Which teams are the most likely candidates to 'break through' in 2010-11?


Thumbnail image for conkblockdrinks.jpgLate last week Mike Chen of From the Rink gave his three picks for possible “breakout” teams for the 2010-11 season. I personally agree that the Tampa Bay Lightning and Atlanta Thrashers show some promise, but while it cannot get much worse for the Columbus Blue Jackets, they don’t scream “breakout” to me. (Then again, the Colorado Avalanche and Phoenix Coyotes showed few signs of life aside from adding a new coach last summer, so Chen’s logic might be pretty sound there.)

That post got me thinking about other candidates. I’m going to cheat a bit by taking a look at all the teams who missed the playoffs rather than the most hopeless teams to see who might have the best chance to jump. The one big exception, though, is that I need to think that each team has a genuine chance to make the playoffs.

St. Louis Blues

Why they might make the playoffs: Much like the Blue Jackets, the Blues were a Central division playoff surprise in 08-09 that came plummeting back to earth last season. The difference is that St. Louis boasts (in my opinion at least) a much stronger roster than Columbus. While they lack a top-end star like Rick Nash, I might take their deeper rotation of quality forwards (David Backes, TJ Oshie, David Perron, etc.) instead. Especially when you consider their superior defensive and goaltending groups.

Glass-half-empty points: That being said, the Central division is a beast. Chicago and Detroit are still the cream of the crop and Nashville is scrappy enough to make third place a tough spot to earn. If Chen is right about the Blue Jackets, that means the division won’t have an obvious weak team, unless that might be the Blues after all.

Thumbnail image for ducksthreeforwards.jpgAnaheim Ducks

Why they might make the playoffs: Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Jonas Hiller and (hopefully) Bobby Ryan plus the two old Finns (Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu) gives the Ducks a nice group in the big minute spots. The Pacific division is unpredictable but might be a little bit less wicked next season with the Sharks a little weaker, the Coyotes primed for a possible regression, the Stars in disarray and the Kings missing out on the Kovalchuk sweepstakes.

Glass-half-empty points: Still, the Ducks might be called the “Ucks” since they have no D. (Like what I did there? Took a page out of the “He’s Ason Kidd because he has no J” book of insults.) Seriously, though, their defense is awful.

Calgary Flames

Why they might make the playoffs: They still have some talent, maybe. Obviously, there’s Iginla and Kipper plus Jay Bouwmeester and Robyn Regehr. I didn’t hate the cheap addition of Alex Tanguay and while I snickered at the Olli Jokinen signing, maybe he can score some filler goals to increase their chances at a playoff berth. Plus, the Sutter brothers are under some serious pressure. Sometimes that brings the best out of people.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for ollijokinen3.jpgSometimes.

Glass-half-empty points: Most hockey people see the Flames as a sinking ship. I have to admit I lean in that direction, but I thought the Flames might be worth mentioning even if it’s just because they’re one of the best teams that didn’t make the playoffs.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Why they might make the playoffs: Like the Flames, their are a lot of heads that could roll if they don’t make the playoffs. The team will get a training camp to congeal after Brian Burke’s many moves (I’d recommend handing out name tags). While I disagree with many of Burke’s transactions, he did get Kris Versteeg for very little and the team is better on paper. Versteeg, Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf and the could-be-better goalie duo of J.S. Giguere and “The Monster”? They won’t rock the world, but this is the Eastern Conference, after all.

Glass-half-empty points: Much like with the Flames, I had to strain to be positive about the Leafs. They’re under a lot of pressure and spending a lot of money to fight for the 7th or 8th spot in the East. The odds are high that the bottom of that conference won’t boast a sleeping giant in the bottom ranks like the Flyers again next summer, but making the playoffs would be quite the change of pace for the moribund Leafs franchise.

So those are my four guesses for teams who might “break through” next season, even if the Ducks and Flames were a bit of a cheat. Did I miss anyone? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Don’t glare: Heritage Classic start time delayed

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - OCTOBER 22: Cam Talbot #33 of the Edmonton Oilers skates during practice in preparation for the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic alumni hockey game on October 22, 2016 at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Oilers play the Winnipeg Jets on Oct. 23, 2016. (Photo by Jason Halstead /Getty Images)
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Update: Puck drop is now scheduled for 4:53 p.m. ET.


It’s not a familiar situation for the NHL, but it has happened before: a weather delay for a hockey game.

The Winnipeg Jets confirmed that the start time for their Heritage Classic game against the Edmonton Oilers has been delayed. The glare of the sun appears to be too much.

At the moment, it is not yet known how severe the delay will be. Puck drop was originally scheduled for just after 3 p.m. ET.

That’s a bummer, but at least it inspired a joke that would probably make Ilya Bryzgalov smile:

Warm-ups were moved to 4 p.m. ET. PHT will keep you posted if there are any other changes.

Great news: Jacques Demers back at home after hospital stay

MONTREAL- NOVEMBER 22:   Former Montreal Canadiens goalie Patrick Roy embraces his former head coach Jacques Demers during his retirement ceremony before the game against the Boston Bruins at the Bell Centre on November 22, 2008 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Bruins defeated the Canadiens 3-2 in a shootout.  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
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OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) Former Montreal Canadiens coach Jacques Demers is back at home after going to a hospital Saturday.

Demers’ Senate office would only confirm that the 72-year-old Demers, a Canadian senator, was at home Sunday, but didn’t provide any details about the reason he went to the hospital.

Demers had suffered a stroke in April, but he was at the Canadiens’ home opener Tuesday night, smiling in a wheelchair while handing a torch to captain Max Pacioretty to close out a pregame ceremony.

Demers led the Canadiens to their most recent Stanley Cup in 1993. He also coached the Quebec Nordiques, the Detroit Red Wings and the St. Louis Blues.

Demers was appointed to the Senate in 2009 by then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper, but later left the Conservative caucus in December to sit as an Independent.

At the time, he said he was uncomfortable with some of the fallout from the Senate expenses scandal and didn’t like to have to vote the Conservative party line all the time.

Goalie nods: Talbot vs. Hellebuyck vs. the elements

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - OCTOBER 22: Cam Talbot #33 of the Edmonton Oilers skates during practice in preparation for the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic alumni hockey game on October 22, 2016 at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Oilers play the Winnipeg Jets on Oct. 23, 2016. (Photo by Jason Halstead /Getty Images)
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So, let’s assume that the Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets will eventually play in the 2016 Heritage Classic at Investors Group Field on Sunday.

Every indication is that Cam Talbot and Connor Hellebuyck shall get the nods for their respective teams. Most assume, with the firepower on hand, that this could be a high-scoring game.

Hellebuyck isn’t flustered about all the goals the Jets have allowed so far, as he told NHL.com.

“It’s not something you’re really worried about,” Hellebuyck said. “It’s early in the year, it happens to a lot of teams. If you look at the trends in the past 10 years, there’s always a lot of goals being scored at the beginning of the year.”

They’re not just facing dangerous offenses. They’re also dealing with the conditions, as the game was already delayed by the glare of the sun.

Goalies are already accustomed to having their views compromised by screening forwards. Will Hellebuyck and Talbot squint through the Heritage Classic?

Elsewhere …

Wild at Islanders – Darcy Kuemper vs. Thomas Greiss

Coyotes at Rangers – Louis Domingue vs. (probably) Henrik Lundqvist

Canucks at DucksRyan Miller vs. (likely) John Gibson

Get set for the Heritage Classic with hot dog facts and more

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - OCTOBER 22: Morris Lukowich #12 of the Winnipeg Jets alumni moves the puck in front Steve Staios #24 of the Edmonton Oilers alumni during the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic alumni hockey game on October 22, 2016 at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Jason Halstead /Getty Images)
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The Winnipeg Jets host the Edmonton Oilers at the 2016 Heritage Classic at Investors Group Field this afternoon. You can watch it on NHL Network, Sportsnet, TVA Sports 2 or NHL.tv at 3 p.m. ET.

With that in mind, let’s get prepped with super-important stats about unhealthy food, interesting photos and fun facts.

  • Want to get an in-depth look at the rivalry between the Jets and the Oilers? NHL.com and Sportsnet both have some great retrospectives.
  • The CBC notes that there was rain ending in the morning but it’s expected to be cloudy. Overall, sounds like a nice climate for an outdoor hockey game. NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika wonders if the sun’s glare might cause some issues.
  • No doubt about it, the futures of both franchises will be on display, from Connor McDavid to Patrik Laine.
  • The league’s PR department tweeted out some silly facts: 425 lbs. of cheese curds “will top poutine” during the event and 2.5 kilometers (about 1.55 miles) of hot dogs and “smokies” will be consumed.

(Imagines one enormous cheese dog.)

Now that you have important food facts in mind, here are a few fun photos as promised.

Should be a great time.

Oh, and in case you missed it, here is a recap of Saturday’s wonderful alumni game: