Which NHL teams might be contenders next season?


capscontender.jpgIt’s a pretty slow night, so such evenings lend themselves to meandering little curiosities like this Canoe.ca article regarding future contenders in the NHL.

So who’s next?

After adding Taylor Hall to a stockpile of offensive prospects that also includes world junior hero Jordan Eberle and skilled Swede Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, the Oilers are being billed as a future force to be reckoned with.

Jonathan Bernier finally seems ready for stardom, giving the Kings a hotshot puck-stopper to complement an up-and-coming core featuring sniper Anze Kopitar and blueline ace Drew Doughty.

The Coyotes and Avalanche have stashed a cache of young weapons, while sharpshooters Steven Stamkos and John Tavares are trying to author turnarounds in Tampa Bay and Long Island, where they’re not yet legal drinking age.

But the Capitals seem closest to sipping champagne from Lord Stanley’s mug.

The Washington Capitals are on my short list of “Teams who look promising even though it’s only July.” I’d like to see what the Chicago Blackhawks do with their goalie situation to truly assess their quality as a team, but I think they’d make the list. You know what, let’s list them for fun right now.

  • Capitals
  • Blackhawks
  • Pittsburgh Penguins
  • Philadelphia Flyers?
  • Vancouver Canucks
  • Detroit Red Wings
  • San Jose Sharks

Obviously this list is ridiculously preliminary and each team has some problems.

Out East, I’d be surprised if there was much change among the best teams. The Capitals will forever be critiqued as soft and/or “chokers” until they make an impact in the playoffs, but what they really need is a shutdown defenseman and a second line center. The Penguins loaded up on defense but might actually decline in their greatest area of weakness: wingers. Everyone can write the same things they always write about the Flyers’ goalies.

nucksgotchucked.jpgIn the Western Conference, my guess is that things will be fairly similar to last season. Chicago cannot be judged until their team is complete, but they still have the core players to be a contender. The San Jose Sharks made a big but possibly reasonable change in net – and besides – their “failures are higher than most teams’ successes.”

The two most interesting teams might be the Canucks and Red Wings. Vancouver got whooped by Chicago in the playoffs – really, they fell apart – but they still have some interesting elements. Adding Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard to a defense that might have been their biggest weakness last year might make them the best in the West. But don’t forget about the Red Wings, either, a team who became the league’s hottest club once their injury-ravaged squad actually came together.

Soon enough, we’ll be making previews for next season. While the preferred method is to use a blindfold and some darts, those above teams are the ones who come to my mind when I think contenders for next year. Who do you think will make a splash in the 2010-11 season?

After missing on Ducks gig, Richardson lands with Hockey Canada

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Luke Richardson, the former player and bench boss that interviewed for Anaheim’s vacant head coaching gig this summer, has caught on with Hockey Canada as an assistant coach for the upcoming Deutschland Cup, per the Ottawa Sun.

Richardson, 47, is considered to be a quality NHL coach-in-waiting.

A veteran d-man with over 1,400 games played in Toronto, Edmonton, Philly, Columbus, Tampa Bay and Ottawa, he’s since enjoyed success as both an assistant coach with the Sens, and as their bench boss in AHL Binghamton.

In his first year with Bingo, Richardson led the club to a 44-21-1-7 record. He was named the AHL’s Eastern Conference all-star coach in his second year.

Richardson’s been praised for his work developing young prospects. Upon departing the Sens organization this summer — he asked GM Pierre Dorion to be considered for the head coaching gig in Ottawa, but was turned down — the club noted that 13 of Richardson’s players were recalled from Binghamton last season.

Earlier, Richardson received accolades for his work with the likes of Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman and Jean-Gabriel Pageau.

Unsurprisingly, he’s been linked to a variety of NHL jobs.

Richardson was considered a frontrunner for the Sabres gig that eventually went to Dan Bylsma and, as mentioned above, was shortlisted and interviewed by Ducks GM Bob Murray to replace Bruce Boudreau (the job eventually went to Randy Carlyle).

“My confidence grew when I was with Binghamton and I have a plan about how to be successful in the NHL,” Richardson said, per the Sun. “But there are only 30 jobs and you’ve got to be patient.

“It’s unfortunate that if you do get a chance, it’s at somebody else’s expense, but I know that if I sign somewhere, I would immediately be on the clock, too.”

Taking a tourney gig with Hockey Canada has proven an effective way to break into — or, back into — NHL coaching. Guy Boucher led Canada at the 2014 and 2015 Spengler Cups, and subsequently scored the Sens gig this summer.

Stecher to make NHL debut for Canucks

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 09: Troy Stecher #2 of North Dakota skates against the Boston University Terriers during the third period of the 2015 NCAA Division I Men's Hockey Championship semifinals at TD Garden on April 9, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.The Boston Terriers defeat North Dakota 5-3.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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It didn’t take long for the injury bug to bite the Vancouver Canucks again. Head coach Willie Desjardins announced this morning that forwards Alex Burrows and Derek Dorsett were expected to miss 7-10 days, each with undisclosed ailments, and that defenseman Chris Tanev was day-to-day after getting banged up Sunday in Anaheim.

Of the three injured players, Tanev has by far the biggest role. The 26-year-old typically logs 20 minutes on the top pairing with Alex Edler. Tonight against Ottawa, Tanev will be replaced by rookie Troy Stecher, who will be making his NHL debut.

Stecher, 22, signed with the Canucks in April after three years at the University of North Dakota. He had an impressive preseason but was sent down to AHL Utica to start the year.

“Playing with Edler, certainly he’s going to get some hard match-ups,” said Desjardins, who opted to keep his other two defensive pairings together. Vancouver’s second pairing is Ben Hutton with Erik Gudbranson, its third is Luca Sbisa with Philip Larsen.

Another former college star, Jayson Megna, will make his Canucks debut tonight, stepping in for Burrows on the fourth line.

As for Nikita Tryamkin, the big Russian d-man is expected to be a healthy scratch for the seventh time in seven games.

“He’s still on the program,” said Desjardins. “We’re still trying to get him to where we want him to be. He’s not quite there yet.”

Tryamkin, 22, has refused to accept an assignment to the AHL.

Investor offers to build Seattle arena without public financing


From King 5 News in Seattle:

Chris Hansen and his investment team on Tuesday offered to forgo public financing to build a new sports arena in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood.

The group also said it would cover the current funding gap to build an overpass over Lander Street, a project long desired by freight and industrial interests concerned about congestion in around the Port of Seattle.

The proposal amounts to a stunning and swift turn in the nearly five-year debate over building a new arena and, ultimately, bringing a professional basketball and hockey team to the city.

Be sure to click on the story for all the details. These stories are rarely simple, and there’s still no guarantee that Hansen and his group will get permission to build their new arena.

But suffice to say, if a new arena does get built, Seattle will have a much better chance of landing an NHL franchise. Hansen has said he’s only interested in owning an NBA franchise, but back in 2014, billionaire Victor Coleman was reportedly working with Hansen to land an NHL tenant. It’s not clear if Coleman is still working with Hansen.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has said that Seattle is not a consideration for relocation or expansion until there’s a suitable arena.


— Bettman rejects notion that the NHL is waiting for Seattle

— Pacific Northwest will ‘get serious consideration’ for expansion or relocation


Goalie nods: Subban to make second career start

Malcolm Subban

Plenty of noteworthy starts on a busy night — 11 games! — but let’s focus on the situation in Boston.

Yes, again.

Malcolm Subban will make his first start of the season and second of his NHL career when the Bruins host the Wild at TD Garden.

Guaranteed he’s hoping this one goes better than the last.

Subban lasted half a game in a loss to St. Louis last February, allowing three goals on just six shots before getting hooked. This test against Minnesota will be a tall one, especially given how Subban’s brief time in the AHL has gone — the former first-round pick is 0-3-1 with Providence this year, posting a 4.50 GAA and .846 save percentage.

As we wrote earlier, both Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin are injured, meaning Subban’s goalie mate in the American League — Zane McIntyre — will serve as Boston’s backup.

For the Wild, Devan Dubnyk gets the start.


— Justin Peters will make his first start for the Coyotes, who are in New Jersey. The Devils will go with Cory Schiender, after he stopped 28 of 29 shots in a win over Minnesota on Saturday.

James Reimer gives Roberto Luongo a night off as the Panthers visit Pittsburgh. He’ll be up against Marc-Andre Fleury, who continues to shoulder a heavy load with Matt Murray (hand) still out.

— It’s Cam Ward versus Petr Mrazek as the ‘Canes visit Detroit.

— The Bolts will go with Ben Bishop (even though Andrei Vasilevskiy will get more starts) in Toronto. No word on a Leafs starter yet, but it’s expected Frederik Andersen will go. Mike Babcock fielded some questions about Andersen this morning, in case you missed it.

Anders Nilsson makes his first start of the season for the Sabres tonight. Philly has yet to announce who’s going.

— After getting parked for the first meeting against his old team, Brian Elliott will start in goal for the Flames in St. Louis. Carter Hutton gives Jake Allen the night off for the Blues.

— It’s Michael Hutchinson versus Antti Niemi as the Jets take on the Stars in the first of a home-and-home set.

— Ottawa will give Craig Anderson the nod in Vancouver. No word on a Canucks starter yet — Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom split back-to-back games in Anaheim and Los Angeles over the weekend, with Miller playing in Sunday’s loss to the Ducks.

Martin Jones is going for the Sharks tonight, as they host the Ducks. Anaheim has yet to announce a starter.

— The in-form Sergei Bobrovsky, fresh off Saturday’s shutout of Dallas, goes for the Blue Jackets in Los Angeles. Peter Budaj was first off at the Kings’ morning skate. He’s been getting the job done for L.A. thus far, with both Jonathan Quick and Jeff Zatkoff out with injury.