March 6, 2014

Leave a Comment

5 Big Winners at the NHL Trade Deadline

By: Matt Bowen

With the Olympics put to bed, the NHL season is once again traveling at warp speed. March 5 marked this year’s trade deadline and there are roughly 20 games left before the playoffs begin. With little time to spare teams were feverously jockeying for position at the deadline. Some won, some lost and some sat back quietly. While many trades involved future draft picks we are focusing on the teams that made moves to greatly impact this season’s playoff push. Never mind the future, these teams made it clear they want to win now.

Bonus: The New York Rangers/Tampa Bay Lightning Trade

There’s no question the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning made the biggest news of the day. The two teams traded captains. Martin St. Louis went to New York while Ryan Callahan was sent to the Lightning.

I have mixed emotions on this trade—St. Louis is a future Hall of Famer that can hopefully maximize the Rangers potential. Callahan isn’t the scorer that St. Louis is but is a proven leader. The Lightning also got healthy draft picks in the trade but let’s stay focused—we’re talking about now.

Personally, I wish the best for both players and organizations but don’t like the idea of swapping the letter “C.” The Rangers dealt Callahan because of impending free agency and the Lightning granted St. Louis’ request and traded him.

The Lightning are currently fourth in the East and get Steven Stamkos back from injury soon. It’ll be interesting to see if he can score at the same rate without St. Louis setting the table. As for the Rangers, can St. Louis suddenly bring the arguably underachieving team to life?

Los Angeles Kings

Did the Kings do enough at the trade deadline to become Stanley Cup contenders in 2014?

No. 5: Los Angeles Kings

The Los Angeles Kings took care of business at the deadline by trading for lamp-lighter Marian Gaborik. The 32-year-old has been often injured since being traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets last trade deadline but the Kings hope his woes are behind him.

Remember, the Kings won the 2012 Stanley Cup are determined to reappear in the Finals. They have an excellent goaltender in Jonathan Quick and a well-balanced roster with the likes of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Drew Doughty. The team has won five straight as of 03/05 and leads the league with just 134 goals allowed.

Problem is they’ve only scored 152 and that slim margin urged the front office to add some offense. In the past Gaborik has been a sniper and with good health and a fresh start he should flourish in the City of Angels, especially on the power play. The Kings made themselves contenders at the deadline.

No. 4: Montreal Canadiens

Despite only scoring six more goals than their allowing, the Canadiens sat third in the Eastern Conference with 75 points. Those two factors were the reason why the franchise acquired playmaker Thomas Vanek at the deadline from the New York Islanders.

This is now Vanek’s third team of the season and he’ll look to stay put in Montreal. He’s scored 53 points this season in 60 games with the Buffalo Sabres and Islanders. The Canadiens are a team with balanced scoring, but no star. Prior to Vanek joining the roster the team had 10 players that have scored 20-plus points this season but P.K. Subban and Max Pacioretty led with 42 points per. That’s only good enough for 65th in the league.

Vanek brings a spark and a message to the fans that the Habs are making a serious push for the Cup.

No. 3: Washington Capitals

This is a make-or-break time for the Washington Capitals. They have to make a deep run in the playoffs or face the reality of blowing up the roster and starting from scratch.

Led by Alexander Ovechkin, the Capitals have immense talent but lack a premium goaltender. They addressed that need at the deadline by trading for Jaroslav Halak from the Buffalo Sabres who got him in a deal from the St. Louis Blues over the weekend. What a whirlwind week for Halak—now he lands in Washington for a team eager to win.

The Capitals currently are fifth in the NHL with 186 goals scored. Too bad they’ve allowed 184, which just so happens to be the fifth-most. Halak is the remedy they’ve been looking for.

The Caps also traded for Dustin Penner who isn’t the flashiest man on the ice but brings plenty of toughness who makes a living in front of the net.

Overall, the Capitals made themselves better at the deadline.

No. 2: Minnesota Wild

The Minnesota Wild deserve credit—they make a number of trades that bolstered their lineup this year at the deadline.

The Wild currently sit in seventh in the Western Conference with 75 points. They spent a king’s ransom last offseason by singing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. The West is definitely the stronger of the two NHL sides and Minnesota is the heart of American hockey.

The Wild have to win—now.

They made a head-scratching trade on March 4 by trading for goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, formerly of the Edmonton Oilers. Bryzgalov is talented but puzzling at times. He makes for good television but is inconsistent. If the Wild can get on his level and get the most out of him they have a legitimate shot at a playoff run.

The Wild also acquired Brad Winchester who will give their blue line depth down the stretch.

Where the Wild won is by trading for Matt Moulson of the Buffalo Sabres. Moulson is as underrated as they come. The Wild have only scored 153 goals this season and struggle on the road. Moulson has scored 30-plus goals in three straight seasons from 2009-12 and 17 this season. Like the aforementioned Vanek and Halak, this too is Moulson’s third team this season.

Like the men he’s mentioned with, Moulson will make an impact in his final destination.

The Wild just made themselves better—they just made hockey better.

No. 1: St. Louis Blues

The St. Louis Blues let it be known that they are a force to be reckoned with. Even though they had solid goaltending they dropped a bombshell when they traded for goalie Ryan Miller. Arguably the best in the world, the Blues put the rest of the NHL on notice when they acquired Miller.

The Blues currently have the largest goal differential in the league at +63 and solidified that stat by acquiring Miller. For the first time in a long time he’ll have a good defense in front of him. Now is his time to shine.

The team did trade Jaroslav Halak to get him, who’s a top-10 NHL net minder. Why trade strength for strength? After a few unsuccessful playoff runs the organization obviously see Miller as the fix they need to win it all. The window to win it all isn’t open forever.

As if they weren’t already, the Blues are now a favorite for the Cup.

January 9, 2013

Leave a Comment

Four Words for Hockey Fans: The NHL Is Back!

By: Matt Bowen

It may have brought up bad memories or left a bad taste in one’s mouth, but the best news for any hockey fan this New Year is that the NHL is back in session.

The NHL is back!

Just when fans were beginning to accept the thought of missing another season due to a labor dispute, the NHL and NHLPA worked out a deal. Hockey enthusiasts everywhere have not forgotten the locked out 2004-05 season and this time the league got a much needed deal done in the eleventh hour.

So, when does the puck drop?

That’s the beauty of this deal, we don’t really know yet.

What we do know is that the season will be 48 games, teams will report to camp no later than Sunday, January 13, and that the regular season will most likely begin within a week from then.

So, as gut wrenching as it was to miss months of NHL hockey already, instant gratification takes place with games beginning seemingly overnight thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement. The new CBA’s biggest perk is certainly the 10-year deal with an opt-out clause after eight years.

This is what the league needed most—to guarantee its fans that the game can gain momentum after its latest hiccup. The NHL has officially done that and the sky is now the limit.

While there may be plenty of jilted fans at the moment, as soon as the lamp is lit smiles will overcome those who currently frown.

What’s not to love about NHL action?

At this point, a 48-game season is perfect. There will be a league-wide competitive (dis)advantage with the lack of preseason play.  The teams that gel together the fastest will find themselves in the playoffs.  Rookies will have a true trial-by-fire. No team can afford a losing streak of more than three games.

So, who are the teams to keep an eye on this season?

The Minnesota Wild and their fans have been waiting for this moment since last summer when they landed free agent stars Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. The passion for hockey runs thick in the Land of 10,000 Lakes and the buzz surrounding the Wild right now has reached a fever pitch.

Another team to expect big things from is the Edmonton Oilers. After having the No. 1 overall draft pick three-straight seasons, the shortened season could be a blessing to the franchise looking for prominence. The trio of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle will look to get off to a fast start and reach the playoffs. With so much young talent on the Oilers it’s only a matter of time before the team is the most feared in the entire NHL.

One NHL team to fear right now is the New York Rangers. They are built to win now and the addition of superstar Rick Nash in the offseason only bolsters their chances for a Stanley Cup.  With Henrik Lunqvist between the pipes, captain Ryan Callahan, sharp shooter Marian Hossa, and all-world talent Brad Richards to accompany Nash, anything short of a Cup in 2013 will be considered a failure.

Hockey fans get ready—the season will be here in the blink of an eye.  True NHL action is what we’ve been waiting for and the league will definitely deliver.