By Jameson Cooper, Staff Writer
Even under the cloud of the NHL lockout, teams still deserve to celebrate Halloween.
Here are my tricks and treats that each NHL team will be receiving this year!
- Trick: Bobby Ryan’s Future in Anaheim – After spending much of last season in limbo, Bobby Ryan remained on the Ducks past the trade deadline. Last season Ryan vented his frustrations when he told the Camden Courier Post, “Anaheim to me has been a team over the past year that really has shown me nothing to prove that they want me here, unfortunately.” With the team looking to throw big money at future free agents Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan and the Anaheim fan base will most likely spend another season in limbo up until the trade deadline.
- Treat: A Full Season of Bruce Bodreau – Even though the Ducks missed the playoffs last season, the team did start to play better when Bruce Bodreau was hired as head coach during the season. With potent scorers like Bobby Ryan, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf on the team, it will be interesting to see what Bodreau can do with a full year until his belt. This year he will look to put his own mark on the team that will rely on heavy offense and superstar players much like his first few seasons in Washington.
- Trick: No Proven Backup Goaltender – While Tukka Rask has proven himself a worthy successor to Tim Thomas with impressive career numbers (2.20 GAA / .926 SV%), the fact remains that the Boston Bruins have still not assessed their need of a backup goaltender. Anton Khudobin will most likely end up getting the job, but still has a lot to prove in the NHL. If Tukka Rask has issues and the team is forced to go to Khudobin this season the team’s playoffs hopes could be in jeopardy.
- Treat: A Healthy Nathan Horton – Bruins fans can finally rejoice as Nathan Horton will make his return to the ice this season. After spending half of last season on the injured reserve list, Horton is ready to lace up his skates and get back to work .With the emergence of Tyler Seguin, Horton will be a nice complimentary scorer on a team that needs help putting the puck in the net.
- Trick: Another Season with Ville Leino – In his first year with the Sabres after signing a lucrative 6-year $27 million contract Leino did anything but impress. Amassing only 25 points in 71 games played last season, Leino most definitely didn’t live up to his contract. While fans are hoping that he can turn it around, there were few signs last season that would indicate he is going to improve.
- Treat: Ryan Miller – Playing behind a tawdry defense last year, Ryan Miller kept the Sabres in a lot of games with his impressive play in net. If the team can manage to put together a better defensive unit this season, look for Miller to have a Vezina Trophy worthy season.
- Trick: Trading Jarome Iginla – As sad as it is to say the whispers about the Flames trading their captain and heart begin to grow louder every day. As the Flames progress more towards a rebuilding year rather than contending for the Stanley Cup, the 35 year-old Iginla finds himself on the outside looking in at the only team he’s been a part of him his fantastic NHL career. The best send off the Flames can give their captain would be trading him to a contender for the last few seasons of his career.
- Treat: Mikka Kiprusoff – As the Flames continue to struggle as they try to find their new identity, the aging but effective Mikka Kiprusoff will keep them in a lot of games as their offense will most likely struggle to score goals. Kiprusoff much like Iginla is somewhat of an aging relic from the team that made the Stanley Cup Finals in 2004. While Iginla will most likely be traded, look for Kiprusoff to do the best to keep the team afloat during these hard times.
- Trick: Penalty Killing – The Hurricanes were far from efficient on the penalty kill last season. Finishing 22nd in the NHL with 80.6% efficiency left the team on the losing end of many games. Although the team brought in an excellent penalty killing center in the form of Jordan Staal, it remains to be seen if his presence will be enough to lift the PK unit to new heights.
- Treat: Jordan Staal & Alexander Semin – The Hurricanes made a splash this offseason when they brought in proven scorers Jordan Staal and Alexander Semin. Both Staal and Semin will compliment Jeff Skinner and Eric Staal nicely. With four prolific scorers on the team, the players can relax as no one will be counted on to carry the team in the goal scoring column
- Trick: Corey Crawford – Crawford was anything but a star goaltender for the Blackhawks last season. Finishing with a disappointing 2.72 GAA last season and an even worse .903 SV%, Crawford will once again go into this season looking to be the Blackhawks answer in net. If Crawford can’t put all the pieces together in net, the Blackhawks potent offense will mean nothing as the team will struggle to win games.
- Treat: Dave Bolland – On a team with stars like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, Dave Bolland is often forgotten even with his stellar play on the ice. As pieces from their Stanley Cup Championship team were sent off such as Brian Campbell and Dustin Byfuglien, management held onto Dave Bolland and is has paid off. Bolland will continue this season as both a force in the faceoff circle and on the power play.
- Trick: Their Defense – On team full of offensive talent, the Avalanche have still yet to obtain a true number defender. While Erik Johnson still has time to blossom into a stud defender, the team will continue to suffer on the blue line until he has the ability to take over games like Shea Weber or Zdeno Chara.
- Treat: Gabriel Landeskog – The Avalanche truly got it right when they drafted Gabriel Landeskog 2nd overall in the 2011 NHL entry draft. In his rookie season Landeskog scored an impressive 52 points, good enough to win earn him the Calder Memorial Trophy. The Avalanche made a splash this offseason when Landeskog was named the youngest captain in the NHL. It will be interesting to see what kind of leadership role he takes this season and how he will follow up his rookie successes, but I fully expect him to continue to flourish.
Columbus Blue Jackets:
- Trick: Goaltending – After Steve Mason was unable to recapture the success that won him the Calder Memorial Trophy in his rookie season, the Blue Jackets took action by trading for Philadelphia’s young backup goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. While Bobrovsky has done well in the past, it remains to be seen how he will play in front of an inexperienced Columbus defense. I expect both him and Mason to struggle this season.
- Treat: The Future – While the present may look bleak for many Blue Jackets fans, including the possible cancellation of the All-Star game in Columbus, the team has begun moving forward and starting their rebuilding process. The trading of Rick Nash to the New York Rangers signaled a big change in Columbus as the team now looks to get younger and find a new identity. While the next few years could be rough for Blue Jackets fans, there are potentially good things to come.
- Trick: Attendence – The Dallas Stars played to an empty house often last season. The team’s arena on average was only filled to 76.8% capacity last season. While the city of Dallas has proven that they support the Stars when they are winning, the team needs to find ways to grow interest in the team throughout the season. If Dallas continues to struggle with attendance then the future of NHL hockey in Texas could be in doubt.
- Treat: Jaromir Jagr & Ray Whitney – The Dallas offense got a lot better and a lot older at the same time this off season. The team clearly feels that they are only a few players away from contending and made headlines this offseason when they signed veteran forwards Jaromir Jagr & Ray Whitney. If both players can duplicate the success they had last season, then the Stars will be a formidable team this year in the Western Conference.
Detroit Red Wings:
- Trick: Replacing Nicklas Lidstrom – In the past 20 years three things have been certain: death, taxes and Nicklas Lidstrom lacing up his skates for the Detroit Red Wings. This season will mark the first time that the team will be without the 7-time Norris Trophy winner since 1991. While the Red Wings are known for scouting talent, finding a player of Lidstrom’s caliber will be a challenge. After losing out on both Shea Weber and Ryan Suter this offseason, the Red Wings will need to come up with new ways to fill the void.
- Treat: Pavel Datsyuk – With Nicklas Lidstrom retirement, the team will finally belong to Pavel Datsyuk. At 34 years old, Datsyuk has had an extremely impressive and most definitely underappreciated NHL careers. Datsyuk is currently lighting up the lamp in the KHL and looks to be in mid-season form. When the puck finally drops this season look for Datsyuk to carry the Red Wings and be a strong MVP candidate.
- Trick: Devan Dubnyk – While the Oilers have committed to drafting high level offensive talent, they have yet to address their goaltending woes in recent drafts. Veteran goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin has held down the position through most of the Oiler’s long transitional phase, but in recent years Dubnyk has been taking on more of the load. However, with no solid goaltender to backup or challenge Dubnyk for the starting position, the Oilers will most likely continue to be mediocre in net.
- Treat: Offensive Firepower – The one silver lining to the Oilers recent struggles has been their stockpiling of number one overall draft picks. These picks have been used to create one of the best young offensive nucleuses in the NHL. The combined efforts of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Nail Yakupov will be giving goaltenders nightmares this season.
- Trick: Ed Jovanovski – While “Jovo-Cop” is beloved in South Florida for his contributions to the team in their early years, his return to the franchise is now beginning to hinder the franchise in their resurgence. At 35 years old, the Panthers signed Jovanovski to a four year contract that in hindsight wasn’t the best idea. While his play on the ice continues to diminish, his contract will keep him playing ahead of young prospects such as Colby Robak, Keaton Ellerby and Alex Petrovic.
- Treat: Jonathan Huberdeau – The Panthers drafted Huberdeau 3rd overall in the 2011 NHL entry draft with hopes that he would be the first superstar goal scorer in South Florida since Pavel Bure. After dominating the QMJHL last season with 72 points in only 37 games played, Huberdeau looks to be as good as advertised. While the lockout is currently keeping him in the QMJHL, look for Huberdeau to make an impact on the NHL level immediately following the start of NHL play.
Los Angeles Kings:
- Trick: The NHL Lockout – While every time is obviously affected by the labor stoppage in the NHL, the Los Angeles Kings suffer more than most. After winning their first Stanley Cup in franchise history, the Kings are being denied a victory lap of the NHL as they are losing out on a season a top dogs. The longer the NHL players are locked out, the more the glow of the Kings championship begins to fade.
- Treat: Jonathan Bernier – One thing is always in demand for NHL teams, a reliable goaltender. Lucky for the Lost Angeles Kings, they have two! The Kings enter this season with one of the biggest trade assets in the league, Jonathan Bernier. When the trade deadline approaches, the Kings will be able to assess their needs with ease as they can move Bernier to the highest bidder.
- Trick: Ryan Suter – While this may not be a popular choice, Ryan Suter has yet to prove he can be a solid number one defender without Shea Weber. While Suter is without a doubt a solid defender, the Wild paid big money in hopes that they were receiving a top 5 defender in the NHL. Although Suter may end up being a solid player for the next few years, he may never live up to his contract.
- Treat: Mikael Granlund – Although the Wild already have two star centers in Zach Parise and Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund could end up being the most talked about center on the team. A highly touted prospect, Granlund will most likely make his jump to the NHL this year. On a team bolstering a lot of offensive firepower, Granlund will be able to succeed in the NHL without the pressure of carrying the team.
- Trick: Scott Gomez – Scott Gomez is quite possibly the most overpaid player based on the production in the NHL. Currently in the middle of a seven year $51.5 million dollar contract, Gomez has been a non-factor for the Habs since being trade from the Rangers in 2009. It is uncertain what kind of production the team will get from Gomez this season, but one thing is for sure, it won’t be enough.
- Treat: Carey Price – At only 25 year old, Carey Price continues to be the Hab’s strongest building block towards a better future. Playing behind a poor team, Price has still posted respectable numbers (2.43 GAA / .916 SV% last season) and has been a work horse for the Habs playing in 72 and 65 games respectively the past two seasons. Even though the Habs continue to struggle, Price gives them a chance to win every night.
- Trick: Shea Weber’s Contract – After losing free agent Ryan Suter to the Wild this past offseason, the Preds turned their attention to retaining star defender Shea Weber for the foreseeable future. Sadly, the Preds were handcuffed into matching a staggering 14-year $110 million contract offered to Weber by the Philadelphia Flyers. Even though Weber is a top-3 defender in the NHL, a contract of that size is a large burden on a small franchise.
- Treat: Pekka Rinne – Even with the loss of Ryan Suter to free agency, the combination of Shea Weber and Pekka Rinne will continue to stifle opponent’s best scoring attempts. In the past two seasons Pekka Rinne has emerged as one of the best goaltenders in the NHL and consistent Vezina trophy finalist. While the Predators will most likely continue to struggle to score this season, having a goaltender like Rinne will keep them in most Stanley Cup conversations.
New Jersey Devils:
- Trick: Martin Brodeur – While Martin Brodeur has a secure place in the Hall of Fame, his return to the Devils on a two-year contract could have possibly been ill advised. At 40 years old, Brodeur is one of the oldest starting goaltenders in the NHL and his numbers are beginning to show his age. As the Devils look to rebound after the loss of Zach Parise, they still have yet to address their future in-betweens the pipes. It’s about time the Devils started thinking about life after Brodeur.
- Treat: Adam Henrique takes the reigns – With the departure of Zach Parise to free agency, the team is left with a huge void on their scoring line. At 22 years olds and following an impressive rookie season and playoffs, Adam Henrique is ready to take over Parise’s role. Given the right opportunities Henrique could easily surpass 70 points this season and could eventually end up being a better option than Parise ever was.
New York Islanders:
- Trick: Calvin de Haan – While the Islanders are finally beginning to benefit from years in the cellar by grooming young talent, promising defenseman Calvin de Haan has yet to blossom into an NHL player and has proven himself to be injury prone. An injury received this past month will once again force de Haan to sit out a season as the word “bust” begins to creep up on him.
- Treat: Moving to Brooklyn: As a native Long Islander it pained me to see the beloved team of my youth leave their home in Nassau for the big apple. However, without the support of Nassau County the Islanders were doomed to have the decrepit Nassau Coliseum collapse on them. While the move to Brooklyn isn’t an ideal option for most Islander fans, it is still a great improvement on their current situation and a nice relief from owner Charles Wang and Nassau County officials constantly treading water over funds for a new arena.
New York Rangers:
- Trick: Expectations – With the already lofty expectations that come with playing in New York City, the appearance in the Winter Classic as well as pre-season speculation made the Rangers one of the most hyped and talked about teams in the NHL last season. With the addition of superstar Rick Nash this offseason, the already astronomical expectations for the Rangers grew even larger. Anything but a Stanley Cup victory will be considered a failure for the Rangers this season.
- Treat: A full season of Chris Kreider: Rangers fans were treated to a nice surprise last season when rookie Chris Kreider made the jump straight from college to the NHL to help the Ranger during the playoffs. Krieder compiled 7 points in 18 playoff games for the Rangers including a game winning goal against the Washington Capitals. Now under a microscope for a full season, Kreider will look to improve on his skillset and learn from veterans like Brad Richards and Rick Nash. On a team filled with veterans, Kreider looks to be the beginning of the next wave of Ranger talent.
- Trick: Daniel Alfredsson’s future – The longtime Senators captain was the heart of the team’s improbable and impressive trip to the playoffs last season. At 39 years old fans though they had seen the last of Alfie after the team’s elimination from the playoffs, however the Senators fan base rejoiced when news broke that their beloved captain would return for another season. With the NHL season now in jeopardy and games continuing to be cancelled, the hockey world now wonders if aging stars like Daniel Alfredsson will return when the puck finally drops.
- Treat: Erik Karlsson’s future – Karlsson established himself last season as both the defensive leader of the Ottawa Senators as well as the best offensive defenseman in the NHL. His 78 points last season from the blue line earned him his first Norris Trophy, but if his play continues it most certainly won’t be the last. As old timers like Daniel Alfredsson beginning to retire, Karlsson looks to be in the driver seat for the future of the Senator’s franchise and a potential future captain.
- Trick: Ilya Bryzgalov – In what was considered a gigantic failure by most, Bryzgalov’s first year in Philadelphia was not what Flyer fans had in mind. While his antics are humorous and enjoyed, his play on the ice is not. While being benched on and off last season, fans began to realize that Bryz was possibly just the next phase in a recent tradition of ineptitude for Flyer’s goalies. Now that the team has traded reliable backup Sergei Bobrovsky, the weight of the team now rests solely on Bryz’s shoulders, a thought that keeps many fans awake at night.
- Treat: Matt Read and Brayden Schenn – Flyer’s fans and management were pleasantly surprised by the production of both Matt Read and Brayden Schenn last season. Both young players played beyond their age in helping the Flyer’s high powered offense fuel the team deep into the playoffs. With another year of experience under their belts, both Read and Schenn should impress even further this season.
- Trick: Uncertain Future – Although Coyotes fans turned out in droves to support their team during the playoffs last season, the Coyotes time in Arizona is still considered a failure. While last season’s success could have signaled a possible revival of the team, many hockey fans and owners want hockey out of Glendale. While there are constantly people fighting to keep the team in Arizona, cities like Quebec and Seattle will soon be much more deserving of an NHL franchise and the Coyotes are usually the first team on people’s minds when relocation is discussed.
- Treat: The return of Shane Doan – Coyotes fan’s let out a collective big breath when Shane Doan finally resigned with Phoenix. Doan, the team’s current captain and team member since 1997 signed with the team 4 year deal that will see him finish out his career with the Yotes. While times will continue to get tough in Arizona for the Coyotes both on and off the ice, Doan will remain as the stalwart figure and most iconic player in Phoenix Coyotes hockey.
- Trick: Losing Jordan Staal – While the Penguins got significant assets in their trade with the Carolina Hurricanes, they are most certainly not a better team this year without Jordan Staal. When Sidney Crosby went out with a concussion, Staal stepped up to help carry the team’s offensive load. He will be missed both on the penalty kill and in the scoring column. While Penguins may inevitably win the trade in the future, this season they will take a step back.
- Treat: A Healthy Sidney Crosby: Penguins fans rejoice as the golden boy has finally returned to the ice. After missing countless games due to concussions, Crosby returned to the ice last season and proved that he was there to stay. While his time off had little effect on his play, the team will still need to handle his health carefully to keep him healthy for the foreseeable future. Even if he sits out a few games this year, the fact remains that the Penguins once again have the best player in hockey.
San Jose Sharks:
- Trick: Father Time – It feels as if the San Jose Sharks have been so very close to the Stanley Cup for so long – and it’s beginning to show. The team now has its’ future in the hands of an aging Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton. As their superstars begin to age, the Sharks window is closing and they will soon need to decide to rebuild or to try and piece together a championship caliber team one last time.
- Treat: Logan Couture – As much of the former Sharks regime is either gone or on their way out, Logan Couture marks the beginning in the beginning of the next chapter of San Jose Sharks history. At only 23 years old, Couture has already proven he can keep up with future Hall of Famers and teammates like Patrick Marleau. Couture compiled a career high 65 points last season, and as the team shifts towards a rebuilding process, there is no telling how good he can be once he is the premier player on the team.
St. Louis Blues:
- Trick: A Legitimate Scorer – While the Blues have a surplus of talented players such as David Backes, TJ Oshie, Alex Steen and David Perron, none have stepped up as the teams go to scoring threat. In fact, not a single Blues player scored over 60 points last season or totaled over 30 goals. While a team can succeed with numerous players doing a decent job, the Blues would be much better off if one of these players emerged as a top-line scorer.
- Treat: Brian Elliot and Jaroslav Halak – The main strength of the Blues last season was the goaltending tandem of Brian Elliot and Jaroslav Halak. Combined they gave the Blues the NHL’s best team goals against average with a staggering 1.89 GAA. If the duo can continue their success from last season, the Blues will once again be favorites to contend for the Stanley Cup.
Tampa Bay Lightning:
- Trick: Mattias Ohlund –After having to sit out all of last season due to injury it is uncertain if Ohlund will ever regain form or even return to playing at the NHL level. On a team that is already thin on defense, this is a huge blow to a Lightning team that is looking to contend in the twilight years of Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier.
- Treat: Steven Stamkos – Already one of the best scorers in the NHL, Steven Stamkos just keeps getting better. After scoring an amazing 60 goals last season, Stamkos will look to improve and possibly approach 70 in his next full season. At this point in his career Stamkos is nearly a lock for 50 goals a season and has the potential to lead the Lightning back to Stanley Cup glory.
Toronto Maple Leafs:
- Trick: Brian Burke – The often loathed General Manager of the Leafs often has fans up in arms about his signings or lack thereof. As we heard towards a new season (hopefully) the Leafs are still without a legitimate starting goaltender. While the team packs some offensive firepower with Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul and James Van Riemsdyk the rest of the pieces never seem to fit to make a full team. The Leafs are the only team to have not made the playoffs since the 2004 lockout and it starts with management.
- Treat: The Fans – As much as they complain and loathe their team at times, the fact is the Maple Leafs have some of the most passionate and dedicated fans in all of sports. During this long playoffs drought Leaf’s fans have stayed loyal and interested, despite sometimes they don’t always have the nicest things to say. The fans have made the Leafs the most valuable and profitable franchise in the NHL, now imagine if they were winning!
- Trick: Roberto Luongo – As great as Roberto Luongo was in his time with the team, it is clearly time that he and the Canucks part ways. Now that the trade speculation has gone public and it is well known that the Canucks are shopping him around the league, it will be hard for the Luongo story to not be a distraction as long as he is on the roster. However, the teams asking price is so steep that Canucks fans might have to deal with drama surrounding Luongo for the foreseeable future.
- Treat: Jason Garrison – The arrival of Jason Garrison was met with mostly cheers of joy this offseason. A scoring defenseman with a cannon of a slap shot will always have their place in the league and especially on a team like the Canucks. With a smoothly running offense full of talent I expect Garrison to get his fair share of looks this season and possibly surpass his career high single season goal total of 16 that he set last season with the Florida Panthers.
- Trick: The State of Alexander Ovechkin: Although he is still a dynamic player, Ovechkin’s play and especially his scoring numbers have dwindled in recent seasons. A former lock for 100 points a season, Ovechkin only managed to score 65 points last season and is no longer in the discussion as one of the greats of the game in most hockey circles. If head coach Adam Oates can design an offense that suits Ovie’s offensive talents he could potentially return to what he was.
- Treat: Braden Holtby: Even though the Capitals were eliminated from the playoffs last season, in that elimination they were lucky enough to discover their goaltender of the future. Twenty-three year old Braden Holtby emerged from his backup role and won the job from Michal Neuvirth and excelled as the Cap’s battled through the playoffs. During the playoffs he posted a 1.95 GAA with a .935 SV% and was most definitely the team’s MVP even in a losing effort. Hopefully Holtby will be the Capital’s answer in net that they have been seeking for so many seasons.
- Trick: Playing in the Southeast Division – The major drawback of the team’s move from Atlanta to Winnipeg is that the Jets are still currently stuck in the Southeast Division for another season. This gives the Jets a distinct disadvantage due to the amount of travel they must endure to play most of their games against their divisional opponents on the east coast. The Jets will be forced to endure long flights and sleepless nights for one more season as they look to compete for the Southeast Division title.
- Treat: Evander Kane – As he continues to improve on his young career, Evander Kane has been establishing himself as one of the better scorers and fastest skaters in the NHL. He set a career high in points last season with 57 and will most likely top that mark in the next non-lockout shortened season he plays. As the Jets continue to build a contender, Evander Kane is most definitely the offensive centerpiece of the future.