20 questions: PHT predictions for the 2013 NHL season

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We’ve already made our Stanley Cup picks. Now here are 20 more predictions from the PHT staff. You never know — a few of them may be correct.

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1. Which team will win the Presidents’ Trophy (first overall in the regular season)?

Jason Brough: Boston Bruins. A bunch of B’s were playing in Europe, making a fast start likely.

Mike Halford: New York Rangers. Who should’ve won it last year, but lost three of four to finish the season.

Ryan Dadoun: Boston Bruins. A strong team in a weak division.

Joe Yerdon: Boston Bruins. Good team, bad division.

James O’Brien: Vancouver Canucks. They’ll feast on the Northwest yet again.

2. Which team will finish last overall?

JB: New York Islanders. Glaring weaknesses in all areas.

MH: Columbus Blue Jackets. The Central Division is loaded; they’re going to get slaughtered.

RD: Columbus Blue Jackets. I hate being predictable, but I can’t think of anyone even remotely close to CBJ.

JY: New York Islanders. The rest of their division is a meat grinder and they’re ridiculously young.

JOB: Columbus Blue Jackets. On paper, it doesn’t get much worse.

3. Which team will be the most pleasantly surprising?

JB: Columbus Blue Jackets. Not saying they’ll make the playoffs, but they’ll be better than most of my colleagues think.

MH: Montreal Canadiens. Had quite a few guys playing in Europe, and Andrei Markov is healthy now.

RD: Nashville Predators. Their young defensemen will step up without Ryan Suter.

JY: Buffalo Sabres. Ryan Miller is fresh and Mikhail Grigorenko could be a stud.

JOB: San Jose Sharks. Lowered expectations, but still dangerous.

4. Which team will be the most disappointing?

JB: Detroit Red Wings. Like their general manager, I wouldn’t be shocked if they missed the playoffs.

MH: Florida Panthers. Primed for a letdown after winning the first Southeast Division banner in franchise history.

RD: New Jersey Devils. They lost Parise and I’m not confident in their aging goaltenders, especially after a long break.

JY: Minnesota Wild. Not because they’ll be bad; the bar is just set too high right now.

JOB: Edmonton Oilers. Lots of hype, but can’t keep the puck out of their net.

5. Which player will be the most pleasantly surprising?

JB: Dany Heatley. Has been skating with Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise, two pretty good line-mates.

MH: Semyon Varlamov. Finished last season strong and posted great numbers in the KHL.

RD: James Reimer. If given a chance, he’ll bounce back nicely.

JY: Matt Duchene. He’ll come flying out of Joe Sacco’s doghouse (to be replaced by Ryan O’Reilly.)

JOB: Cam Ward. Thanks to Kirk Muller’s system and improved goal support.

6. Which player will be the most disappointing?

JB: Jaromir Jagr. Still don’t know why he picked Dallas. Except I guess for the $4.5 million they gave him.

MH: Pekka Rinne. Lost his second-best defenseman (Ryan Suter) and trusty backup (Anders Lindback).

RD: Ilya Bryzgalov. But I’m sure he’ll continue to give the Daily Show/Colbert Report a run for their money.

JY: Ryan Suter. Expectations are too high given his supporting cast.

JOB: Braden Holtby. Danger of small sample sizes.

7. Who will finish with more points – Sidney Crosby or Claude Giroux?

JB: Crosby

MH: Giroux

RD: Crosby

JY: Crosby

JOB: Crosby

8. Will Ilya Bryzgalov be Philadelphia’s starting goalie for the first game of the playoffs?

JB: Yes, and it won’t even be a debate.

MH: Yes, but I could see Michael Leighton getting some action.

RD: Yes, but not because he’ll be great.

JY: Excepting injury, yes, he’ll be the man.

JOB: Yes, but a putrid defense won’t help him silence critics.

9. Who will win the Hart Trophy (most valuable)?

JB: Sidney Crosby

MH: Claude Giroux

RD: Sidney Crosby

JY: Claude Giroux

JOB: Evgeni Malkin

10. Who will win the Art Ross (most points)?

JB: Sidney Crosby

MH: Claude Giroux

RD: Sidney Crosby

JY: Sidney Crosby

JOB: Evgeni Malkin

11. Who will win the Rocket Richard (most goals)?

JB: Steven Stamkos

MH: Steven Stamkos

RD: Rick Nash

JY: Steven Stamkos

JOB: Steven Stamkos

12. Who will win the Vezina (best goalie)?

JB: Jonathan Quick

MH: Tuukka Rask

RD: Henrik Lundqvist

JY: Henrik Lundqvist

JOB: Henrik Lundqvist

13. Who will win the Norris (best defenseman)?

JB: Zdeno Chara

MH: Alex Pietrangelo

RD: Alex Pietrangelo

JY: Shea Weber

JOB: Drew Doughty

14. Who will win the Calder (top rookie)?

JB: Justin Schultz (Edmonton)

MH: Jonathan Huberdeau (Florida)

RD: Nail Yakupov (Edmonton)

JY: Cory Conacher (Tampa Bay)

JOB: Vladimir Tarasenko (St. Louis)

15. Who will win the Jack Adams (top coach)?

JB: Adam Oates (Washington)

MH: Kirk Muller (Carolina)

RD: Barry Trotz (Nashville)

JY: John Tortorella (New York Rangers)

JOB: Barry Trotz (Nashville)

16. Who will be the first coach fired?

JB: Todd McLellan (San Jose)

MH: Joel Quenneville (Chicago)

RD: Mike Yeo (Minnesota)

JY: Joe Sacco (Colorado)

JOB: Jack Capuano (New York Islanders)

17. Of last year’s 16 playoff teams, which one is most likely to miss the postseason?

JB: Florida Panthers. Weren’t very good to begin with, plus lost defenseman Jason Garrison.

MH: Florida Panthers. Injuries and departures will get them off to a slow start, and they won’t recover.

RD: New Jersey Devils. Tough division, no Parise, old goalies.

JY: New Jersey Devils. Brodeur will do his best, but yikes to scoring depth.

JOB: Ottawa Senators. Will regress after overachieving last season.

18. Of last year’s 14 non-playoff teams, which one is most likely to make the postseason?

JB: Buffalo Sabres. Panicked with high expectations last season. No shortage of talent. Tougher now too.

MH: Montreal Canadiens. Michel Therrien has a history of turning bad teams into playoff teams.

RD: Colorado Avalanche. Semyon Varlamov looked good in the KHL, and Matt Duchene should bounce back.

JY: Carolina Hurricanes. East is open enough to make it happen.

JOB: Tampa Bay Lightning. They might even win the Southeast.

19. Will the Minnesota Wild make the playoffs?

JB: Yes. Better roster, worsening competition in West.

MH: Yes. I even think they’ll win the Northwest Division.

RD: No, they’ll fall just short. Next season though…

JY: They’ll just miss out. Next year though? It’s on.

JOB: No, the West is too deep and they’re still too shallow.

20. Will the Toronto Maple Leafs make the playoffs?

JB: No. They’re not very good, and the East has too many strong teams.

MH: No. They’ll finish dead last in the Northeast.

RD:  Yes, thanks to stronger goaltending from Reimer.

JY: No, but hey, maybe they can make a run at the top pick in the draft.

JOB: No. Not a good team.

Duchene trade talks quiet, but Avs will ‘listen to offers’

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To little surprise, not much is going on in the trade market. Just ask Colorado Avalanche GM Joe Sakic.

The Denver Post’s Mike Chambers did just that, and Sakic revealed that he would still consider trading the likes of Matt Duchene … although he didn’t mention him by name.

“I will be listening to offers. Right now it’s quiet on all fronts,” Sakic said. “But I’ll listen to offers on how we can get better. I’ll never name names but I’ll sit there and if something makes sense for the way we want to go, with our team, we’ll really look at that.”

Considering that it’s mid-August, it’s not too surprising that little is happening. One can imagine that several GMs are more interested in finding drinks with umbrellas in them than trying to land Duchene, at least since the Avalanche don’t seem interested in giving him up without some serious haggling.

(And, really, the Avs would be wise to pump up Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog‘s respective trade values, anyway.)

That Denver Post story features a semi-update on Nikita Zadorov. Sakic told Chambers that the two sides agreed that a two-year deal would be best, but the “numbers” aren’t there yet. He didn’t tip his hand about how big the gap was. For what it’s worth, Sakic didn’t sound too worried about the lure of the 2018 Winter Olympics swaying Zadorov to head overseas.

While a lot of the activity circles around what hasn’t happened, the Avalanche did realize that Will Butcher officially won’t sign with them, while Colorado added a college free agent (and former Maple Leafs prospect) Dominic Toninato to their own mix.

At the moment, it doesn’t seem like something big is brewing regarding Duchene and other prominent Avs, but at least Sakic isn’t slamming the door shut on such a possibility.

Logan Couture’s teeth are still sore from horrifying mouth injury

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Still jarring and gross: the image of Logan Couture‘s mouth after taking a puck to the mouth about five months ago.

Still sore: Couture’s mouth.

Yep, the San Jose Sharks star hasn’t totally gotten over that injury, which forced him to have false teeth up top and some painfully sore ones on his bottom row. NBC Sports California’s Kevin Kurz transcribed the unfortunate details Couture shared with NHL Network this week:

“There’s good days and bad days,” Couture said. “My bottom teeth are still my real teeth. They’ve tried to keep them so I don’t lose them. I don’t know if I’ll be able to, they’re still pretty sore. My top teeth are all fake now – my front six, I think. So, it’s different. It just feels different in my mouth.

“But everything else with my face and all that is healed. I’m lucky that it’s an injury that didn’t affect my training, and hopefully won’t affect me going forward.”

As someone who’s endured more than a few unpleasant trips to the dentist, stories like these always lead to queasiness. This classic PHT post about Keith Tkachuk’s agony always comes to mind in situations like these.

Speaking of queasy, this is footage of when things were really bad for Couture. That link is provided because some will inevitably want to look, but treat this like the other gross things on the Internet that you wish you never saw and just move on.

(Seriously, the healing process continues on this end.)

Anyway, about the only bit of good news is that Couture can still train more or less as usual. He endured that injury late in the regular season (March 25), and while he suited up for the Sharks’ first-round series, it sure seemed like both Couture and Joe Thornton were limited in those six games against the Edmonton Oilers.

As much as dental agony seems like a uniquely “hockey” problem, this situation sounds especially rough for Couture.

Sidney Crosby at 30

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This post is part of Penguins Day on PHT…

Much like with Lebron James, Sidney Crosby is at the point in his career where the question is no longer “Will he be one of the all-time greats?” After back-to-back Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe wins, the discussion is shifting to where he ranks among the best of all-time.

And, like, with Lebron, there are a number of factors – including era, which is probably an even tougher nut to crack in hockey – that can twist and turn the debate.

Mere moments after Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins repeated as champs, Mike Sullivan made the case for number 87’s greatness.

” … You know, he’s arguably the best player of his generation, and he’s a guy that just knows how to win,” Sullivan said. “And so he’s done it in all different venues, whether it be the NHL and Stanley Cups to the World Cup to the Olympics. And he’s a player that — and I believe this, what separates him from others is his work ethic and his willingness to do what it takes to be the very best.”

It’s mind-blowing to consider the very real possibility that Crosby will be viewed as the best player to skate for the Penguins, edging Evgeni Malkin, Jaromir Jagr, and even Mario Lemieux.

It’s also mind-blowing that he just turned 30 on Aug. 7.

When it comes to the Mario vs. Sid debate that may eventually pick up steam, Crosby has some advantages. He matched “The Magnificent One” by getting those back-to-back titles and playoff MVP nods, while he already has three Stanley Cup rings to Lemieux’s two (and four Stanley Cup Final appearances to two).

Crosby already has an iconic moment to his name. Along with Paul Henderson’s goal and “Gretzky to Lemieux,” Crosby’s golden goal in the 2010 Winter Olympics will endear him to Canadian hockey fans for ages.

This list of accolades is honestly dizzying:

But, again, things get tougher when you try to really drill down to Crosby vs. The Greats. Most obviously since he’s far from done right now.

Circling back to the debate that might divide Penguins fans in particular, Crosby might also edge Lemieux if you correct for our modern era, which is so tough on scoring. NHL.com’s Rob Vollman explains Crosby’s place among the most impressive runs before 30:

From this perspective, Crosby is no longer in a block of a dozen players but in more select company. He ranks third at age 30 with an era-adjusted 998 points (377 goals, 622 assists), well ahead of Lemieux, who is in fourth with 899 points (365 goals, 534 assists). Gretzky is in first with 1,479 points (495 goals, 984 assists) in 896 games, followed by Jagr with 1,018 points (414 goals, 604 assists) in 858 games. (Adding to the distinction of being in the top four with Gretzky, Jagr and Lemieux: Those are the only three players to win the Art Ross Trophy as the League’s top scorer in the 21 seasons from 1980-81 to 2000-01.)  

Interesting. (This quick document has a bit more to chew on.)

Vollman also makes the point that even the all-timers tend to stop locking down the biggest awards once they turn 30. There’s an obvious barrier in Connor McDavid (just check the Hart Trophy odds) and possibly some other bright young players, so for all we know, most of our peak memories of Crosby may already be in the past.

That said, much like Lemieux, injuries have limited some of the stats Crosby’s been able to put up.

Crosby’s concussion history could conceivably prompt him to retire agonizingly early, but what if he instead gets better luck? We’ve seen cases, such as Patrice Bergeron, in which such issues become less of a concern over time. For all we know, Crosby might defy expectations and actually play until he’s 40.

(Hey, he already emulates Jaromir Jagr in being an inanely good puck protector.)

It’s been a special run already for Crosby, who’s already a no-brainer for the Hall of Fame. At this point, it’s about padding that resume.

Though, to Crosby’s credit, it’s still probably all about winning.

Sabres sign Zemgus Girgensons: two years, $3.2M

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The Buffalo Sabres basically wrapped up their mandatory summer moves by signing RFA Zemgus Girgensons to a two-year, $3.2 million contract on Thursday.

That translates to a cap hit of $1.6M per year; the team confirmed those terms.

The 23-year-old was selected 14th overall in the 2012 NHL Draft by the Sabres. He went two picks after the Sabres selected Mikhail Grigorenko, whose claim to fame is being part of the package that helped them nab Ryan O'Reilly. (Feel free to cringe at who went next, though hindsight seems especially convenient considering how long it takes to get to some of the whoppers.)

In Girgensons’ case, it’s still been a work in progress. His best years actually came early, particularly a sophomore season where he posted career-highs in goals (15) and points (30) despite being limited to 61 games. He enjoyed significantly higher ice time (19:05 per game) during that 2014-15, then came right back down.

If nothing else, Girgensons already has ample NHL experience, as he’s already played in 277 regular-season games.

Buffalo has about $7 million in cap space left, according to Cap Friendly, so there’s theoretically room to make more moves. Girgensons was their last remaining loose end of note, however.