The biggest question marks in the NHL right now:
What do you do with this team? Fletcher made some questionable and some great moves this offseason. But he already changed so much what more can you do? And even more so; last year goaltending was the huge issue and the big question mark going into this year. Yet goaltending has been the last issue with this team and they’re reeling everywhere else.
May be time to start selling some pieces and regroup for next year with some money off the books and rebuild the core. But it’s a mess. Giroux could be the starting place.
Yes I even had high expectations for them; but Dorion shouldn’t have said the rebuild was over (like alfie11 and csick maybe agree with). But I didn’t think they should be losers. They need to start building a winning culture and that’s what I expected; similar to Detroit, start winning some games. But man Ottawa has dealt with it all; terrible luck, covid, injuries and Murray’s idiotic gamble failed like I personally expected but hoped it wouldn’t. The defence looks like they haven’t been taught anything (DJs fault), with Murray’s poor play your throwing some unprepared goalies to the wolves. They can’t score, they can’t defend, Stutzle is just struggling (but he isn’t a worry imo); they can’t fire the coach or GM they just extended.. it’s really just a mess. I want Ottawa to acquire more assets (like selling Brown) BUT AT THE SAME TIME you can’t rebuild forever and you can’t sell pieces that help start a winning culture on such a weak/ no depth team. I really have no idea what they should do come deadline. Brown would return some good stuff but I think they may keep him (which isn’t bad it’s smart but still), Tierney should go tho, and they should honestly consider trading for a top 4 d man despite being a bad team. They need to change the culture; and you can’t rebuild for ever but yet they aren’t good enough to compete so they are still rebuilding lol it’s a fine line to walk and I’d rather have Yzerman walking that line.
I mean actually just a mess, pray for a high pick: pray for Price to have a few more years/ healthier mental/ physical well being. Sell Chiarot - trade Hoffman and see what Drouin wants (if he wants to go trade him and if he wants to stay another year let him). Gortons got some work to do and the Habs also need to draft a solid goalie prospect this year imo (or next). Also if they win the lottery that would probably change everything for next year because getting a top C prospect like Wright (example) goes -
Idk what they should do cause there’s so many routes to take, so maybe even sell the obvious guys and see what happens come draft day instead because that’s the key date (where they select).
Get rid of Benning.
The pacific threesome here have each taken huge strides into righting their ships. San Jose was a write off until Eklund and even than many still have written off the organization, but they have a bright future by the looks of it if they can; keep Hertl, handle Kane, and get some good deals for Ferraro, Middleton, Knyzhov, Dahlen. Look for Labanc to be traded imo. Anaheim while have a lacklustre offseason has had the stars shine on them. I woulda preferred another high selection but unlike Ottawa; Anaheim and Detroit are have begun a winning culture and showing their kids that they can be successful while also having some veteran pieces in place (Larkin - Gibson, Getzlaf - Bertuzzi (not a vet but you get it)). Anaheim has some more solid prospects in the pipes. They have the potential for being competitive next year with Detroit (in terms of being real threats). And the Flames have seized their “final chance” under Sutter. They still have decide what’s gonna happen with the Gaudreau and Tkachuk contracts (UFA/RFA) but still. The Flames have a TALENTED and DEEP team with a solid goalie. They can do some damage in the playoffs assuming they hold steady.
Don’t forget about:
CBJ - always been a fan of these guys and they still have kept that Torts style work ethic. They grind away and don’t quit and they have a promising future.
NJD - fast and high octane, they aren’t gonna do much in the terms of a playoff run imo; but that’s not a bad thing. There is a deep core in place and they should be making deep runs sooner rather than later.
Who should be worried:
The Islanders and Seattle. Seattle fumbled their draft and decision making. Meanwhile the Isles have had a string of bad luck (like key injuries and covid, and the brutal 13 game road trip) but they also continue to struggle with their coaching decisions in terms of stubbornness and unwillingness to do what; for example New Jersey is doing. The Isles are seemingly scared of change and “freedom/ creativity” meanwhile the Devils are flourishing with dynamic players. Obviously they’re at different spectrums (Contenders -> Bottom feeders and Bottom Feeders -> playoff hopefuls) but New Jersey has allowed players to “be themselves” while filling in gaps whereas the Isles are struggling and continue to “bash their heads into the wall”. The Isles won’t see a coaching change but maybe; they need a voice to step up and give a new perspective. They should also be focusing on adding some depth because they clearly lack it.
Who I’m not confident in but should prove me wrong:
The Leafs and EDM. Yes I think the EDM is going to regret not getting a goalie at TDL. But at the same time; this team is thriving with their current roster and honestly don’t have any REAL holes; only subjective holes (Ceci/ Smith/ Mikko/ Keith/ blah blah). Yes I think the Oilers need to make some moves to win a cup, but.. like the Habs last year, maybe let the team make a run because Leon and Connor have a great team surrounding them now so far. And for the Leafs; I will not believe them until they win a damn round. But again; you have Auston and Mitch with great pieces and other stars around them. Again; I think the Leafs need moves (and unlike EDM I think the Leafs will make a splash, whereas EDM will be more subtle) but what a story their second documentary would be if Campbell leads these kids on a ****ing bender in the playoffs.
Pretty much nailed it with Ottawa. Our biggest problem is we have a lot of promising D prospects, and no actual NHL defensemen. After Chabot-Zub, our only good defensemen are Brannstrom (hurt or in the doghouse) and Holden (who's like a 4/5 guy). Everyone else sucks, and 2 of that "everyone else" group are in the top 4 by default. Chabot's playing decently well but he'd be much better as a 22-24 minute defenseman. This year he's logging over 27 minutes ATOI, which is over 30 seconds more than anyone else in the entire league. It's absurd how much he's relied upon, and he can't even start to develop at getting better defensively (well within his capabilities imo) when he's overworked to exhaustion by playing every second shift. So yeah, defense is our big hole. Gustavsson has shown flashes of promise, if we had a solid D corps I think he'd be fine. We need to get someone to tandem with him next summer if Murray continues to suck. But on D, I wouldn't be opposed to trading for a top 4 D right now if they had some term. We could really use someone stable back there. Relying on two guys (mostly one guy) is super unsustainable. On the bright side, Sanderson should be here by the end of this season, Thomson has looked decent so far in the emergency stint and should challenge for a spot in camp next year, and JBD is developing fine in the AHL (might take an extra year for him though, either middle of next season or camp in 23-24, Thomson looks to have passed him at this point, but defensive specialists do tend to develop more slowly so it's not really worrying). But even when they crack the team, they'll still be rookies. And the veterans Dorion has chosen to surround them with suck. A lot. Del Zotto, Zaitsev, and J. Brown suck and I would love nothing more than to never see them play again. Mete is the definition of meh. Dorion even said in the summer (after saying the rebuild was over, which was dumb) that his goal was to bring in a top 6 forward and a top 4 defenseman, or something along those lines. He then signed Tyler Ennis and Michael Del Zotto, which should honestly tell you all you need to know about how this season was going to go from the start. Huge failure there. I'd like to see him be bold and pursue a guy like Boeser or Monahan. Or at least a guy like Giroux in free agency. And then bring in SOMEONE on the back end that can play defense, literally anyone, although I don't trust Dorion to do that because the guys he signs or trades for (at least in the last couple years), and the guys DJ plays, are terrible: Gudbranson (fine for Calgary, atrocious for Ottawa because he had to play on the top pair), Mete (meh af), Holden (just ok), Zaitsev (was to get C. Brown, but he doesn't have to be played so much because he sucks), J. Brown (terrible), MDZ (terrible), Reilly (terrible at first, actually turned it around by the end so he had decent trade value though), Coburn (terrible). His track record recently up front isn't much better: Watson (4th liner), Ennis (4th liner), Sanford (4th liner), Gambrell (4th liner), Gaudette (bust? Scored for us but also gave up 2 goals, probably should be a 4th liner, I guess we'll see), Stepan (terrible), Anisimov (terrible), Paquette (terrible), Galchenyuk (terrible), Haley (terrible), and lots of other guys are playing too high in the lineup due to lack of high-end talent (specifically guys like Ennis, Nick Paul, and Tierney). In terms of this TDL, every pending UFA should be gone: Tierney, Sanford, Ennis, J. Brown (if anyone will give up anything for him), Holden, and Forsberg. MDZ should be gone if anyone will give up a pick for him. I really don't care what happens to Mete, Gambrell, or Bishop. Brannstrom+White should probably be packaged with some picks/prospects to try and bring in someone impactful, like a Boeser or Konecny if Philly wants a shakeup (I've seen him dealt frequently for some reason). Spend at least slightly above the cap to get a roster with guys that are at least close to their correct spot in the lineup. Draft Wright, Savoie, or Kemell. Bring in a D somewhere (trade for a guy with a couple years, or sign some actual GOOD veterans to short term deals, like we did with MDZ except choose someone who can play hockey this time). Once the D core is completely overhauled, and we add 2 or 3 deserving players to our top 9 (high pick, trade, UFA would be nice) we might actually get somewhere.
As for Calgary, I think they're just rolling. They look really solid, and have bought into Sutter's system. The only real concern is scoring from the 3rd line if/when our top 6 offense dries up. I don't want to lose Dube, because he's on such a nice deal, but he should be producing more, Monahan has just kinda been there and could probably use a change of scenery at this point, and while Pitlick has been fine defensively/in general, he has 0 goals and 2 points in 19 games, we need more from our 3RW. If San Jose slips a little I'd be very interested in bringing in Hertl or Labanc. Boeser would be nice, but Vancouver would probably charge too much and I'm not sure we can afford his next deal. Kessel would be a good pure rental type. Gurianov from Dallas would be great if they fall out of the race and decide to enter a rebuild (which they probably should tbh). That's the kind of guy we can use (middle six C or RW capable of scoring 20 goals), otherwise we're pretty much gonna go with what we've got, everyone else is more or less fine (top line is good, 2nd line is fine although Backlund could maybe get bumped down and it wouldn't be a huge deal if we snag a better 2C, 4th line is fine too, Lucic-Richardson-Lewis is a solid checking line and they're actually providing some secondary scoring, Hanifin-Andersson is good, Kylinton-Tanev is good, and Gudbranson has been okay at 3RD, Zadorov has been mediocre but he's big..? Hopefully Valimaki just gets back in there and then we're fine, both goalies have been stellar).