SWAMI takes a PEEK at GHC 2014-15
What does SWAMI see in the coming season,can anybody dethrone the GHC CUP CHAMPION TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING? By the way,SWAMI congratulates Greg Doffin on his 3rd CUP in 4 years(a DYNASTY)! Congrats also to Gary Otteson(Vancouver).a very formidable runner-up in the Finals! Starting from the top down in order of finish from last season,what does SWAMI see?
TAMPA BAY- Swami seeing Indians,Toews,Sharp,Hossa all wearing that sweater with the Indian on the front,get that practice jersey off & put a Bolt on it! That trio again will make Goalies nervous & should be the Offensive Leaders for the Lightning again! Help also will come from Andrew Ladd,Troy Brouwer, & Anze Kopitar! Patrick Elias,who came over from the Wild in a late-season trade,will anchor the 3rd line with Jumbo Joe Thornton & a RW to be named later,as competition heats up in camp for that spot! Teemu Selanne,another late season trade with the Isle, will battle Thomas Kopecky & Dustin Byfuglien for that 3rd line RW spot! The defense again seems set with Zdeno Chara & Brent Seabrook headlining the blueline. In Goal. Marc-Andre Fleury will get the bulk(64 gms)of action with Bryzgalov making the rest of the starts unless another Goalie shows up in camp! With 6 players with over 20 Goals scored,led by Sharp’s 34,there seems to be enough Offense again,although not much is expected from the 4th line! Can they repeat as Regular season Champs again,well they might need to improve their road record from last year,only the 9th best in the League,but thanks to those Ruby Red slippers,There’s No Place Like Home, There’s No Place Like Home, There’s No Place Like Home! Almost unbeatable at home,the Lightning will again be in the hunt!
VANCOUVER- The Finals runner-up Vancouver Canucks just had a Great Season & it will be hard to match that this year! The saying “As the Sedin’s Go, so do the Canucks” well,the Sedin’s hit the Wall! Sluggish in camp, Swami doesnt see much Offense from the Twins,but Coach Otteson has options! 3rd rounder(40th overall)Rookie last year TYLER JOHNSON might be the Leader on Offense, as he heads up a very overcrowded position at Center Ice,where Vancouver has 6 players competing for 4 spots to play Center(not a one of them got wing on their card-ouch) Will one of them be traded,rumors have Mike Fisher(whose out for a while this upcoming NHL season)be moved? Another option is at LD,where Roman Josi cant get ice time with Vlasic,Edler, Seidenberg, & Greene ahead of him! The Wing position seems to be kinda thin,so a trade seems likely,can they get the right deal? No Problem in Goal,as Ben Bishop has established himself as the go-to guy with veteran Roberto Luongo slated to be the back-up again! All in All,it’s a little cloudy in Vancouver,with the right moves & some Great Coaching(which they have), Swami sees the Canucks as one of several teams to be fighting for a playoff spot!
CHICAGO- HA! Swami was finally right! After years of bottom-feeding & Swami saying this is the year they finally make it,,,they did…a playoff spot & 3rd in the Regular Season! Swami again says Playoffs for the Hawks! GM & Coach Dan Dumont had some holes to fill,as his Top 2 Centers will be lost to injuries for part of this season(Tavares just 59 GP & Stamkos only 37 GP) With Curtis Glencross(38 GP),Logan Couture & Martin Hanzal only getting 65 GP,alot of Center & Left Wing was lost to injuries,but a deal was struck with the New York Islanders that shored up the lost man games. Chicago acquired Center Brad Richards & Center/Left-Wing Brandon Dubinsky, giving up their 2nd round Rookie Pick & Goalie Jonathan Bernier! Eight 20 or more Goal-Scorers highlite the Hawks & Stamkos’s 25 in 37GP will be Scary! Josh Harding with a League best .933 saves% will get just 29 gms, Brian Elliot & Branden Holtby will fill in the rest,excellent Goaltending again for the Hawks! The only weakness Swami sees is at RD,where after P.K. Subban & John Carlson, it’s 2/2 Alexei Emelin & 1/2 Tim Gleason,but that shouldnt be a problem! This team can run 4 good lines at you with no shortage of Offense,should be another Big year in the Windy City!
PHOENIX- R U Kidding me, 11,that’s Eleven Forwards with 20 or more Goals, with Joe Pavelski leading the way with 41! Max Pacioretty with 39 & Ryan Getzlaf with 31 could lead the Yotes to the Top in Goals scored by a team! Now,with all these good forwards,I wish I could say the same for the defense,but it’s a little suspect! Dan Hamhuis & Slava Voynov are a good 1st pairing,with defensive stalwarts Rob Scuderi & Stefan Robidas taking the 2nd line,but tryouts are in order for the 3rd line(could a forward be moved to Vancouver for LD Roman Josi,who is on the block! Or maybe a bigger deal,is Luongo available,the Coyotes,despite drafting 2 Goalies last year could use help again! Anton Khudobin (36 GP) is solid(.926), but then it’s Giguere(.913)for 22 gms & Victor Fasth(.903)for just 12gms for total of 70! Does Cam Ward(.898)start the other 10 or will another Goalie be drafted & given a contract! Coach Jay Edlin has plenty to work with on the Offensive side, & it looks like the Coyotes will be Howling again in the Playoffs!
BUFFALO- The Sabres made the Playoffs last season & were 5th overall in the regular season! Making the Playoff’s broke a GHC Record 15 straight seasons that the Buffalo team had missed the Post-Season! Again, Swami was right,that the curse was gone & the Sabres would play extra games in the spring! Call it a curse,call it a jinx,or just call it plain Bad Luck,because this year’s squad will need to pull a rabbit out of a Hat to stay in contention for a playoff spot! First,the Good news, the Sabres defense looks to be real solid after stealing Matt Niskanen out of Dallas for the washed up Goalie Nicklas Backstrom, Eric Johnson has finally arrived as a top 4 defenseman,to go along with Erhoff & Kronwall,these 4 look as good as anyone’s team. Dion Phaneuf & Z Michalek get 3rd line duties in front of Sergei Bobrovsky,who will be solid for 58 gms(.923),then Jonas Enroth will get the remainder(.911)unless veteran E Nabokov (.905)happens to get a start or two! Now for the Bad News….Only 3 Sabres scored 20 or more Goals,Jason Pominville had 30, Taylor Hall with 27 & Andrew Shaw with 20! On top of that, the Sabres are hard hit with injuuries, Johan Franzen can only play 54 games,Darren Helm just 42,Alex Burrows 49, & Pascual Dupuis 39! Ilya Kovalchuk & Peter Mueller both fled for oversea’s,so a depleted squad will be using every body( and I do mean Body)available to suit up for this year’s Sabres! Taylor Hall killing penalties, Yes he will have to as he is one of just 4 forwards with a 3 defense or better & one of them is Franzen(54 GP) Maybe the cards & dice will be kind to Buffalo as defense can win games,but Swami says they start a new streak….Sabres miss the Post-Season
ST LOUIS- The Blues,along with 6 other teams that finished 7th thru 12th were in a dogfight all season to make the playoffs,one of the best races i’ve seen in the GHC History,which is what 35 years or so! Coach Rob Gallamore’s club finished 6th & then knocked off the favored Blackhawks in the 1st round of the playoffs,but then surrendered to the Lightning in round two. Being the ONLY team to win the CUP in the last 4 years not named Tampa Bay,the Blues would like to return to glory,but first another playoff battle will ensue this season! St Louis has just 4 forwards with 20 or more Goals(that doesnt always tell the story-but I cant see the cards)led by Rick Nash & Kyle Turris,each with 26! Although Nash only gets to play 65 games,the real hurt is Marian Gaborik,who only gets 41 gms! The RW position might be a little shy,so the Blues once again have Brent Burns on the Right-Wing in camp! With no room at RD,Pietrangelo,Faulk, & Petry have those spots,Burns is flying down the wing! A solid defense & a big year expected for Carey Price(.927)for 59 gms,the Blues look to play defense & win the low-scoring games! Charlie Coyle,drafted last year,looks to crack the line-up,the Blues need more on Offense,so look for the Blues to concentrate on that come draft day! It’ll be another battle to make the show,can Carey (pun) carry them?
LOS ANGELES- Ovie with 51 Goals(about half on the PP-yikes),Chris Kunitz with 35,Patrick Marleau 33 & Patrick Kane 29,throw in Shea Weber’s23 & you got enough offense here! Not a Coyote type offense( 11 players with 20 or more) but not bad! With the development of youngsters Sean Couturier, Nick Bjugstad, & Brandon Saad,the Kings are rebuilding on the fly & giving the kids playoff expierence as well! Duncan Keith & Shea Weber,both Norris trophy candidates,are maybe the Top defense pairing in the League(though the Bolts with Chara & Seabrook might argue that) Youngsters Justin Braun,Travis Hamonik, & Andrew MacDonald,along with veteran Tobias Enstrom all stand tall in front of Goalie Ryan Miller & back-up Thomas Greiss,as they hope to extend their Post-Season appearances! Swami says put away the Taylor-Made’s,another year in the playoffs ,thanks in part to their schedule(sorry guys)which see’s them play Buffalo,St Louis, & Dallas 8 times this season
DALLAS- The Stars lost 10-2 to Vancouver in their home opener last season, & then did not Win a game at home in regulation until their 14th home game,but they somehow snuck into the final playoff spot,thanks in part to Goalie Cory Schneider who registered 5 shutouts in the Stars last 12 home games! Again, Schneider has to be good(only 45 GP)for Team Geritol to compete! The veteran club(actually I mean old guys) like Datsyuk,Alfredsson,Iginla,Markov,Phillips,Legwand,Boyle are just about ready for the Senior League & may have seen their last post-season! The Stars do have Five 20 or more Goal Scorers led by Jerome Iginla with 30,Marchand & Kesler with 25,Cam Atkinson 21 & reargaurd Erik Karlsson with 20,so the Offense seems decent! It’s on defense that holes appear! The trade of “Matt Niskanen” ( that hurt)to Buffalo for Goalie Nick Backstrom who just didnt perform well in Dallas has left a gaping hole on RD for the Stars! With Dennis Wideman not available for half the season,the Stars have just one RD with a 3 defense in youngster T. J. Brodie! The LD with veterans Andrei Markov & Brooks Orpik is fine,with youngster Jake Muzzin getting the 3rd spot at LD! Pavel Datsyuk,who led the GHC in scoring last season, will miss 35 gms this season due to getting old! So-so Goaltending after Schneider(Budaj .909 & Backstrom .899)is just not good enough! Swami says another turbulent season for the Stars,will GM Don Miron be a seller at the 60-game mark,or will Coach Dale Hunter be stuck with his “Old Guys” another year!
TORONTO- The Leafs barely missed the Playoffs last season & Coach Ashley MacKay had to resign(too much on the plate,job,got married,runs the CSHL)but he leaves them in really good shape! Toronto has 7 players with 20 or more Goals led by “Sid the Kid” Crosby with 36! Not a Kid anymore,Crosby has a lot of help..Claude Giroux with 28,Frans Nielsen 25,Matt Duchesne & Bryan Little 23, Hornqvist 22,Vrbata 20….honorable mention goes to Evander Kane,Jamie McGinn,& Tyler Bozak who all scored 19! Rumors have it that the Leafs have hired Keith Larkin to run the club…SWAMI says Welcome to the GHC! Mr Larkin’s 1st order of business will be to shore up the defense which is short GP on LD! On RD, All-Star Kris Letang will only get 37 gms this season,so patchwork is needed here also! The Goaltending is in “Allstate Mode”,that be “Good Hands” as Kari Lehtonen & Steve Mason will share the duties! Pekke Rinne may need a season off to recover his form(.902) With some help on defense thru the Rookie Draft or trade,the Leafs appear headed to the playoffs once again! Swami says “It’s a Lock”
COLORADO- Two years ago the Avalanche were mired in last place,a League-run team that was up for sale,low attendence & nobody wanted to play there! Along came Anton Management who bought the team & hired Kevin & Kody Anton to run the team! Last year they made a playoff run that just fell short,but what a turnaround! Late last season,they pilfered veteran Martin St Louis out of Minnesota & the cagey veteran will lead a young squad this season! The Offense led by St Louis(30 Goals) has 7 players with 20 or more Goals Scored! Emerging Superstar Ryan Johansen 33 Goals,David Perron 28,Mike Cammalleri 26 Goals in just 63 gms,the Smith boys Craig 24 & Reilly 20 along with Veteran Scott Hartnell 20 provide plenty of Offense for the Avs! The defense can field a 4 defense(ok Beauchemin’s a 5)at all 6 spots,so not many rebounds for the Best Goaltending Duo in the League to kick out! Tuuka Rask & Seymon Varlamov will be stepping on each other to get to the net….They both want to start! Swami says “Start selling Playoff tickets now” It’s gonna be a fun year in Denver!
SAN JOSE- Swami says “Dont go in the Water”,the SHARKS are back! So the Yotes have 11 players with 20 or more,so do the Sharks! San Jose has it all,defense,Goaltending & a monster Offense! Coach Jeff Freese has seen his team go dormant for a few years after the San Jose team was a “Dynasty” a few years ago! The competition in camp is the best in years, Phil Kessel(37 G) is battling Tyler Seguin(37G) for the #1 spot on RW,which leaves Alexander Semin(22 G) & T. J. Oshie(21 G) vying for lines 3 & 4! Of course, Seguin could move to Center,along with James Van Riemsdyk(30 G),but that’s crowded too! Antoine Vermette(24 G) & most likely a +3 face-off is there along with Veteran Mikko Koivu(65 GP) Dave Bolland,Derek Brassard, & Nazem Kadri(20 G) are all in a battle at Center! Over on the LW, Gabriel Landeskog(26 G),maybe JVR,along with youngsters Jaden Schwartz(25 G) & Vladimir Tarasenko(21 G) have to battle defensive specialist Lars Eller for a job! Almost forgotten is Adam Henrique(25 G) who can play LW or Center & is also a force defensively! Keith Yandle,Jack Johnson,Zach Bogosian,Dan Girardi,say no more,it’s a solid defense core! Ben Scrivens & Jaroslav Halak form a dynamic duo in the nets, Swami is foaming at the mouth & I approve this message “The Sharks are the team to beat,heavy favorites in Vegas”
NEW JERSEY- The Devils also made a spirited run at the playoffs last year behind “King Henrick Lundqvist” but fell just short! Lundqvist again will try to lead his Devils to the post-season,but they might just have the toughest schedule in the league(Sharks,Leafs,Avs- 8 times). Jaromir Jagr(24 G) leads an offensively challenged team! Youngsters Nick Bonino(22 G),Brayden Schenn(20 G)& Artem Anisimov(22 G) & last year’s 3rd round steal Tomas Tatar(19 G) will have to find the net! A real young group of Forwards can only benefit from the increased ice time, as Coach Matt Hotchkiss has to have patience with his young offense & defense! Veteran Barret Jackman was brought in last season, in a trade with the Isle, to steady a young defense core that includes Tyler Myers,Cody Franson,Patrick Wiercoch & Danny DeKeyser! With the 5th pick in the Rookie Draft,the Devils are in line for another very good young player,will it be another forward or do they look for a top-line defenseman ! Swami says a tough season ahead for the Devils,but they are on the right track to get back to the show,but not this year!
PHILADELPHIA- Swami was way off last year,we had the Flyers in the playoffs,but no help was drafted for Starting Goalie Corey Crawford & it showed! Mikka Kiprusoff & Joey MacDonald just couldnt handle the back-up role! Now they need one cause they are short GP in Goal(Crawford 59 GP)& MacDonald(11 GP @ .890). The Good News is that’s all they need to compete for the one playoff spot that Swami see’s 4 or 5 teams shooting for! Swami already has 7 teams in(read team stories above) Flyer Offense,in a word,Sweet! Jeff Skinner(33 G) is one of 8 players to have 20 or more Goals! Zach Parise(29 G),David Backes(27 G), & James Neal(27 G in 59GP) form a very good 1st line! Val Filppula(25 G) with Matt Read(22 G) could pair with Skinner for a nice 2nd line! Veteran’s Vinny LeCavalier(20 G) & Andrew Cogliano(21 G) make up 2/3 of the 3rd line. On Defense,a Great pair in Victor Hedman & Drew Doughty with Willie Mitchell & Alex Goligoski teaming up on line 2 have the Flyers excited about this core of players(Show some excitment Tony-I’ll take Seth Jones) Swami says grab one of those Stud Rookie Goalies & it’s off to the show,but dont hesitate or you wont go! Time for a Soda Pop,Swami’s getting dry!
NEW YORK I- Was it Panic in the off-season or was it part of a master plan,the Islanders traded veteran Brad Richards(who’s been on the Isle since he was drafted)& the edgy Brandon Dubinsky to the Chicago Blackhawks for the Hawks 2nd round Rookie pick & Goalie Jonathan Bernier! GM Kevin Miron knew Coach Ray Ferraro couldnt go into the season with Jonas Hiller(.911)& James Riemer(.911)as his starting Goalies. That woulda cost Ray his job with that duo! GM Miron has put the onus on himself,saying “Jonathan gives us a better chance to compete while we rebuild” We still have a decent core of Forwards with 6 guys with 20 or more Goals! Swami would agree, the 1st line can be as good as anybody’s with Alex Steen(33 G),Patrice Bergeron(30 G), & Kyle Okposo(27 G) The emergence of Gustav Nyqvist(28 G in just 57GP)gives the Isle a dangerous sniper when he plays! Cody Hodgson(20 G) & Tomas Plekanec(20 G) can add to the Offense! Breaking news: The Islanders just acquired Mike Fisher (20 G) for defenseman Tom Gilbert from Vancouver & then selected Jacob Trouba in the Rookie Draft to join a decent defensive corps that features Cam Fowler(who says give me the Rookie as a partner)along with last year’s pick Jonas Brodin & Jason Garrison(who came over from NJ in the Jackman deal)Marco Scandella & Matt Irwin make up the rest of the top six! Another team in the mix for the Playoffs,Swami didnt have them in just yet,but they are getting closer,the Islanders refuse to lay down & look to surprise the experts!
BOSTON- On the clock as I write,will the B’s get their Rookie Pick in before this goes to print! “Scorey Perry” (43 G),Jamie Benn(34 G),Blake Wheeler(28 G),Thomas Vanek(27 G)& Evgeni Malkin(23 G in 60GP) headline the B’s offense which will score Goals,the Problem is..can they stop the puck? Reserve Al Montoya(.920) can for 28 gms & Michael Neuvirth(.921)for 15 gms,but then it’s up to Tim Thomas(.908)for the rest! Swami has a feeling that more Goalies could be invited to camp! On defense,the Right side is set with Kevin Shattenkirk,Mark Streit,Marek Zidlicky, & Dougie Hamilton! The Left-side is wide open for candidates,as Robyn Regehr,David Schlemko,Matt Bartkowski, & Dylan Olsen might have to fend off some Rookie or Free Agent picks! No pick yet, Swami thinks the youngster Sean Monahan would be a good fit for the B’s sweater,only time will tell! With “Scorey” on your team,anything is possible,another team that has a chance at making the Playoffs with the right moves!
MINNESOTA- Over the last couple of years,Coach Dave Lever has seen the “Core” of his team get traded away, Patrick Sharp(34 G),Martin St Louis(30 G),Jason Pominville(30 G) & Patrick Elias to do a rebuild from the bottom up! Well,they are on the bottom & Swami says ” They will occupy the basement again this season” Three veterans remain & surprise,they still have the tools to do damage, as Paul Stastny(25 G),Shane Doan(23 G) & with only 45 GP Henrik Zetterberg(16 G) will also be valuable in his time on the ice! It’s gonna take some sacrifice,but with a few good picks to go along with the 1st overall pick Nathan McKinnon,maybe the Wild get back in short time! Youngsters Carl Hagelin,Antoine Roussel, & Tommy Wingels will have to grow with this team. Veteran rearguard Ryan Suter(almost called him Gary)still has plenty of mileage left,enough to see Youngsters Brandon Dillon,Alex Martinez, & Mark Pysyk grow,but it’ll be a rough trip this season as the Wild lack experience trying to defend Goalies Jonathan Quick & Jimmy Howard,who will see a lot of firestone(rubber)this coming year!