So you’ve seen my awards predictions for the upcoming NHL season. But what about my own awards for teams for their activities this summer? Who am I gifting my own personal awards that I’ve made up and was able to completely decide the criteria for best signing, most delusional and best fashion among others?
By: Adam Pyde – @Adam_Pyde
Hint: The answers are below!
Contenders: Brad Richards, Anton Stralman, Christian Ehrhoff
The rich get Richards. (•_•) / ( •_•)>⌐■-■ / (⌐■_■) The Blackhawks have never been able to employ an actual second line center since pulling themselves out of the basement on the NHL about 7 years ago. But now, they have Brad Richards on a one year deal for low dollars and he’ll provide their best offensive weapon, Patrick Kane, a real centerman any time he isn’t playing with Jonathan Toews, which is a luxury that Kane has yet to have in his career. Richards is still a good hockey player, but he just wasn’t worth the ~7 million cap hit he had in New York. In Chicago he’ll thrive between Brandon Saad and Kane.
Now Tampa boasts a great defence that is as good, or better, than anyone else in their entire conference. What Stralman provides is the perfect player to complement Victor Hedman on the top pairing, or to act as the driver on the second pairing. That kind of utility is hard to find, and the Bolts only paid 4.5 million annually for it. In contrast, an equal player in Matt Niskanen got $5.75 million/year and significantly crappier Brooks Orpik signed for $5.5 million/year. The Lightning managed to get the second best defenceman available on the market for a pittance, especially considering that he’s only 28.
Ehrhoff was the best defenceman available in free agency and is an excellent offensive defenceman with an underrated defensive game. He’s great on the powerplay, an able penalty killer and can function as a one-man-breakout-machine with his skating ability. He was being wasted in Buffalo, but in Pittsburgh he’s going to have every chance to prove his worth and sign for a huge contract next season. The Penguins get a player more than capable of replacing Niskanen and who also serves as a better insurance policy to fill Kris Letang’s role in case of injury. All that for a paltry 4 million against the cap.
But I give my hat tip to the Lightning here. Stralman being on for another 5 seasons is what makes that deal so good, while the other two signings are one year deals.
That makes the Orpik deal worse and the “winner”, because at least there is a one-in-a-million chance that Bolland could make this look less awful.
One year after pretty well rebuilding the entire center ice position, Star’s GM Jim Nill went and built himself a second line that his team was sorely lacking by acquiring former Senators linemates Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky. Those two will get to play behind Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, and will be backed by one of the best third lines in the NHL. All that is left is for him to add a top four defenceman via trade this season and the Stars will be Stars again.
(•_•) / ( •_•)>⌐■-■ / (⌐■_■)
All the Lightning did this off-season was add a player capable of playing first pairing minutes in Anton Stralman, add a solid second pairing player, for beans, in Jason Garrison and improve their already impressive forward depth. Mixed with some of the young prospects that are going to have full-time roles like Jonathan Drouin and Brett Connolly and Tampa has a forward group that can go toe-to-toe with the best teams in the Eastern Conference. Things are sure to be electric for the Lightning.
(•_•) / ( •_•)>⌐■-■ / (⌐■_■)
I feel like I need to mention how well I think Pittsburgh did adding actual depth players, but they were already really good and the impact of those improvements won’t be felt until the playoffs.
I’ll pick the Lightning as the most improved team, especially since they only have to compete with 2-3 other good teams in their entire conference. Dallas may have added better players, but it only allows them to keep pace in their division versus taking a real leap forward.
Least Improved Team
Contender/Winner: Winnipeg Jets
No team even comes close to have done this much nothing. I honestly think that Cheveldayoff has given up and is hoping that just by being idle while everyone competes in an arms race known as the Central Division that the Jets can win the Connor McDavid sweepstakes.
The only addition is Mathieu Perrault, and while he’s a competent middle six player, he’s not going to fix this team. Not as long as Andrej Pavelec continues to try to stop pucks, because he’s not actually good at stopping the pucks. Not as long as their depth players continue to be as terrible as they are. Not as long as their defence continually looks so hopeless. Not as along as they have no idea what to do with their best weapon.
All this is made even worse by the fact that every other team in their division improved this off-season. Don’t expect things to improve anytime soon.
Most Delusional Team Tripping on Hallucinogenics
Contender/Winner: Vancouver Canucks
“We can still win a Cup! I swear! Really!”
“What do you mean Ryan Miller hasn’t been that good since 2010?”
“What do you mean Radim Vrbata won’t solve the offensive woes?”
“What do you mean Nick Bonino isn’t a real second line center?”
“What do you mean that this core is aging and the window has closed?”
It has become blatantly obvious that after losing in the Stanley Cup Finals, this team got bad. It didn’t happen right away, but it happened. Losing one seven game series was enough to make them spend the next 3 seasons abandoning everything that made them good as they tried to jam a square peg into a round hole.
Now it seems they’re trying to go back, but all signs point to it being too late. The best case scenario is that Desjardins actually commits to developing the young players, unlike his previous counterparts, and maybe the Canucks can pull a rabbit out of the hat. Everything that could go wrong, went wrong last year and while that isn’t likely to happen again, they also aren’t likely to resemble a top team anymore and not for a while.
Darkhorse For a Great Season
Contenders: New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils
The Islander’s rebuilt their goaltending and boast a 12 player forward group for the first time since well before I was born. Going from league worst goaltending to something resembling league average should be good enough to get them on the cusp of the playoffs. Mix in a full healthy season of John Tavares and the crapshootiest division in hockey and the playoffs are a real possibility. If they stay healthy even home ice could be within reason.
The Devil’s have a surprisingly good hockey team. They’re perfectly built to play their system and largely added to a roster that only missed the playoffs by 5 points last year. It’s also damn near impossible they ever go 0-12 in the shootout again. They also ditched Martin Brodeur who they played for 42 games last season. Had he played anything resembling a backups workload and Schneider played something closer to a starters then they likely could have made the playoffs, regardless of their shootout record. I see things falling into place nicely this year.
All that leads me to believe that the Devils are going to surprise everyone and finish with a home ice playoff spot.
Most Likely To Fall Backwards
Contenders: Anaheim Ducks, Colorado Avalanche
The Ducks are facing huge roster turnover and all the uncertainty that comes with it. Eight regulars from last season are out, which includes five of their more prominent bottom 9 forwards and all their centers not named Ryan Getzlaf. They’ve managed to bring in some good replacements with Ryan Kesler and Nate Thompson to play center, but will be relying on prospects (Etem, Silvferberg, Rackell, Smith-Pelley) and some reclamation projects (Leblanc, Heatley) to fill out the rest of the lineup. Youngster John Gibson will handle 1a or 1b in net, and he has a total of 381 NHL minutes as it stands. It’ll be very interesting to see how well almost an entirely remade forward unit can do, especially early on. You won’t make the playoffs in October, but you can miss them.
The Avalanche aren’t a great team that last year’s record would indicate. We’ve talked about teams that have everything go wrong, well the Av’s had everything go right. I don’t think they’re going to find themselves at the bottom of the conference, but they’ll be fighting for the bubble this year – a far cry from winning it. This is mainly because I don’t see another Vezina season from Semyon Varlamov. If he even regresses to league average then, by doing some rough math, the Avalanche could find themselves well out of the playoff picture. They also are without 2 quality players in P.A. Parenteau and Paul Stastny. Anyway you slice it, Jarome Iginla and Daniel Briere don’t quite make up for those two. They haven’t really improved their defence either. Unfortunately, they share a whole lot of “playing over their head” stats columns with the ’13 Senators and ’12 Panthers. They really need to hope that Iginla and Mackinnon can make colossal strides to improve them or it’s going to be a disappointing year in Denver compared to last season.
All things considered, I just can’t see Colorado repeating last years performance at all.
Contenders: Ryan Kesler, Jason Spezza, James Neal for Patrick Hornquist
Anaheim managed to add a real second line center and a player with a Selke pedigree for a third liner that was a by-product of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry and some spare parts. Kesler helps provide them with the center depth that will be crucial if the Ducks are to make a run for the Cup as they’ll have to go through teams like the Kings, Sharks, Blues and Blackhawks. He’s also one of the very best penalty killers in the NHL and should help improve Anaheim’s surprisingly average special teams.
Spezza was traded for a bag of scraps. That means for a few throwaway prospects and Alex Chaisson, Dallas now has a player capable of playing on the first line, but instead he’ll play on the second line. For Dallas to keep pace in the Western Conference this trade was necessary, and it gives them a pretty fearsome center ice. The Stars come away like bandits here. It ain’t easy to find 70-point centers in this league. Just ask every team that is crying over not having one.
Hornquist for Neal is a relatively fair trade, but also acquiring Nick Spaling which added a depth player Pittsburgh sorely needed. Nashville doesn’t make out as losers here either as they add a talented finisher in exchange for a slightly less talented one and a depth player of which they had many. It’ll be interesting to see if Hornquist can bring a bit more all round responsibility to Pittsburgh or how much of that was a byproduct of Nashville. Hopefully Neal can find chemistry with one of the new centers on the Predators and continue to be a regular 25+ goal scorer. Both teams did well, that’s nice to see.
I think I have to give this one to Dallas though.
Contenders: Roman Polak, Daniel Briere
Polak is not a good hockey player. He was traded for Carl Gunnarsson, a good hockey player. I do not understand why bad teams giveaway quality players to get cast-offs from contending teams. Just because that player was on a good team does not make him good. If he was good then the good team would not part with him.
Polak is slow, not good with the puck and average at best at stopping players but “He’s tough!” so it’s all okay to the decision makers in Leafland.
I wonder if they considered stopping bringing in the exact same garbage player over and over again, ie) Mike Komisarek, Tim Gleason, Garnett Exelby, Mark Fraser, Ryan O’byrne, Brett Lebda, Keith Aulie, Jeff Finger, Hal Gill…
I have no idea what the Avalanche were thinking. They took on a not very good player in Daniel Briere and gave up a useful middle-six player in Parenteau to do it. I know he wasn’t a favourite of Colorado coach Patrick Roy, but that doesn’t excuse making a bad trade that makes your team worse. The Avalanche will already be hard done by in their division this season and removing a good player for a bad one isn’t going to help. All of Parenteau’s negatives are amplified in Briere. Montreal runs away screaming in victory here.
But seriously, that Polak deal is awful.
Contenders: Classic Kings, Mario’s Penguins, Proper Blues, Capital Stripes
The reigning Cup champions unveiled plans to wear their classic “gold”, by which they mean yellow, uniforms and I can only hope that they switch to them or something resembling them full-time. Black is reserved for the Penguins and Bruins.
Speaking of the Penguins, they revealed that their new alternate uniforms that call back to the days of the team’s first two Stanley Cup victories. That is how you do a black sweater in this league. Mix something nice and vibrant in there to give it some pop.
The St. Louis Blues ditched their okay but not great uniforms with the unnecessary piping, or “apron stripes”, in favour a classic looking design. Holy is that sharp. The barely brightened shade of royal blue and yellow really make it pop.
Another sweater that should stick full-time, or at least as a third jersey, is the Washington Capitals Winter Classic threads. Its new but feels classic. Simple designs are best.
However, my raging hockey boner can only pick one winner and those yellow and purple Kings uniforms take it.