Which NHL teams might be contenders next season?

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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?

Yes, it’s really happening: Vegas NHL team installs ice for first time

vegasice2
via Vegas is Hockey
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Sometimes you just need a reminder that a remarkable thing actually is happening.

Saturday presented the latest evidence that the NHL coming to Las Vegas isn’t just a collective fever dream, as the still-nameless franchise noted that they’ve begun the process to install ice at T-Mobile Arena for the first time.

It’s not the prettiest picture, but it means a lot:

While setting up the first sheet of ice is a physical sign that things are coming together, the front office side will dictate the sort of team that eventually plays on it.

For more insight into that process, Puck Daddy takes a look at Murray Craven, who appears to be a key part of bringing things together … even if it’s difficult to nail down a specific title.

Presenting: Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton hockey bobbleheads

cannotunsee
via Milwaukee Admirals
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From the Department of Sights You Can’t Un-see: the Milwaukee Admirals are going to unleash hockey-playing bobbleheads for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton “this fall.”

The Nashville Predators’ AHL affiliate continues the fine tradition of headline-grabbing and all-around-odd promotions from the league.

/Pours one out for the Bakersfield Condors and their Seinfeld “puffy” shirts.

Feast your eyes on the rather disturbing duo:

(The replies to that tweet aren’t too weird yet, but it would probably be wise to stay away nonetheless.)

Naturally, there are other bobblehead options available for the two Presidential front-runners, with the Trump ones being especially entertaining.

As the youngest GM in NHL history, Chayka is already making waves

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 25: John Chayka of the Arizona Coyotes attends the 2016 NHL Draft on June 25, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) His time on the ice done, John Chayka would turn to the tape, spending up to 25 hours to break down the game just played.

He tracked every player on the ice, every possession, touch of the puck, calculating the impact of every decision or movement on the ice.

The attention to detail, to making himself and his teammates better, led Chayka to co-found his own hockey analytics company. Now it’s helped him become the youngest general manager in NHL history, a meteoric rise even he didn’t see coming.

“It would be silly to suggest it wasn’t a little surprising,” said Chayka, named GM of the Arizona Coyotes on May 5. “It’s like anything in life; good fortune, good timing, a lot of that plays into it. I always just try to better myself every day, learn every day.”

Related: The Coyotes are going in a ‘new direction,’ and that’s an understatement

Chayka was like most Canadian kids growing up, playing hockey from a young age on a backyard rink in Jordan Station, Ontario. He had some skill, too, as a high-scoring winger who was good enough to be an Ontario Hockey League draft pick.

Instead of becoming a professional hockey player, Chayka took a different route to the highest level. He opted to attend college instead of playing in the OHL and suffered a back injury that ended any chance of a continued playing career.

Chayka liked the analytical aspect of hockey even when he was playing, logging numbers by hand while meticulously going through every play of each game. Once he teamed up with Neil Lane, a friend with an IT background, Chayka was able to vastly expand the data sets he could analyze.

Chayka and Lane co-founded Stathletes in 2009 and built it up, molding the hockey analytics company to serve the needs of NHL teams and players.

But in 2015, Chayka decided to make a change. The business was in good shape and the Coyotes wanted an analytics person, so he joined them as an assistant GM prior to the 2015-16 season.

“The company was in a position for the co-founder to step aside and let it grow, so it was good timing for me to do that,” Chayka said.

Timing worked out for Chayka again this spring.

After missing the playoffs for the fourth straight season, the Coyotes decided to make a change, firing general manager Don Maloney after nine seasons.

Instead of hiring an established hockey front-office man, the Coyotes took a bolder route, hiring the then-26-year-old Chayka, making him the youngest GM in NHL history and the first with a primarily analytical background.

“What people are going to find out about John as he becomes more well-known is he’s a very smart guy, a very intelligent guy,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said.

Those smarts, along with a year of watching the Coyotes operations from the inside out, have allowed Chayka to hit the ground sprinting.

Arizona had one of the highest-rated drafts, landing center Clayton Keller and defenseman Jakob Chychurn, players who could contribute quickly.

The Coyotes signed top-four defenseman Alex Goligoski after trading for his rights and added some scoring depth by signing left wing Jamie McGinn, who set career highs in goals and points last season. Arizona also signed captain Shane Doan to a one-year deal.

Chayka has retooled Arizona’s roster by combining his analytical approach with the traditional methods of evaluating players, dispelling the notion that he would be a numbers-only GM.

“It’s a good holistic approach where you’re weighing both options and ideas,” Chayka said. “Where you have agreements and consistency in your approach, then you have a better decision. When you have those disagreements is where you have real opportunity to learn from it. If the data disagrees with the eye or the eye disagrees with the data, now you have a real opportunity to understand why.”

The need to understand got Chayka to this unprecedented point. It should be the foundation to keep him climbing as well.

Report: Wheat Kings’ McCrimmon likely to be named Las Vegas assistant GM

Brandon Wheat Kings v Kelowna Rockets
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The Las Vegas NHL franchise has been in search of an assistant general manager, and that search may be nearing an end.

According to a report from Guy Flaming of The Pipeline Show on TSN 1260, Brandon Wheat Kings owner, GM and coach Kelly McCrimmon is likely to be named assistant GM in Las Vegas.

The report was backed up on Friday from Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.

Last summer, McCrimmon turned down a job with the Toronto Maple Leafs front office.

It was reported last week that Vegas general manager George McPhee had asked the Washington Capitals for permission to speak with that team’s assistant GM Ross Mahoney.