Archive for May 2017

Season 24 recap

A look back at a memorable 24th season in the WCHL

By Andrew Don

Season 24 is in the books, and it saw the New York Rangers capture their 4th WCHL title. The route to the title was a very difficult one for the Rangers, as 3 of the series needed 7 games to complete. The only series that did not go 7 games, was a 6 game victory over the rival Pittsburgh Penguins. It was an amazing season for the boys from New York, as the team also won the President's Trophy, going an impressive 62-16-4 for a whopping 128 points. It was a season that didn't have too many surprises in it, as teams that were predicted to finish strong, did so. It took 90 points in both conference to reach the playoffs, but the strength between the 2 conferences was very evident. The top 3 teams in the league were in the East and each division in the East had 3 100 point teams. The West also made up 6 of the bottom 10 teams in the league. There were a couple big turnaround years in the WCHL, the biggest one being the Winnipeg Jets, who went from 2nd last in the WCHL to 2nd in their division at 103 points. The other big jump was the New York Islanders, going from a 73 point team to a 90 point playoff team. The 73 point season may of been more of an anomaly than anything, based on the strength of their roster. Probably the biggest disappointment team wise this season was the Philadelphia Flyers. A team that has been a perennial playoff team, up among the top 10 teams in the league on a consistent basis. This season saw them in turmoil from the beginning with their long time GM stepping down, and the team unable to make up their mind with a replacement until late in the season. The Flyers look to be in solid hands now with new GM Rick Bourque at the helm. This team will likely see the biggest point turnaround this upcoming season. 

Moving along to the top players this season, they were a plenty. In a season which mirrored the mid 80's in terms of offensive production, there were a few players who really stood out. There were 6 players who topped the 125 point plateau this season. Those players were: Joe Pavelski, Ryan Kesler, Ryan O'Reilly, Anze Kopitar, Frans Nielsen and Brent Burns. Of course on the opposite end of this, was the sub par goaltending the league saw this season. Not one single goalie reached the .900 mark for save percentage. The top dog here was Thomas Greiss at 0.896. There were also only 2 goalies who put up sub 3.00 GAA on the season. Again Thomas Greiss, and other was Henrik Lundqvist. Judging by the trend the WCHL seems to follow, the upcoming season may see a much more defensive season on the whole. 

On the farm for the year, it was a tale of men against boys. There were 3 teams who finished the season with at least 137 points. All 3 of these teams were in the same division (Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers and Washington Capitals), which is unheard of, considering they play each other quite a bit. This implies that these 3 teams pretty much didn't lose to the rest of the league. Funnily enough, these 3 teams were also the same top 3 teams in their division at the pro level. It speaks to the pipeline that these teams have developed. It also means that at least 1 of these teams every year, will not make it out of the 1st round on both the pro and farm level. The Washington Capitals rode this amazing season all the way to the AHL cup title, as they defeated the #1 (Penguins ), #2 (Rangers) and #4 (Flames) on their way to the title. 

This was also the season where the WCHL had their entry draft, where there was a big winner in the draft lottery. New GM Rick Bourque was welcomed to his new position with the Flyers, with the #1 pick and generational talent Connor McDavid. Another big story of the draft was the Toronto Maple Leafs. A team which has been in a multiple season rebuild, the Leafs had 4 picks inside the top 10 and in one fell swoop, has set their team up for the next decade. The Leafs selected Jack Eichel, Mitch Marner, Ivan Provorov and Sebastian Aho. There were a few teams who were very busy on the trade front throughout the draft. Those teams were the Winnipeg Jets, Carolina Hurricanes and New York Rangers who all made more than 5 deals during the draft period. 

Looking ahead to the upcoming season, which surprise teams will emerge to the forefront this season? Will the farm see as great a discrepancy from the top end to the bottom end? Will the defence remember how to defend and keep the goals down? Will the Rangers and Capitals repeat on the Pro and Farm? Those answers will await us in the upcoming 6 months. 

Good luck to all teams for the upcoming Season 25!

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