O'Haloran was seized by WCHL Office officials.) . It was not known at press time if the ejection would carry any further suspension. The six goals in the first by Colorado was scored in a span of 9:05. The Rangers closed out the scoring in the wild first with two goals in sixteen seconds, first Shane Doan (2nd) and then Tomas Fleischmann (1st).
Fleischmann would score the lone goal in the second with the extra skater with the Avs hat trick man serving a slashing minor. The Avs outshot the Rangers 20-17 through two periods of play.
Colorado would widen their lead to four goals in the third on consecutive goals by Filip Kuba (1st) and Max Pacioretty (3rd). Kimmo Timonen got one back for New York with just seven seconds remaining in the game, his goal was another shorty for the Rangers.
Craig Anderson stopped 24 of 29 for his second straight win while Leland Irving made 25 saves on 31 shots in relief of Lundqvist.
The Games 3 Stars:
1. David Krejci (Col).......... 3 goals, 2 assists, +2, 5 shots
2. Martin St. Louis (Col).... 1 goal, 3 assists, +2, 4 shots
3 - Filip Kuba (Col)............ 1 goal, 2 assists, +1, 2 shots
Honorable Mention:
Kimmo Timonen (NYR)...... 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 shots
Game's Goat:
Josh Bailey (NYR)...... 0 pts, -4, 2 PIM

The Rangers will hope to get back on track as they visit Landover Maryland to face the Capitals on Monday night, which is the last game before the Christmas break. Washington has yet to lose in regulation and are 1-0-1, they are led by Mike Ribeiro (2-4-6), while Mike Smith has both of Washington's wins thus far in the season.
Colorado will play host to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night at the Pepsi Center in Denver. Toronto is 2-0 and Rich Peverley is the leading scorer (1-5-6) while Jonas Hiller is unbeaten in both his first two starts.

Reporting for The WCHL Network this has been.......
Peter Puck

The Offices of The WCHL Network and all of their employees and families would like to wish everyone a Very Merry Christmas.
Until next week, "Keep your stick on the ice."

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A year to look forward to

Season 18: A look from Lawson
Calgary Flames General Manager Lawson Cham has done an extensive look at all 30 WCHL teams and is set to determine who is -and who isn't- a likely playoff candidate for Season 18 of the Western Canadian Hockey League.

Who will come out on top of the pile this season? Time will tell, but Lawson Cham has his opinions.

Season 18 is here. After Logan Couture's over-time goal against the New York Rangers in game 7 of Season 17's WCHL Cup finals, a flurry of off-season activity, and a handful of meaningless pre-season games, we are finally here. Who will win it all this year? Will Anaheim repeat, or will the Rangers continue their quest in earning 'dynasty' status and win for the 3rd time in 4 years? Here's the Season 18 preview:


Anaheim Ducks

Last season: 127 points (1st)

Key additions: Jake Gardiner, Marty Reasoner
Key losses: Milan Lucic

A rival scout's take:

The reigning champion is the team that everyone will be gunning for. The Season 18 Ducks look almost identical to the Season 17 Ducks, so what's not to love? They had to deal Lucic due to cap reasons, but got a more than generous return for him. Top to bottom though, they're still one of the deepest teams in the league. It's very tough to find a single weakest on the entire team. They play offense, they play defense, and they'll hit when they need to hit, and Tuukka Rask is quietly establishing himself as one of the premier goalies in the league. It'll be interesting though to see what they do with Mikkel Boedker, can't imagine he'd be all that happy with being kept on the farm for another season. 



 Can the Ducks repeat? Lately, it hasn't been much of a challenge to win back-to-back titles in the WCHL.

New York Rangers

Last season: 119 points (4th)
Key additions: Mike Santorelli, Steve Sullivan, Sami Salo
Key losses: Carl Gunnarsson, Colin White

A rival scout's take:

They're very clearly built from the back-end out. Lundqvist is easily the best goalie in the league this season and that defense is going to make it tough for opposing teams to even direct shots on net. Cam Fowler will have a big bounce-back season, you heard it hear first. They can't really score as a team, which was also a slight knock on them last year, but with that back-end, they just need to score enough to win 1-0, 2-1, 3-2. They have to ask themselves if that's sustainable though, because if Lundqvist gets hurt (he's super-human, so he probably won't), they go from being an elite team to an above average team.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Last season: 124 points (2nd)

Key additions: none
Key losses: none

A rival scout's take:

Crosby-Kane-Marleau is just unfair. I would actually rate their offense a tick above Anaheim's, but give Anaheim the edge on D. The Pens will score a ton; I expect them to lead the league in goals scored. If they get any sort of goaltending from Fleury, they'll cruise through the regular season like they usually do. The playoffs is a different animal though so they'll need to find a way to score on Lundqvist. If I were Voynov, I'd be pretty pissed. They just signed him for $4+ million and it looks like he'll start on the farm. Looks like vodka sales will see a huge spike in Wilkes-Barre.

Colorado Avalanche

Last season: 98 points (10th)

Key additions: Dustin Penner, Martin St. Louis, Marian Hossa
Key losses: Paul Gaustad, Zack Smith, Blake Comeau, Troy Brouwer, Ilya Bryzgalov

A rival scout's take:

They stole St. Louis and Hossa from Chicago and signed one of the most under-rated forwards in UFA in Dustin Penner, further strengthening that offense. They're right up there with Anaheim and Pittsburgh as one of the best offenses in the league, but the difference between Colorado and the other 2 is that Colorado, at least in my opinion, is lacking a sniper. I don't think Hossa will score as often as they'd like him to. Pacioretty is good, but he's still transforming into a star, maybe this will be the year that he scores 30-40. They had a bit of an off-year last year finishing 6th in the West, but I expect them to finish as one of the top 2 seeds in the West, if not winning it. I have no idea how they did it but Filip Kuba looks reenergized


Calgary Flames

Last season: 94 points (13th)

Key additions: Brad Richardson, Scottie Upshall, Daniel Alfredsson, Matt Greene, Josh Harding
Key losses: Kris Versteeg, Ryan Whitney Nate Thompson, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Martin Biron

A rival scout's take:

They've added quite a bit to the backend. Claude Julien is known for his defensive-minded systems, so this summer they went out and got Matt Greene, which is I think a very underrated pickup for them. Up front, they've improved a little bit. Alfredsson was a good pickup, as were some of the other veteran depth guys. The biggest question mark is in goal. Can Cam Ward do it? He's still very good, but he's no longer viewed as an elite goalie and he looks unmotivated at times. Seeing them go out and pick up Harding can be read in two ways: they either want to bring in a veteran goalie to challenge Ward, or they see Harding as the guy to take over if Ward were to falter this season.

New York Islanders

Last season: 87 points (19th)

Key additions: none
Key losses: Corey Perry

A rival scout's take:

They were awful last year and they subtracted Corey Perry. Why should Isles fans be optimistic? Because they have the best group of 2-way defensemen I have ever seen. They're still very strong up front and Carey Price will be better this year. They're definitely a force to be reckoned with even in the East, but their depth is a huge concern. They're so tight against the cap that they can't afford to ice anybody for their bottom 6. This means their top-6 will be worked super-heavily, or opposing teams will essentially be playing an AHL team every time their 3rd and 4th lines roll out.
It's about time the Islanders show some grit and determination to go along with their skill and finesse. Dealing Corey Perry likely wasn't a good start.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Last season: 99 points (9th)
Key additions: Jonas Hiller, Zack Smith, Vinny Prospal, Tomas Vanek, Jan Hejda, Paul Martin, Andrei Markov, Mark Stuart, Dan Ellis, Jerred Smithson
Key losses: Ondrej Pavelec, Andrew Cogliano, Jarome Iginla, Gabriel Bourque, Benoit Pouliot, Mikael Samuelsson, Jay Harrison

A rival scout's take:

They made a name for themselves this off-season due to their outspoken GM who was by far the busiest in the league. Half the team and their mothers got traded, but the new look Leafs are definitely stronger (at least on paper) than they were last year. A lot of people will point to Hiller and say that was their best move, but for me, they over-paid for a slight upgrade over what they already had, which is a 1A goalie. You can make the argument that Hiller is better than Pavelec, and he certainly is as of right now, but can you honestly say that Pavelec was what was separating them from being in the group above? If they are successful this year, it'll be largely due to the pickups of Jan Hejda, Paul Martin, Vinny Prospal and Tomas Vanek. 4 professional, veteran guys who won't let the fact that their GM is the Rob Ford of the WCHL affect the team's play. I had Martin on my list as the best available UFA defenseman, and Vanek gives them someone to play alongside Mikko Koivu and Chris Kunitz. The Leafs have improved significantly, they'll be one of the more interesting teams to watch this season.

Philadelphia Flyers

Last season: 98 points (11th)
Key additions: none
Key losses: Scott Hartnell

The Flyers have been, and remain the grittiest, hardest hitting team in the league. Between Corey Crawford, one of the best defense corps in the league, and their savvy group of two-way forwards, they'll grind the shit out of your team for 60 minutes. They play a similar style to the Rangers, but like New York, their biggest question mark is where will the secondary scoring come from. That's the piece that's separating them and the top 4 teams on this list in my opinion.

Nashville Predators

Last season: 123 points (3rd)
Key additions: Mikael Backlund, Sheldon Souray, Hal Gill
Key losses: Vinny Prospal, Daniel Alfredsson, Jordie Benn

A rival scout's take:
They shocked everybody last season by outperforming the fuck out of expectations and emerged as a cup contender. I don't expect them to come close to last season, but they proved me wrong last year. On a side note, halfway through last season, I got a message from their dirtbag GM Marco Castillo asking me if his team's strong play was real. I guess he didn't either. This season, they should still make the playoffs, but Jonathan Quick hasn't looked as 'quick' (pun intended) as he did in prior years, and he was a big reason for their success last year. I like the Gill and Souray pickups for them, good veteran guys who are responsible in their own end. They 'll see a decrease in secondary scoring without Alfredsson and Prospal, but if they get a full season of Gaborik, it should off-set some of that; and that's a big 'if'.

Carolina Hurricanes

Last season: 102 points (7th)
Key additions: Milan Lucic, Jarome Iginla, Luca Sbisa, Raphael Diaz
Key losses: Shawn Horcoff, Dustin Penner, Jay Bouwmeester, Kris Russell

A rival scout's take:
They've very deep up front, and very thin on defense. It was puzzling why they dealt Bouwmeester, because now they're left with Erik Johnson and Cody Franson as their top pairing. There are bottom-feeder teams with a better group of defensemen than Carolina has. Aside from their strong group of forwards, they also have one of the best (rated) goalie in the league in Jimmy Howard. On top of that, they play in the weakest division in the league, so they're almost guaranteed a playoff spot unless Mad Mike trades half the team away for Jon Matsumoto.


Washington Capitals

Last season: 95 points (12th)
Key additions: Brent Burns, Francis Bouillon, Mike Komisarek, Kris Russell
Key losses: Vincent Lecavalier, Mike Weaver, Nick Schultz, Dan Ellis, Jake Gardiner

A rival scout's take:
'Will Acton-gate' is one of the strangest controversies surrounding one of the most irrelevant players, and overshadowed what was an interesting off-season for the Caps. Brent Burns was a good pickup, and it'll be interesting to see where he lines up to start the season. My guess is as a 2nd line right-winger because they have a lot of depth on defense. They're a very well rounded team, but there isn't an area that they excel in. Mike Smith has a new contract, and they'll need him to be near mistake-free because the Eastern conference has so many great teams. If they were in the West, I'd immediately rank them 2 seeds higher.
Can Washington go from a playoff team to a cup contender?

San Jose Sharks

Last season: 107 points (5th)

Key additions: Alex Steen, Gabriel Bourque
Key losses: Eric Staal, Matt Frattin, Nikolai Kulemin, Andrei Markov

A rival scout's take:
And now the team that's been hurt the most by the salary cap. The Sharks had to off-load Eric Staal and Nikolai Kulemin in trades because of their lack of cap space. This is on top of already losing Markov because they couldn't afford to bring him back. They did well getting Steen, an emerging all-star back. They're no longer the Sharks of the past, but they still have Toews, Chara, and Rinne, three of the hardest competitors in the league. They have to hope Seguin and Skinner step up and break-out if they want to have a shot at winning the cup.

Ottawa Senators

Last season: 92 points (14th)
Key additions: Corey Perry, Ryan Whitney, Mark Eaton
Key losses: Ryan Malone, Paul Martin

Corey Perry was a huge addition up front. He's the franchise forward that Ottawa's never really had. They'll score more goals this year with him, but losing Paul Martin will hurt them a lot. They're now left without a true shut-down guy who'll give them the tough minutes. I know they shopped around for a defenseman in the off-season, but Ryan Whitney was the best they could do. I think they need to upgrade on defense if they want to keep up with the Pittsburghs and the Carolinas because while Ottawa's offense is good, they won't be able to outscore those teams. Corey Schneider has looked dynamic though in the pre-season, but how many saves will he need to make a night to win?

Edmonton Oilers

Last season: 101 points (8th)

Key additions: Dan Cleary, Mike Weaver, Ilya Bryzgalov
Key losses: David Jones, Ron Hainsey, Tomas Vokoun

A rival scout's take:
The Oilers also outperformed expectations last season, finishing 8th in the WCHL and advancing to the Western finals before losing to the eventual champs. They're like the Washington of the West, very well-rounded team, but no one signature aspect of their game. I'm excited about Alex Chiasson, I think he'll be very good in a few years and he might even make the team to start the season. They're not a team that'll be very active in trades, so what they have right now will most likely be what they're going with throughout the season. Based on what they have right now, I don't think they're better than Anaheim, Colorado, or even Calgary .

Minnesota Wild

Last season: 105 points (6th)

Key additions: Andrew Cogliano, Blake Comeau, Scott Hartnell, Jay Bouwmeester
Key losses: Tuomo Ruutu, Justin Williams, Shane O'Brien

A rival scout's take:
They gave up a ton of youth to get Bouwmeester and Cogliano to try to build on a very successful last season, but I'm not sure they'll get the effect they're hoping for. Bouwmeester was a good add, and will strengthen their defense, but Cogliano is a fringe 2nd liner at best. They'll be challenged to score, even with Cogliano and Hartnell, but Antti Niemi is so good that he'll be able to steal a game or two for them, and that might be enough in the West to make them relevant.

St. Louis Blues

Last season: 92 points (15th)
Key additions: Alex Burrows, Simon Gagne
Key losses: Ryan Smyth, Francis Bouillon

A rival scout's take:
I liked what they did in the off-season. Burrows is a very defensively-responsible two-way forward who can score a little bit; a perfect match for Ales Hemsky (passer, no defense). Simon Gagne, if he can stay healthy, is still a very good playmaker, I'm surprised there wasn't more interest in him. If Kopecky, Setoguchi, and Zajac play well, I think they might surprise some people. Andrej Sekera has looked very good in the pre-season, maybe this is the season where he puts everything together.
Will there be reason to celebrate in St. Louis this season?

Los Angeles Kings

Last season: 88 points (17th)

Key additions: Brad Stuart
Key losses: Mark Fistric
A rival scout's take:
The only real change they made was adding Brad Stuart and subtracting Mark Fistric. That's a net win for sure. Malkin-Neal-Parenteau is a very underrated line, and their lineup is actually very solid, but they're tight against the cap even with Matt Carle unsigned at the moment. Bobrovsky will need to be very good again if they want to go past the first round of the playoffs. I would label them as another team that could surprise, especially if their first line connects.

Florida Panthers

Last season: 86 points (20th)
Key additions: Chris Higgins, Benoit Pouliot, Mikael Samuelsson, Ron Hainsey
Key losses: Tomas Vanek, Mark Stuart, Sergei Kostitsyn

A rival scout's take:
There are enough pieces on the Panthers to put them in the playoff race at the very least. I think they could've gotten more for Vanek, but cap flexibility is an undervalued thing in this league, so they made out probably even. Their first line of Ovechkin-Wheeler-Carter is still elite, and they picked up a few solid veterans in trades and free agency which makes a huge difference because they're deeper than they were last year. After Orpik, Hainsey, and Myers, I'm not sure about their defense. At this stage of his career, I would also label Nabokov as a question mark for this time. If he can get hot, I'd bet Florida makes the playoffs, if not, they'll finish right around where they did last season.

New Jersey Devils

Last season: 78 points (24th)
Key additions: none
Key losses:  Marco Sturm

A rival scout's take:
The Devils were surprising awful last season, finishing 24th in the league. Aside from the retirement of Marco Sturm, nothing's changed for them, so they'll be looking at the same group to propel them back to where they were just a couple of seasons ago – a playoff contender. David Perron looks like he's turned a page in the preseason. I expect him to have a very good year, especially if he can stick with Pavel Datsyuk and Ryan Callahan. Ryan Suter is arguably the best defenseman in the league today, and him and Beauchemin are capable of playing 25+ minutes a night and shut down the opposition's top line. With a little bit of goaltending from Kari Lehtonen, the Devils should be one of the WCHL's most improved teams.

Montreal Canadiens

Last season: 75 points (25th)

Key additions: Eric Staal, Mike Cammalleri, Matt Frattin, Justin Williams
Key losses: Alex Steen, Brent Burns, Nick Grossman, Raphael Diaz

A rival scout's take:
It's very confusing what their plan is. The start of UFA, I thought for sure they were making a run for it, but I've heard rumblings that they're thinking about blowing it up. Whether or not it's true, we'll never know because GM Trent Allen is so unpredictable. They benefited from San Jose's cap troubles and picked up Eric Staal. They gave Cammalleri and Williams identical 5 year, 25 million dollar deals and added a couple of other good bottom 6 guys. I think they can use another shutdown defenseman, but their defense is otherwise pretty solid. Their biggest question mark is in goal. James Reimer is streaky, but he has Viktor Fasth, who is a decent 1B backing him up. Whether or not that duo is good enough remains to be seen, but the talent is there for the Habs to finish in the playoffs.


Buffalo Sabres

Last season: 58 points (28th)
Key additions: Roberto Luongo, Tuomo Ruutu, Clarke MacArthur, Nick Grossman, Johnny Boychuk
Key losses: Nick Spaling, Mikka Kiprusoff, Jan Hejda

A rival scout's take:
The Sabres were the third-worst team in the league last season after being very successful in the previous few. Mikka Kiprusoff's retirement prompted them to go out and pay Luongo big bucks to sign. Maybe a change of scenery will benefit Roberto. They also committed $20 million over the next 4 years to Tuomo Ruutu, overpaid for Johnny Boychuk, and essentially gave away Nick Spaling. After all of that though, they do have enough pieces to challenge for a playoff picture. Joffrey Lupul is a very good goal-scorer and Joe Pavelski is the prototypical two-way player.  Boychuk isn't the answer on defense, but if Luongo can regain his old form, the Sabres will have a chance to make the playoffs.
The Sabres may not get a lot of love from the pundits, but fans still believe in their team.

Winnipeg Jets

Last season: 81 points (22nd)

Key additions: Martin Brodeur, Shawn Horcoff, David Jones, Guillaume Latendresse, Jay Harrison
Key losses: Nikolai Khabibulin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Todd Bertuzzi, Dennis Wideman

A rival scout's take:
Rumour has it GM Darren Mathieu had to be escorted out of a local Denny's when he found out Ilya Kovalchuk was bolting for the KHL. On top of losing Kovalchuk, the Jets also lost first-pairing defenseman Dennis Wideman to free agency. Mathieu was unable to make a big splash during free-agency , but did improve the team's goaltending situation by bringing in Martin Brodeur. Still, they're average on offense and average on defense. The good news is they're in the Western conference now, so they just might have a chance to sneak into the playoffs.

Columbus Blue Jackets

Last season: 56 points (29th)

Key additions: Nate Thompson, Carl Gunnarsson, Colin White
Key losses: Josh Harding, Matt Hendricks

A rival scout's take:
The Jackets were another Season 17 disappointment, finishing 2nd last in the league. I expect them to be better this year, although I think Varlamov would benefit from having a 1B goalie behind him to push him (see team preview above). Giroux and Spezza are two of the most creative playmakers in the game, but they have nobody to finish their plays in Columbus. They have a good group of defensemen, led by Brent Seabrook, but until they can score or get goaltending, they won't make the playoffs.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Last season: 90 points (16th)

Key additions: Paul Gaustad
Key losses: Sheldon Souray

A rival scout's take:
The GM-less Lightning were only able to add Paul Gaustad, albeit a grinder-extraordinare, in the off-season. Ray Emery looks to have the upper hand in the goalie controversy, but one of Steve Mason or Anders Lindback will be the goalie of the future. Right now, I'd say they have three 1B goalies. I'd say currently, they're below average in most categories, and might be better off selling than competing this season. They are lacking in prospects and future picks, but they have a lot of pieces that will be attractive to opposing GMs. The new GM has a lot of work to do ahead.

Boston Bruins

Last season: 89 points (17th)

Key additions: Vincent Lecavalier, Mark Fayne
Key losses: Clarke MacArthur

A rival scout's take:
I think Lecavalier still has a lot to offer as a player, but $8 million a year is really steep for a 33 year old. With that said though, I think they're hoping he can take Nazem Kadri under his wing and better Kadri as a professional. Aside from their first line and Ryan Miller, they don't really have much else.  When Johnny Oduya is your top defenseman, you know you're in trouble. I wonder if they're better off trading Ryan Miller, because how happy will he be if they keep losing.

Vancouver Canucks

Last season: 83 points (21st)

Key additions: Ondrej Pavelec, Nikolai Kulemin, Mark Fistric
Key losses: Jonas Hiller, Dan Boyle, Hal Gill

A rival scout's take:
They actually have a very good offense with the Sedins, Tavares, and Kulemin. Unfortunately for Canucks fans, it stops there. John-Michael Liles is their no.1 defenseman. Yep, that John-Michael Liles. Taking a gamble on Pavelec was a very good move because realistically, the drop-off from Hiller to Pavelec won't make a difference because they weren't planning on winning anyway. Picking up Khabibulin in the waiver draft to backup Pavelec was another smart move. It'll be interesting to see what they do with the Sedins. If they're willing to waive their no-trade, I can see teams taking both of them on in the next season with the cap going up. 
The Canucks may not be a playoff team this year but certainly appear to be on the right path.

Detroit Red Wings

Last season: 79 points (23rd)

Key additions: Matt Hendricks, Tim Gleason, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Dennis Wideman
Key losses: Alex Burrows, Johnny Boychuk, Taylor Pyatt

A rival scout's take:
The Wings are tasked with moving from the conceivably softer Western conference over to the shark-filled Eastern conference. To make matters worse, they lost their best forward and a key defenseman to free agency. Detroit did manage to convince Dennis Wideman to sign for a year, but their first line of Fisher-Ryder-Zubrus leaves much to be desired. They have a slightly above average defense, anchored by Volchenkov and Ericsson. Jaroslav Halak is not a top 15 goalie for me and is notorious for being inconsistent, so until he changes, the Wings will find it very tough to make the playoffs.

Phoenix Coyotes

Last season: 75 points (26th)

Key additions: Greg Campbell, Ryan Smyth, Todd Bertuzzi, Kris Versteeg, Nick Schultz, Jack Hillen, Jordie Benn, Tomas Vokoun
Key losses: Roberto Luongo, Mike Cammalleri, Sami Salo, J.S. Giguere

A rival scout's take:
Phoenix lost both of their goalies and their first-line left-winger to free agency and was active in the off-season looking for ways to fill the void. They made a bunch of moves (overpaying in nearly all of them), but quantity doesn't always equal quality. I do like their signing of Tomas Vokoun, I think he's a great short-term fix for that team. Paul Stastny and Radim Vrbata have good chemistry and I believe Kris Versteeg will bounceback, but they just don't have enough fire-power up front to be able to score consistently. Their defense is also below average. The guys they added are currently 3rd pairing defensemen, but I do believe Jordie benn can develop into more.

Dallas Stars

Last season: 66 points (27th)

Key additions: none
Key losses: Brad Stuart

A rival scout's take:
Another GM-less team in the league that was practically inactive in the off-season. Ryan Kesler and Brandon Dubinsky are two of the best two-way centers in the entire league. The two Nicks, Foligno and Bonino, are also good young pieces that they'll enjoy having in the next couple of years. On defense, they have Klesla and Jackman who are decent stay-at-home guys, but nothing else after them. I'd argue and say they have the worst goaltending in the league, but I know both Scrivens and Elliott can get hot and win a bunch of games in a row. I think the Stars really have to align for, well, the Stars, to make the playoffs. I wouldn't hold my breath though.

Chicago Blackhawks

Last season: 46 points (30th)

Key additions: Matt Cullen, Ryan Malone, Troy Brouwer, Dan Boyle, J.S Giguere, Shane O'Brien, Derek Morris
Key losses: Martin St. Louis, Marian Hossa, Chris Higgins, Adrian Aucoin, Martin Brodeur

A rival scout's take:
It came as a surprise to many around the league when the Hawks traded away both Martin St. Louis and Marian Hossa – to the same team. They got a couple of decent draft picks back, but this team is in full rebuild mode. I'm surprised Dan Boyle decided to sign here, but I guess money talks. If the salary cap were to go up to the rumoured number, Chicago will have the most to gain, as they'd be able to unload guys like Boyle and Stempniak  and some of the other older guys they signed this year and get some assets back.

Once again it appears the Hawks have more talent on the ice crew than they do on the ice.

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