Hockey is upon us. Let the NHLNumbers staff get you ready for 2016-17 with some discussion, predictions, and hot takes about the upcoming season.
1. Let’s start off with a bang here. Give us a your hottest take heading into the 2016-17 season.
Philadelphia’s Ivan Provorov wins the Calder Memorial Trophy and becomes just the fourth defenceman since 2003 to take home the honours for the NHL’s top rookie. The Wheat Kings alumnus has such an impressive season that, even though Auston Matthews scores 67 points (the most among all rookies), Provov narrowly edges him in Calder voting. – Mike Commito (@MikeCommito)
The Boston Bruins are the best team in the East. Led by Bergeron, Krejci, Chara, Rask, and Julien, the Bruins will likely bounce back from the waves of mediocrity suffered over the last couple of seasons. Backes is a huge addition to the organization and a full season of John-Michael Liles should stabilize the defence. Watch out Atlantic. – Shawn Reis (ShawnReis)
Peter Chiarelli actually does know what he’s do—Wait. No. That’s going too far. Mitch Marner outscores Matthews and Nylander, and probably Laine, for good measure. Is that even a hot take? Fine, let’s make it hotter. Mitch Marner leads the Leafs in scoring, JVR and Naz be damned, and probably wins the Calder in the process. – Megan Kim (@meggo1532)
Los Angeles will miss the playoffs. Dustin Brown and Devin Setoguchi will begin the season on the first line, so there’s a prime indicator that they lack forward depth. – Chase Corey (@CCorey_36)
The Rangers aren’t a good hockey team. Their possession numbers are not good and their shooting and save percentage well above average. These numbers are not sustainable. Lundqvist is a fantastic goaltender, but he won’t be able to carry them forever. I expect them to miss the playoffs this year. – Christiaan Conradie (@IamChristiaanC)
Pavel Buchnevich will win the Calder. He produced in the KHL on par with guys like Tarasenko, Panarin, and Kucherov. And he’s part of the rangers’ hottest new line with Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad. I think with the right usage and a healthy season, he can lead the rookie scoring race and eke out a win as the rookie of the year. – Chris Beardy (Chris_Beardy)
My hottest take is that the Penguins repeat. Just feel like they’ve still got the pieces to do it. – Pat Keogh (@katpeogh)
The Toronto Maple Leafs will be a playoff team. – Scott Maxwell (@scotmaxw)
2. Okay, let’s tone it back a little bit. Give us a bold but realistic prediction that you’re willing to have attached to your name all year.
Anaheim will take a step backwards this season, Arizona will make a big leap forward, and Washington will continue to be a juggernaut in the East. – Mike Commito (@MikeCommito)
Chris Stewart will return to the 50 point plateau this season. One of the best power forwards in the league a few years back, the addition of Bruce Boudreau to the Wild staff should give that offence new life. Stewart should be a primary beneficiary of that, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he threatens for 30 goals. – Shawn Reis (ShawnReis)
40 goals and 80 points for Alex Galchenyuk. – Megan Kim (@meggo1532)
Devan Dubnyk will win the Vezina. The Wild hired Bruce Boudreau, who piloted the Ducks to a Jennings Trophy last season. Dubnyk is coming off of a solid 2015-16 campaign, sporting a 2.33GAA and a .917SV% in 67 games. I believe Dubnyk is more than capable of taking home the Vezina if he stays healthy this season. – Chase Corey (@CCorey_36)
The Hurricanes will make a huge jump up the standings and compete for a playoff spot. – Christiaan Conradie (@IamChristiaanC)
Rick Nash has 25 goals with the Rangers at the trade deadline and gets shipped out for a top-four defensemen. – Chris Beardy (Chris_Beardy)
My bold prediction is that Laine wins the Calder. I know everybody loves Auston Matthews (and I do too) but I think he just produces so much offence that he’s bound to have a stellar year in terms of points, and the rest of his game is gonna shine too. – Pat Keogh (@katpeogh)
After helping the Montreal Canadiens with his GRIT and LEADERSHIP, Shea Weber will win the Norris trophy. However, like 2014-15, the real reason that the Habs turn it around is because of Carey Price, who will be snubbed of his second Vezina because the media has decided that Jonathan Quick is due for one, despite the fact that he will again put up average numbers. – Scott Maxwell (@scotmaxw)
3. How long will Leafs fans last until they snap?
The Leafs will probably threaten for a playoff spot this year with Matthews, Marner, and Nylander all taking on full-time roles with the team. So it’ll probably be around March or April when they really lose it, once the team either narrowly misses the playoffs or gets knocked out in the first couple rounds. – Shawn Reis (ShawnReis)
Look, it’s going to be a fun year. Just enjoy having so many prospects, you freaking ingrates. – Megan Kim (@meggo1532)
Toronto will be improved this year as it’s almost impossible for them to take a step back. However, I don’t see them contending for a playoff spot or even being competitive, frankly. Leafs fans will develop a love/hate relationship with newly-acquired goaltender Frederik Andersen, who can make seemingly-impossible saves and then lose focus and cough up a softie. I just don’t think their youthful defence can be consistent for an entire season. Therefore, I say Leafs fans will be throwing in the towel by Jan. 1. – Chase Corey (@CCorey_36)
The Leafs fans have a lot to be excited about, but they are far from being contenders. The fans are going to go ballistic after missing the playoffs by three points. – Christiaan Conradie (@IamChristiaanC)
First three game losing streak where none of “the kids” get more than one point over the span. – Chris Beardy (Chris_Beardy)
Longer than Oilers fans. – Pat Keogh (@katpeogh)
They will last about 10 seconds, because Matthews and Nylander will make some gorgeous passing play, and Leafs fans will snap in excitement. – Scott Maxwell (@scotmaxw)
4. How about Oilers fans?
If Oilers fans didn’t already snap this past summer when the team traded Taylor Hall for magic beans, then they just might be the most resilient fan base in the NHL. – Mike Commito (@MikeCommito)
Oilers fans will snap once the team makes its first bone-headed trade of the season. So somewhere around when Chiarelli trades Eberle to the Coyotes for Ekman-Larsson. – Shawn Reis (ShawnReis)
They’re already broken. – Megan Kim (@meggo1532)
Edmonton, in my opinion, is this year’s version of the Colorado Avalanche. Unfortunately, that means they play well for stretches but ultimately come up just short of making the playoffs. I think the first pairing of Klefbom-Larsson will turn some heads and newly wealthy Milan Lucic will have a strong season taking feeds from Connor McDavid. I think Edmonton fans will at least threaten to make the playoffs, so I don’t believe their fans will ever really “snap.” – Chase Corey (@CCorey_36)
Oiler fans have legitimate reasons for optimism for the first time in a decade, but if they lose the first four games like they did last season, expect more jerseys on the ice. – Christiaan Conradie (@IamChristiaanC)
Second Taylor Hall hat trick of the year. – Chris Beardy (Chris_Beardy)
Until the first time Puljujarvi is healthy scratched. – Pat Keogh (@katpeogh)
January 7th, when Taylor Hall breaks Sittler’s record against them, dangling Adam Larsson on all 11 points. – Scott Maxwell (@scotmaxw)
5. Aside from whatever team it is you cheer for, who’s a team, player, or storyline worth caring about this year?
I’m really looking forward to seeing what Jonathan Drouin can do this season. The fact that he and coach Jon Cooper hashed out their differences over breakfast only makes this story more intriguing. Most relationships seem to end over breakfast, so that must have been one heck of a conversation. Armed with the full confidence of his coach, if the young winger stays healthy this season, the sky’s the limit on what Drouin can achieve in Tampa. – Mike Commito (@MikeCommito)
I’m really excited to see Jakob Silfverberg does this season under the tutelage of Randy Carlyle. Silfverberg was expected to become a superstar for the Senators, so like many, I was shocked when the team traded him out west. Things haven’t gone according to plan for him yet, but with a new coach and Fresh Start 2.0, I expect Silfverberg to threaten Getzlaf for the 1C job. – Shawn Reis (ShawnReis)
I cheer for approximately twelve teams but… I would really like for Nick Bjugstad to have a great year. He’s not off to the hottest start since he’s out for about the first month of the season with a broken hand, but I believe in him. He’s had crappy injury luck thus far in his career and I am over it. – Megan Kim (@meggo1532)
Winnipeg will be this years version of Dallas in terms of entertainment value. Their top three left wingers are Ehlers, Laine, and Connor, they’re strong down the middle with Scheifele, Little, and Perreault, and although their defence is a bit of a question mark, they have the potential to score in bunches and could really make some noise in the 2016-17 campaign. – Chase Corey (@CCorey_36)
P.K. Subban in Nashville. Subban is a very different player from steady, hard hitting, somewhat predictable Weber. To say he is a polarizing figure is an understatement, but it will be very interesting to see how fans react to their new star defenceman. – Christiaan Conradie (@IamChristiaanC)
Bruce Boudreau in Minnesota. He’s some combination of wildly successful (in the regular season) and unsuccessful (in game 7’s). It will be really interesting to see how much performance he can pull out of the Wild roster after years of being a bubble team in a tough division. – Chris Beardy (Chris_Beardy)
I think something that’s probably flown a little bit under the radar given the anti-climactic nature of #StamkosWatch is how he’s going to perform in Tampa. TB’s been knocking at the door for a few years now, and they’re just getting to the point where some of their key pieces are going to be tough to afford long term. All of that say to me that this year might have to be the year, and while I picked the Penguins to win it again this year, I’m confident that the Lightning could make a deep run. – Pat Keogh (@katpeogh)
PK Subban is a story worth caring about. As a Leafs fan, nothing would make me happier than to bathe in the tears of Habs fans as PK Subban hoists the Stanley Cup. – Scott Maxwell (@scotmaxw)
6. On the other side of that, what narrative are you sick of hearing about?
It’s not a narrative, but I’m tired about hearing from John Tortorella. Given who his employer is, there’s no real way we can avoid him completely, but can we please stop asking him about social issues or compete level? The only time I want to hear Tortorella talk about jam is if he enters the 109th Franklin County Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Eating Contest. – Mike Commito (@MikeCommito)
We get it, the Rangers are good. So tired of seeing the media pump their times year after year. You’d think they could assume most fans would have figured out by now that a team led by Rick Nash and Henrik Lundqvist would be pretty damn good. Just shut up already Sportsnet! – Shawn Reis (ShawnReis)
“See, you just can’t win with Ovechkin/Hall/whoever the frick you’re scapegoating these days” Stop. Literally stop now and go think about how you’re a sad sack of a person who probably also thought a team couldn’t win with Phil Kessel, AND NOW LOOK AT HIM!! – Megan Kim (@meggo1532)
The narrative that the game is less enjoyable due to the decrease in scoring irks me. Overall, there has never been more talent in the history of the sport. That’s insane. For people to say they don’t like watching anymore makes little sense. These are some of the best athletes in the world going toe-to-toe, battling every night. Just enjoy it. – Chase Corey (@CCorey_36)
Radko Gudas. One can’t help but be reminded of Matt Cooke. He’s a goon who has very little to contribute except injuring other players. – Christiaan Conradie (@IamChristiaanC)
Everything that hits the news cycle about Toronto. – Chris Beardy (Chris_Beardy)
I am already sick of hearing about Hernik Lundqvist’s decline. Do NOT under any circumstances @ me. – Pat Keogh (@katpeogh)
The Red Wings and their playoff streak. Thankfully, they’ll miss the playoffs and that’ll be the end of it. – Scott Maxwell (@scotmaxw)
7. How do you feel about the sport and the league right now? Share some big picture thoughts.
I’ve never been more excited for the start of NHL hockey. The crop of young talent coming up this season is unparalleled in recent memory and should make this season quite memorable. In addition, this is the NHL’s centennial season and as an historian, I am tickled pink to see how the league will mark the occasion and celebrate the game’s rich history. Moreover, with Wayne Gretzky appointed as the centennial ambassador, this represents a tremendous opportunity for the league and its fans. After years of strained relations between the NHL and the Great One, having Gretzky back as the league’s marquis representative is huge for the game. But despite my enthusiasm for the sport, the NHL still has plenty of work to do in a number of areas off the ice. In particular, it needs to start taking a more hard line stance on players who are being investigated for domestic violence and/or sexual assault. – Mike Commito (@MikeCommito)
I’m really liking the state of hockey right now. I think after a post-lockout adjustment period, the NHL has found its identity as the fourth-biggest of the “Big 4” sports in North America, which allows them to take more risks than their fellow competitors. I’m really enjoying the addition of Las Vegas to the fold, and things like the Coach’s Challenge really spice the league up a bit. I’m particularly excited about all of the young talent in the league, and think the likes of Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, Aleksander Barkov, Hunter Shinkaruk, and Jack Eichel mean the future is only hopeful for American (and Canadian) hockey. – Shawn Reis (ShawnReis)
The thing I’ve been thinking about a whole lot lately — thanks, PK — is how the NHL fails to market its players properly. The NHL isn’t going to overtake the other three major sports in the US, but it could do far, far better to appeal to casual sports fans. Also? I promise, marketing to women is not as difficult as this league seems to think it is. Oh, and I don’t like how little leverage players have over their own careers while they’re in their prime. That feels like a lockout discussion, though, right? (But this is why I’ll always be all for the Jimmy Veseys and Jacob Troubas of the world trying to do what they can to influence their own careers.) – Megan Kim (@meggo1532)
The NHL is in a stellar position globally, relative to where it has been. Growth in non-traditional hockey states is increasing dramatically. As a Californian, it is great to see some of the provisions the league and its’ teams are taking to get more participants. I’m still on the fence when it comes to the success of the Vegas expansion. It will help GM George McPhee can ice a competitive team from day one, which is no easy task given the parameters of the expansion draft. – Chase Corey (@CCorey_36)
I’ve never loved hockey more. I do wish that Gary Bettman would stop denying the link between long term brain damage and concussions. It’s pretty embarrassing. – Christiaan Conradie (@IamChristiaanC)
With the youth movement taking over the league, I think that there should be and might be changes to the current free agent system. I think entry-level contracts should be shortened and the road to unrestricted free agency should be reduced. Players should be allowed to have more agency over the future given how much more of an immediate impact they are bringing to their teams. Giving some power back to the players would create a reality check for the GMs and possibly start looking more into ways to reduce their market inefficiencies and figure out existing market niches that are yet to be exploited. Also, there is serious concern over escrow. I’ve written more in-depth about it here, but basically it’s creating a system where the NHLPA is hurting most of its members to help advantage a small contingent each year. I anticipate changes to the salary cap system to be discussed and possibly implemented at the next CBA to reduce these player-player conflicts. – Chris Beardy (Chris_Beardy)
I’m feeling pretty good about the sport/league over all. I’ve been getting a little bit sick of certain narratives and players (miss me with anything Chicago Blackhawks plz) and am really excited that the next generation of young stars is here, to say the least of all of the guys who have been quietly growing and prospering while we’re all focused on Conor McDavid (I’m thinking of guys like Barkov, Justin Faulk, etc) and his ilk. It’s an exciting time to be a fan of certain teams, and that’s a good thing for the league as a whole. I’ve got all kinds of theories about how the league works to distribute/redistribute talent and it feels kind of like we’ve hit a critical mass in terms of shifting tectonic plates of success and talent. – Pat Keogh (@katpeogh)
I think this may be the most entertaining season in years. Look around and see all the youth! You don’t see it? Then stop looking at the Red Wings roster! The Jets, Coyotes, Leafs, Islanders, and Flames all have some surprise mainstays from camp, so perhaps we may be seeing a different kind of hockey. And you know what young players means? Fast, Team North America-style hockey games. – Scott Maxwell (@scotmaxw)