Photo credit: Amy Irvin (38Photography)
Author’s Note: This post is NOT written by a member of the Pattison Avenue staff but rather a blogger for the team we’re exploring. Today’s guest author is Kevin.
What was the Devils biggest addition this off season?
Ray Shero. Going into the offseason with Lou at the helm, I was expecting the Devils to make some ugly desperation moves. Instead Shero was named GM, which didn’t seem great at first but has easily been the best thing to happen to the Devils this offseason. Shero was dealt a very shitty hand and has managed to make the most of it, improving the Devils significantly without giving up a lot of assets. He was also responsible for bringing in John Hynes as well as Blue Jackets scouting director Paul Castron, who should help the Devils in the area they need the most help in- the draft. Shero has also put a lot more stock in what Sunny Mehta and the Devils analytics team has to say, seeing as several players he has acquired are all guys who have good underlying stats and may be better than advertised. If Lou Lamoriello was still in charge, the Devils would’ve probably pulled off worse moves than the Canucks and Bruins have pulled off this offseason.
What was the Devils biggest loss this off season?
The Devils didn’t lose anything of value this offseason- it was mostly people who had to go (Lamoriello) and dead weight (Conte, Oates, Bernier, Harrold, Zubrus, Fraser). If I had to say who their biggest loss was, it’s the surprisingly productive Scott Gomez. Gomez brought some value in that he could still make plays and carry the puck into the zone. However, he sacrificed his reliable defensive game to do so by playing like a gunslinger. Of course, when the biggest loss your team suffered is a 35 year old with question marks surrounding your game, you’re doing something right.
Metropolitan Division Rankings
The Caps were a legitimately good team last year and they got better. Justin Williams and TJ Oshie are great additions, especially since the latter was acquired for the ineffective Troy Brouwer. They’re a legitimately good team that have several talented young players- guys like Evgeny Kuznetsov, Jakub Vrana, Madison Bowey, Andre Burakowsky and even backup Phillipp Grubauer are all guys who could make an impact for the Caps next year. Their Brooks Orpik sized achilles heel looks bad, but there are much worse problems to have than Brooks Orpik being in the lineup
The Pens made some good depth additions with the likes of Adam Clendening, Eric Fehr and Nick Bonino while ditching less effective pieces in Brandon Sutter and Nick Spaling. Their defense looks iffy on paper but Kris Letang and Olli Maata being fully healthy and a full year of Derrick Pouliot should be able to offset the losses of Paul Martin and Christian Erhoff. Oh, and adding that Phil Kessel guy should help them too. I’m not too worried about Fleury- he’s probably most likely going to be an average goalie rather than a Pavelectric goalie.
3) NY Rangers
The Rangers will continue being a good team until Henrik Lundqvist’s back explodes from having to carry the Rangers to the conference finals so many times. Unfortunately for all of us, that has yet to happen. The Rangers have some good pieces who are very good, but they also have bad pieces who are very bad. Outside of Chris Kreider, they don’t really have any candidates for a big breakout season, which doesn’t help their cause. Also, they give top pairing minutes to Dan Girardi and he’s terrible.
4) NY Islanders
The Islanders were good last year but they didn’t really get any better. Sure, guys like Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Ryan Strome, Nick Leddy and even John Tavares are going to get better. But they didn’t make any moves to get better- in fact they got a bit worse. Giving Steve Bernier 3rd line minutes seems like a terrible idea, even if the guys he’s playing with are better than most of the guys he’s played with in NJ. Marek Zidlicky can move the puck but he actively avoids playing defense and will probably get paired with Brian Strait. Jaro Halak was an upgrade over their previous goaltenders because they were bad, but the Isles will need more out of him considering they play in a division with some of the best goalies in the league.
Everyone’s expecting them to finish last in the league because they were a bad team last year. However a lot of it has to do with poor luck (low percentages, Jordan Staal getting hurt). Eddie Lack is a massive upgrade in goal for the Canes considering how poorly Khudobin and Ward played last season. They’ll also get some help on the blueline with the additions of James Wisniewski and Noah Hanifin. They’re a bit weak up front but they’re going to turn some heads this year.
It’s probably going to be a crapshoot between the Flyers, Blue Jackets and Devils for the bottom of the division. I’d give the Flyers the edge here because their high end forward talent (Giroux and Voracek) is the best of the group. Their defense should get better now that Nick Grossmann is gone and Steve Mason is probably going to have another great season. If they can fill up some of the holes at the bottom of the roster and maybe move Schultz/Schenn they might be a bubble team
Because they traded for Brandon Saad, nobody seems to realize that the Blue Jackets are a crappier version of the Colorado Avalanche. They traded for Brandon Saad. That doesn’t help them seeing as now Nick Foligno will get moved away from Ryan Johansen, who helped him put up career highs in goals and points. Their 4th line is comically awful- Greg Campbell centering David Clarkson and either Rene Bourque or Jared Boll. The Blue Jackets defense is embarassing- Jack Johnson is literally their best defenseman. Ryan Murray is talented but he gets injured way too frequently- and I doubt that he can do much with low quality defensive partners. Furthermore, they were one of the worst possession teams in the league- ranking below the likes of New Jersey and Calgary in close score fenwick. Having Sergei Bobrovsky helps, but unless he gets really hot then he won’t be able to offset the Jackets poor possession. The 2015 offseason champs are going to disappoint a lot of people this year.
8) New Jersey
At this point the only knock against the Devils is that their forwards aren’t good (read- no 1st line caliber forwards) but i’m starting to think that they’re better than they should be. Their defense might be young but they’ve got three very good guys with NHL experience in Adam Larsson, Jon Merrill and Damon Severson. They’ve got a top 5 goalie in Cory Schneider. Their possession numbers should improve now that they’re not playing a “prevent shots at all cost” system. The biggest problem with the Devils is with the way they’re set up, they’re going to be in for a lot of 1 goal games this season due to their great goaltending and poor offense. They can definitely win them with Schneider in net, but expecting your team to win a lot of 1 goal games seems like a tough task- especially considering the significant roster turnover and the fact that they’ve got a new head coach. Everything goes right for the Devils and they might be a bubble team. One thing doesn’t go right for them and they’re where most people expect them to be- a bottom 10 team.
What is your opinion of the moves the Flyers made this off season?
The Flyers had an offseason that was kind of like the Devils- all about addition by subtraction. Losing their biggest anchor on defense and one of the worst players in the NHL helps them because whoever they put in that spot will likely be better than the guy who played there before. Hiring Dave Hakstol is a pretty smart move too- he feels like an under the radar. I think they did well for themselves, but it’s a bit of an uphill battle for the Flyera considering that most of the metro improved significantly.