Tag: Nathan Horton

Columbus Blue Jackets v Nashville Predators

Outlook for Horton’s ailing back getting bleaker


There have been numerous reports — almost all of them expressing pessimism — about the status of Nathan Horton’s back injury, but the latest from the Columbus Dispatch might be the most negative of all.

From Aaron Portzline:

“Nathan is a frustrated kid right now,” said his agent, Paul Krepelka. “This is normally a really easygoing guy, a happy guy, but he’s just so frustrated by all of this.

“He signed with Columbus to make an impact, to play a big role on a team that’s on the rise. He was so excited about doing it. The fact that he hasn’t been able to make any meaningful contributions is just extremely frustrating to him.”

While the Blue Jackets are preparing for three games in California, starting Thursday at the San Jose Sharks, Horton is resting in Columbus, as he has been for weeks. He has not been available for comment.

“He’s going to rest it and see if it responds,” general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said.

Horton has been troubled by a sore lower back for several seasons, sources said, but it became significantly worse during the offseason. Kekalainen said Horton was experienced extreme discomfort while jogging in Florida this summer.

According to Dispatch sources, Horton has been diagnosed with “degeneration” of the entire lumbar region of his spine, while TSN’s Bob McKenzie said it’s believed Horton has a L5-S1 herniated disc (both are lower back ailments). Regardless of the diagnosis, the fact remains that Krepelka said Horton is in “constant pain” and “constant discomfort,” casting real doubt if the 29-year-old will be able to play this year… or ever again.

In the second of a seven-year, $37.1 million deal, Horton is eligible to be put on long-term injured reserve, though that’s not Columbus’ primary concern. The club is already $7M under the salary cap ceiling, and would much rather have Horton in the lineup, cap hit and all, than him watching from the sidelines.

Gagne may get an audition with Bruins’ Krejci, Lucic

Boston Bruins vs Montreal Canadiens

David Krejci and Milan Lucic seem like they’re getting healthier and more productive as of late for the Boston Bruins, but it looks like head coach Claude Julien is still experimenting to find them the right linemate.

Seth Griffith’s opportunity seemingly ended during Thursday’s loss to the Montreal Canadiens, yet it seemed hasty to assume that Simon Gagne’s late shifts with Krejci and Lucic would mean an extended audition, even if Gagne managed to score a goal in that very limited amount of time with that duo.

If the Bruins’ announced line rushes are any indication, he’ll get a chance to prove he can stick:

If this sticks, it would be a fascinating opportunity for a 34-year-old winger who didn’t play in 2013-14 and waited until this season already started to get his current, $600K deal. He also started off on the fourth line.

Gagne has two 40+ goal seasons and two other 30+ campaigns to his name, so it’s easy to see why things could work out, especially since Krejci and Lucic would likely open up a lot of space for the winger to unleash what still may be a lethal shot. (One may assume that trait hasn’t “left him.”)

Krejci and Lucic might be used to setting up right-handed shots considering their experiences with Jarome Iginla and Nathan Horton, so it would be interesting to see if Gagne’s once-elite lefty release changes this dynamic in anyway.

Speaking of changing dynamics, coaches tend to tweak lines frequently in the NHL, so there’s no telling how long Gagne might stick.

Considering the resume he brings to the table and Boston’s limited options thanks to cap concerns, it might behoove the Bruins to give him a long look here, though.

Come on! Dubinsky undergoes surgery, out six weeks


That was probably the reaction in Columbus on Wednesday after the Jackets announced that Brandon Dubinsky would miss the next six weeks following abdominal surgery.

Dubinsky, 28, now joins a staggering list of injured Jackets: Nathan Horton, Ryan Murray, Boone Jenner and Brian Gibbons, all of whom will start the season on the sidelines.

What’s more, it’s unclear if Columbus’ leading scorer from last season — Ryan Johansen — will be able to play in Thursday’s season-opener against Buffalo; Johansen missed all of the preseason and exhibition campaign to a contract impasse, and is dealing with fitness and form issues.

Here are some projected lines for tomorrow’s game (based on today’s rushes, with Johansen included):

PHT’s Season Preview: 30 questions, 180 answers

Alex Ovechkin, John Tavares

We made a list of 30 questions ahead of the 2014-15 NHL season, then we tried to answer those questions. Enjoy:

1. Of all the teams that missed the playoffs last season, the most likely to make the playoffs this season is…

Jason Brough: Washington. I considered a few teams here, but I think Barry Trotz will be good for the Caps, and I liked the Matt Niskanen signing.

James O’Brien: The Isles. The Capitals and Devils are awfully tempting choices, but I love what Garth Snow did this offseason.

Ryan Dadoun: The New York Islanders. I think their top two forward lines look pretty good and Jaroslav Halak should be solid between the pipes.

Cam Tucker:  Vancouver. Outside of trading Ryan Kesler, the core didn’t change, but they’ve added younger players and a new coach known for getting the most out of his players.

Dhiren Mahiban: Can’t argue with the Islanders choice. The additions of Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy and Halak certainly make them better on the back end. Throw in a healthy John Tavares and this is a playoff team.

Mike Halford: Isles. Three of the Metro’s playoff teams from last year — Rangers, Flyers and Blue Jackets — have their issues and could take a step back.

2.Of all the teams that made the playoffs last season, the most likely to miss the playoffs is…

JB: Philadelphia. The blue line was already a concern before Kimmo Timonen was diagnosed with blood clots. Can’t say I’m the biggest believer in Steve Mason either.

JO: Philadelphia. Even if that offensive attack is so potent that it’s very scary to pick against them.

RD: Columbus. I really want to believe in the Blue Jackets, but with Nathan Horton out and Ryan Johansen missing training camp, I’m really wondering about the offense.

CT: Detroit. Aging core group of forwards that’s struggled to stay healthy. And that playoff streak, at 23 years now, has to end eventually, right?

DM: Detroit. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are coming off injuries and are a year older. Youngsters Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and Tomas Jurco won’t be catching anyone by surprise this season.

MH: Columbus. Will get off to a slow start (Horton/Jenner/Murray out, Johansen trying to get up to speed) and never recover.

3. The Red Wings have made the playoffs 23 straight seasons. Will they make it 24?

JB: No. I absolutely hate betting against a Mike Babcock-coached team, but it feels like the end of an era in Detroit.

JO: Yes. It won’t be pretty, but Babcock will scowl his way into another postseason and then gain the Bill Belichick-like power he craves … just maybe not in Detroit.

RD: Yes. They’re lucky they moved from the Western Conference to the East when they did.

CT: No. Again, health a big concern. Not entirely sold on their goaltending, either.

DM: No. Health and young players providing a repeat performance are big concerns.

MH: Yes. I don’t get why everybody’s so down on the Wings. They had 93 points last year with basically half their roster. Zetterberg’s healthy, Howard’s healthy and Nyquist is primed for his first full NHL season.

4. The Edmonton Oilers have missed the playoffs eight straight seasons. Will they make it nine?

JB: Yes. Too many good teams in the West, combined with too little experience down the middle. I think they’ll be harder to play against though.

JO: Yes. This is the first time I’ve nearly been lured in by the siren call of their potential, but a stacked West provides the beeswax to resist for one more year.

RD: Yes. I think the Oilers are moving in the right direction, but I look at their competition and I just don’t see how Edmonton can squeeze into the playoffs.

CT: Yes. They play in the Pacific Division.

DM: Yes. The Pacific Division is just too strong and the Oilers are predominantly young and inexperienced.

MH: I want to say no just to be different, but yes.

5. The worst team in the NHL will be…

JB: Calgary. But holy heck could the Flames be dangerous in a few years if they get Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel.

JO: Buffalo. The Sabres’ third jersey should be a tank … with swords.

RD: Buffalo. The Sabres were remarkably bad last season and I don’t think they’ve closed the gap between them and the rest of the league.

CT: Florida. Even with Roberto Luongo and Shawn Thornton.

DM: Carolina. Jordan Staal is out 3-4 months. Now Jeff Skinner’s health is in question.

MH: Carolina. Even the owner wants out of this mess.

6. The biggest wildcard team (i.e. could be good, could be awful) is…

JB: Islanders. On paper, they’re a lot better than last season. That said, I always get nervous about “good on paper” teams, and I have trouble putting 100 percent faith in an organization that hasn’t won a playoff series since 1993.

JO: Edmonton. They actually employ two goalies who could conceivably be above average. But…Oilers.

RD: Washington. If Braden Holtby plays well, if Barry Trotz can get the most out of the players, then they could be something special. This team has plenty of risks though.

CT: Toronto. The Leafs give up a lot of shots, and it caught up with them last season. But this team has good players. They just need to be used the right way.

DM: Toronto. So many “ifs” on this team. The roster has potential though.

MH: San Jose. I literally have no idea what to expect from a team that may have had a nervous breakdown this summer. The Sharks could win the division. They could also be a steaming pile of diapers. Neither would surprise me.

source: Getty Images7. Are the San Jose Sharks more likely to be a complete disaster or Stanley Cup champs?

JB: Stanley Cup champs. I just remember what people were saying about the Bruins after they blew that 3-0 lead to the Flyers in 2010. We all know what they did the next year. (That being said, I’m not ruling out complete disaster.)

JO: Stanley Cup champs. Even after a dopey offseason, the Sharks didn’t blow everything up. I will change my tune if they foolishly trade Joe Thornton and/or Patrick Marleau, however.

RD: Stanley Cup champs. It’s hard to look at their roster and see them as anything other than a playoff team.

CT: Stanley Cup champs. I would define complete disaster as missing the playoffs. Don’t see that happening.

DM: Stanley Cup champs?! C’mon, this team has never been past the conference final. It’ll stay that way.

MH: Complete disaster. No, wait, Stanley Cup champs. No, wait, complete disaster. No, wait…

8. True or false: the Colorado Avalanche will prove the analytics guys right and regress.

JB: True. Tough to say how far they’ll regress, but I sure don’t see them winning the Central again. Wouldn’t be shocked if they missed the playoffs.

JO: True. I don’t think Semyon Varlamov can replicate that “Dominik Hasek carrying Buffalo” impression from 2013-14.

RD: True. I can’t see them matching last season’s 52-22-8 record, but they should still make the playoffs.

CT: True, but they’ll still qualify for the playoffs.

DM: True, they set the bar awfully high last season, but they’ll still make the playoffs.

MH: True. And I, for one, welcome our new fancy stats overlords and would like to remind them that as a trusted internet blogger, I can be helpful in browbeating others into their nerdy ways.

9. One team that isn’t getting enough respect is…

JB: Pittsburgh. Yes, the Pens have had some serious postseason letdowns in recent seasons, but it’s not like they’ve gone out in the first round every year. I also really liked the Christian Ehrhoff signing.

JO: Vancouver. Their core is getting a little creaky, but everyone (save the occasional Chris Higgins) looked worse in John Tortorella’s ill-fitting system.

RD: The New York Rangers. They made it to the Stanley Cup Final, but seven teams have better odds than them to be the 2015 champions.

CT: Anaheim. They play in California. They’re in the shadow of the L.A. Kings, Stanley Cup champs.

DM: Pittsburgh. Sure they cleaned out their front office and fired their head coach, but Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin give this team a chance to win every season. 

MH: Nashville. They played basically all of last year without Pekka Rinne, yet still finished with 88 points. And the Laviolette/Ribeiro/Roy additions should improve the offense.

10. One team that’s getting too much respect is…

JB: Dallas. The exciting Stars are one of my favorite teams to watch, but that blue line is nowhere near championship caliber.

JO: Dallas. Brutal conference, walking a tightrope with shaky defense and Kari Lehtonen’s fragility, yet that tantalizing array of talent makes them a fun watch.

RD: Anaheim. The Ducks have a strong offense and getting Ryan Kesler helps. However, they’re betting it all on a pair of talented, but still very inexperienced goaltenders.

CT: Colorado. Took some very good steps last year. But it was just one season. Do it again.

DM: Anaheim. Ryan Kesler was certainly a great offseason acquisition, but last time I checked, he doesn’t play goal. Two inexperienced goaltenders will hurt their chances. 

MH: Wait, when did Colorado get too much respect? And the correct answer is Dallas.

11. The number of teams with a legitimate chance of winning the Stanley Cup is…

JB: Nine. (Los Angeles, Chicago, Anaheim, St. Louis, San Jose, Boston, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Montreal.)

JO: Same Nine. (Los Angeles, Chicago, Anaheim, St. Louis, San Jose, Boston, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Montreal.)

RD: Ten. (Boston, Tampa Bay, Montreal, Pittsburgh, the New York Rangers, St. Louis, Chicago, San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim.)

CT: Seven (Boston, Pittsburgh, New York Rangers, Anaheim, San Jose, Chicago, L.A.)

DM: Six (Boston, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Anaheim, L.A., St. Louis)

MH: Six (Boston, Pittsburgh, L.A., Chicago, St. Louis, Tampa Bay)

source: Getty Images12. The last team to make your cut was…

JB: Montreal. With PK Subban, Carey Price, and the relatively easy Eastern Conference earning the Habs the nod.

JO: Anaheim. On one hand, the Ducks lack the depth and stability of the West’s best teams. On the other, they have more than $9 million in cap space if management wants to invest in some reinforcements.

RD: Anaheim, for the reasons mentioned above.

CT: Pittsburgh. Never really considered leaving them off.

DM: St. Louis. They haven’t made it past the second round since 2002, but the pieces are coming together nicely.  

MH: Tampa Bay. Love the upgrades.

13. The best team to miss your cut was…

JB: Minnesota. With the goaltending uncertainty and all the other tough Western Conference teams going against the Wild.

JO: The Rangers. Henrik Lundqvist heals many wounds, but they suffered some tough losses this offseason.

RD: Dallas. I have concerns about their blueline and that’s what kept them off my list, but they’re strong in every other respect.

CT: Montreal. They’re a final four team, but getting to the next level, I’m not sure.

DM: The Rangers. They got to the final last year, but lost some key players this summer.

MH: Anaheim. Loaded up front, not so much on defense.

14. The Canadian team with the best chance to win the country’s first Stanley Cup since 1993 is…

JB: Obvious answer is Montreal. The sad thing for Canadian hockey fans? Vancouver ranks No. 2 on my list. And while I think they’ll fight for a playoff spot, it’s hard to call the Canucks Cup contenders anymore.

JO: Montreal faces the easier path to the championship round, boasts an elite goalie (Carey Price) and an elite blueliner (P.K. Subban) plus very good prime-age players and a potential breakout candidate in Alex Galchenyuk. They’re a tempting finalist pick even beyond the Canadian confines, honestly.

RD: Montreal by default. Don’t get me wrong, I think the Canadiens are a good team, but it’s not like they have much competition among their Canadian counterparts.

CT: Montreal. Wouldn’t surprise me if the Habs are the only Canadian team to make the playoffs — again.

DM: Montreal. With Carey Price healthy last season, they could’ve been in the final last year.

MH: Montreal. There’s no other real answer here.

source: Getty Images
John Gibson

15. The goaltending storyline you’re most interested to follow is…

JB: The one in Anaheim, where the Ducks are going with “the kids,” John Gibson and Frederik Andersen.

JO: Anaheim’s my first vote, although I’m quite excited to see what happens regarding contract years for Marc-Andre Fleury and Antti Niemi, too.

RD: Anaheim’s, but for the sake of being different, I’ll say St. Louis. I’m a big fan of the Blues and part of that is because I believe Brian Elliott is capable of leading that team.

CT: Vancouver. Ryan Miller was the big free agent signing and is working with a new goalie coach in Rollie Melanson. Plus, back-up Eddie Lack has looked good in the preseason. Plus, what is Vancouver without a goaltending controversy? Come on…

DM: Toronto. The Leafs brought back James Reimer despite an obvious rift with head coach Randy Carlyle. What happens if Jonathan Bernier suffers a significant injury this season? We all remember how it went down the stretch last year.

MH: Carolina. Is Cam Ward going to be the league’s highest-paid backup? And if he is, how bad will that look on what could be the NHL’s worst team?

16. A young player you expect to burst onto the scene is…

JB: Leon Draisaitl in Edmonton. Currently pegged as the Oilers’ second-line center. A big job for an 18-year-old rookie, but a big opportunity, too.

JO: Seth Jones, unless that’s cheating because he already did burst onto the scene? Peter Laviolette’s system could be a fantastic fit for his skills.

RD: Jonathan Drouin. He might start the season on the sidelines, but he could end up leading all rookies in points if he gets a top-six role in Tampa Bay.

CT: Johnny Gaudreau. Might not be the biggest guy, but his skill is unreal.

DM: Johnny Gaudreau. From what I’ve seen in the rookie tournament and preseason action this kid has high-end skill.

MH: Curtis Lazar. Played his way onto Ottawa’s roster despite turning 19 just nine months ago. Bryan Murray loves the kid and already suggested he’ll be up for the whole year, not just a nine-game cameo.

17. One big-name player that will get traded before the deadline is…

JB: I had been all set to answer Bobby Ryan here, but now that he’s signed, I’ll have to go with…ummm…not many quality pending UFAs, are there…ummm…fine, screw it…Evander Kane.

JO: Antti Niemi strikes me as “the odd Shark out.”

RD: I think Evander Kane’s time in Winnipeg is finally drawing to a close.

CT: Evander Kane. Seriously, is he happy in Winnipeg?

DM: Boston still has defensemen Adam McQuaid and Matt Bartkowski, who become unrestricted after this season. With Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug also restricted after 2014-15, doubt both McQuaid and Bartkowski finish the season in Boston.

MH: Assuming the trade of Matt “Big-Name” Bartkowski doesn’t knock the earth off its rotational axis, I could see Jaromir Jagr going if the Devils are out of playoff contention.

18. The player with the most to prove is…

JB: It’s a tie, between Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Not only do they still have to prove it to everyone outside the Sharks organization, now they have to prove it to their coach and GM as well.

JO: P.K. Subban is already a magnet for often-absurd criticism, but slap a $9 million price tag on him and he best cure all of Montreal’s ills.

RD: Braden Holtby. The Capitals have put a lot of trust in him by signing Justin Peters rather than going with someone with a more realistic shot of competing for the starting gig.

CT: Steven Stamkos. Was on a torrid scoring pace when he suffered a devastating injury. Played in only 37 games last season. He’s the best scorer in the game and I think he wants to prove that over a full 82-game season. (And maybe win a Cup?)

DM: Ryan Johansen. After one good season he spent all summer in a bitter, well-documented contract dispute with the Jackets. I’d say he’s got something to prove.

MH: Mike Richards. The Kings showed faith by not buying him out and Richards returned the favor by actually working out this summer. Seems like both sides are expecting a bounce-back campaign.

source: Reuters19. True or false: this will be Marc-Andre Fleury’s last season in Pittsburgh.

JB: False. Mostly because, who else is going to be the starter? It’s not like the Pens have some stud youngster knocking on the door, and the options are going to be limited in free agency.

JO: True. Thomas Greiss showed some promise in backup gigs (and would probably receive a much cheaper extension), while this new front office is in no way married to “MAF.” Why pay a premium on average goaltending?

RD: False. I think if the Penguins were completely comfortable with Fleury, they would have made more of an effort to re-sign him before the start of the season, but the Penguins’ alternatives aren’t great.

CT: True. Flip of the coin, really. Pending UFA at the end of the season. Perhaps a change of scenery next summer might do him some good?

DM: True. Pending UFA and has some disastrous showings in the playoffs in years past. Not even his pal Sidney Crosby can save him now.

MH: False. Go look at the UFA goalies for 2015. Now tell me the Pens are ready to dump Fleury and test the market.

20. True or false: Barry Trotz will be good for Alex Ovechkin.

JB: True. I really don’t think Trotz wants to turn the Caps into a grinding, defensive team. I think he’s excited to coach a group with so much offensive potential, given that’s what he lacked during most of his tenure in Nashville. Washington just needs a bit more structure, and Trotz is the kind of coach who can teach them that. Which will help, not hinder, Ovechkin.

JO: True, mainly by being smart enough to move him back to LW and by merely not being Adam Oates or Dale Hunter. “Can they coexist?” is a fun story, no doubt, but the true key is getting more out of Ovechkin’s supporting cast.

RD: True. Trotz has been fighting against the idea that he’s a defensive coach and with that in mind, I think the changes he’ll seek from Ovechkin will largely be tweaks rather than part of an effort to reinvent him.

CT: True. Trotz has always been able to get more from less in Nashville. His biggest star was a defenseman in Shea Weber. Interesting to see what he can get out of with so much scoring ability.

DM: True. Trotz will get more out of Ovechkin than Adam Oates and Dale Hunter did.

MH: True. Moving Ovi back to left wing was a good start, too.

21. The most successful new head coach will be…

JB: Willie Desjardins in Vancouver. A much better fit than the last guy. 

JO: Desjardins, mainly by not being Torts.

RD: I’ll take the easy way out and say Willie Desjardins. The bar has been set very low.

CT: Mike Johnston. He has Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Helpful.

DM: I’ll go Johnston. Crosby and Malkin. Enough said.

MH: Gerard Gallant in Florida. Mostly because the bar was set so low. Also, he hasn’t been mentioned yet.

22. The least successful new head coach will be…

JB: Bill Peters in Carolina. Not because of him, necessarily. That’s just not a very good team.

JO: Peters. Blame the people shopping for the groceries instead of the “cook” in this case, though.

RD: Peter Laviolette. He’s expected to make the Predators a better team offensively, but has he been given the tools to do that?

CT: Bill Peters. Carolina, man.

DM: Agreed Bill Peters has almost no chance with the way the injury bug has bitten already.

MH: Rhymes will Pill Beaters.

source: AP23. The first head coach to be fired will be…

JB: Randy Carlyle in Toronto. Frankly, I was surprised he kept his job at all.

JO: Logically it would be Carlyle, but I get a weird feeling he’s going to linger around. So, instead, I think Paul MacLean will be the fall guy in Ottawa.

RD: Dave Tippett. I realize I’m going against the board and certainly the popular opinion here, but Arizona seems to be setting itself up for a disappointing campaign and I think Tippett will ultimately be the one that pays for that.

CT: Randy Carlyle. The Leafs ended last season on a disastrous note. Honestly, how long does he last with a poor start to this season?

DM: Carlyle. With the promotion of Steve Spott, it appears Brendan Shanahan may have Carlyle’s replacement already on the bench.

MH: Ken Hitchcock in St. Louis. First sign of trouble and he’s gone. Remember, Doug Armstrong fired Davis Payne just 13 games into the ’11-12 campaign.

24. The NHL general manager on the hottest seat is…

JB: Has to be Doug Wilson in San Jose. Such a bizarre offseason. Nobody’s opened himself up to more criticism. 

JO: Dave Nonis is basically Jack Lemmon in Glengarry Glen Ross at this point, watching in anger as some punk kid tries to tell him how to analyze hockey/sell real estate.

RD: David Poile. He removed Trotz. When that doesn’t get Nashville back into the playoffs, I think he’ll be next.

CT: Dave Nonis. He’s a remaining part from the Brian Burke era. Leafs might be best served to just get a fresh face in that post.

DM: Dave Nonis. Like Carlyle’s replacement, Shanahan is high on Kyle Dubas — could be Nonis’ replacement.

MH: I feel like James should go back and re-watch that movie. Anyway, my answer is Doug Wilson.

25. The best offseason addition (player joining a new team) will turn out to be…

JB: Ehrhoff. That guy’s gonna rack up some points with the Pens.

JO: Eschewing sheer value picks (like Steve Downie on the cheap) in favor of overall impact, the Islanders needed reliable goaltending badly and Jaroslav Halak fits that bill.

RD: If we were going on impact compared to his cap hit, I really like the value Chicago is getting in Brad Richards. In terms of overall impact though, I think Ryan Miller will play a big role in turning Vancouver around.

CT: Radim Vrbata. Right-handed shot that loves to shoot, could help Sedin twins get back to their old offensive ways.

DM: Scott Hartnell. Adds experience to a young team.

MH: Ryan Kesler in Anaheim. Him and Getzlaf represent the West’s best one-two punch at center.

26. True or false: This will be Mike Babcock’s final season as head coach of the Red Wings.

JB: True. I don’t think he looks at that team and sees a Stanley Cup in the near future.

JO: True, mainly because he desires (and probably deserves) the kind of sweeping authority that’s unlikely to come in Detroit.

RD: True. There will be no shortage of interested parties and I can’t help but think that if he was committed to re-signing with Detroit, it would have happened by now.

CT: True. What more is left for him to do in Detroit?

DM: True. He’s ready for his next challenge.

MH: True. I think Detroit already has its next head coach under contract — AHL Grand Rapids bench boss Jeff Blashill.

source: Getty Images27. The team that should be most worried about its goaltending is…

JB: Winnipeg. It’s such a glaring weakness, and has been for a while.

JO: Winnipeg. Ondrej Pavelec is the Tyler Myers of goalies; his struggles have been lampooned for long enough that I almost feel kinda bad kicking that dead horse.

RD: Minnesota. Josh Harding is out and they can’t rely on Niklas Backstrom to stay healthy. The Wild have to hope that Darcy Kuemper doesn’t regress, because he might end up as their starter for significant stretches of the season.

CT: Tampa Bay. The Lightning are one Ben Bishop injury away from having to rely on 39-year-old Evgeni Nabokov. He is, however, a step up from the previous back-up, Anders Lindback.

DM: Winnipeg. With just three NHL games to his name, I’m not sure how much better Michael Hutchinson is behind Pavelec.

MH: Winnipeg. Did someone really say Tampa Bay?

28. Your worst prediction from last season was…

JB: The Oilers making the playoffs. Not my finest moment. Though I did nail the Canucks being a disaster. So, you know…whatever…gimme a break, predictions are hard.

JO: Let’s just say I was a bit too eager about the rebirth of the Seattle Sonics (in the form of an NHL team).

RD: Calling Vincent Lecavalier the best offseason signing and Valtteri Filppula the worst? Yeah, that didn’t play out like I thought it would.

CT: Oilers making the playoffs. I followed that up by saying that of the teams that made the playoffs in 2013, the Habs were the most likely to miss the post-season in 2014. Brutal.

DM: I’m new here, but trust me, my predictions are never wrong.

MH: I said nobody would challenge Luongo in Vancouver and ’13-14 would be like his first season as a Canuck, “when he played a career-high 76 games and earned a Vezina nomination.” Whoops.

29. The prediction you’re least confident about this season is…

JB: Um, all of them? But if I had to pick one, my instincts are telling me not to be so bullish about the Capitals.

JO: It’s a 28-way tie! Really though, forecasting firings makes me really uncomfortable, especially since Paul MacLean is a pretty good coach with an absolutely breathtaking ‘stache.

RD: I have a feeling I’ll be proved wrong when it comes to Tippett being fired.

CT: Trotz being good for Ovechkin. Just not confident.

DM: Dubas replacing Nonis as GM. Does he even have a driver’s license yet?

MH: Hitch getting fired first. Two years ago I said Joel Quenneville would be first out the door, and Chicago won the Cup. I’ve really got my finger on the coaching pulse.

30. Finally, make a crazy prediction that probably won’t happen, but on second thought, you never know…

JB: Andrew Barroway takes control of the Coyotes, promises to keep the team in Glendale, then starts making a lot of business trips to Seattle for some reason.

JO: Antti Niemi gets traded, then leads his new team to a playoff series victory against San Jose … because that’s just the kind of thing that always seems to happen to the Sharks.

RD: Joe Thornton will win the Art Ross Trophy. After being stripped of the captaincy, listening all summer about how the Sharks need to focus on their future, and perhaps being asked to waive his no-trade clause, he’ll have his best season since Boston sent him to San Jose.

CT: The Stanley Cup finalists come from California and Florida. I can see the headlines: ‘Sun shines on Stanley Cup Final’ and ‘Stanley Cup Final heats up.’ I’m bad with headlines.

DM: The Calgary Flames end their five-year drought and qualify for the playoffs. Hey… they’re further along in the rebuild than Edmonton.

MH: The Canucks and Ducks meet in the first round of the playoffs. In overtime of Game 7, Kesler gets called for diving, the Canucks score on the power play, and Luongo tweets something funny.

Enjoy the season, everyone!

What happens in Columbus if Horton’s out long-term?

Florida Panthers v Columbus Blue Jackets

The Columbus Blue Jackets have dealt with a lot of headaches lately – Brandon Dubinsky is IR bound, Ryan Johansen may not play in Thursday’s opener – yet the uncertainty regarding Nathan Horton’s back lingers.

We know one thing for sure: the 29-year-old is on Columbus’ IR because of those back problems. The rest is fuzzy and at least one outlook is downright grim.

HNIC’s Elliotte Friedman shared a discouraging (but, importantly, by no means confirmed) outlook on Horton with Sportsnet 960 on Tuesday. Here’s an excerpt from Chris Nicholls’ transcription:

” … The word I’m getting is he’s there in Columbus and they met with him yesterday and he’s committed to rehab. They don’t want to have surgery on his back, but he’s committed to going through rehab. But there’s no guarantees here, I think is what we’re kind of learning. That this is potentially a long-term thing. It’s a pretty serious back injury. They’re hoping that working on his core strength will make him better, but there is the potential that this is a much more serious long-term injury than we realize.

“And I can find nobody who is willing to tell me that his career is in jeopardy, but it does sound like this is a pretty significant injury that if they can’t solve this simply through rehab, the surgical options might not be that good. So it sounds like we’re not talking about a short time thing here. We’re talking about something that could be pretty long-term.”

The first sentence of the second paragraph is key there: no one said that Horton’s career is in “jeopardy.” It’s best not to jump to conclusions here, even if such phrasing obviously raises eyebrows. Even the long-term talk is far from confirmed.

That said, it sounds like the Blue Jackets have at least pondered a contingency plan if Horton’s back doesn’t heal anytime soon. The Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline passed along this interesting nugget on that subject:

“A big ticket, top-six winger,” eh? That’s interesting. It’s difficult to avoid pondering Evander Kane and Johansen menacing opponents with their size and skill for at least a moment, even if there are plenty of other interesting candidates that could fit the bill.

The Blue Jackets certainly have the cap space (if not the budget) to land a big fish, too. In fact, they’d likely have room to make a significant upgrade even if Horton’s $5.33 million cap hit remains.

A wave of injuries (Horton, Dubinsky, Boone Jenner), a change of scenery for Scott Hartnell and potential rustiness for Johansen could shape up to provide some serious challenges for the Blue Jackets’ high-end forwards. The organization is likely tired of “waiting until next year,” so if Horton’s back issues cannot be solved by rehabbing, it wouldn’t be shocking if management decided to make waves.

Obviously, nothing’s set in stone, so there’s the risk of possible overreactions. That said, it appears that plenty is riding on Horton’s aching back.