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Season in Review

Plenty of uncertainty in Montreal's future

Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 3:56 PM / Season in Review

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor LNH.com

BROSSARD, Que. – Uncertainty.

No word better describes the Montreal Canadiens heading into the franchise's first offseason without a playoff appearance in five years, and perhaps no player on the team is feeling more of it than goaltender Carey Price.

The Canadiens are currently undergoing a search for a new general manager after Pierre Gauthier was fired two weeks ago and the future of coach Randy Cunneyworth is hanging in the balance.

Meanwhile, Price says he is still feeling the effects of the first concussion of his life, leaving him unsure of how long it will take before he can start working out again and definitely putting his usual offseason rodeo moonlighting on hold for the foreseeable future.

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Jets' road woes keep them home for postseason

Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 11:31 AM / Season in Review

Patrick Williams - NHL.com Correspondent

What happened?

The Jets never figured out how to string together wins away from their raucous home crowds, and their 14-22-5 road record included losses to non-playoff teams Columbus, Montreal (twice), and Toronto (twice). That road play, especially when coupled with home losses to Edmonton, Montreal, and the New York Islanders (twice), doomed the Jets’ playoff hopes. Winnipeg’s habit of playing up to or down to the level of its competition frustrated coach Claude Noel.

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Stamkos scores 60, but Lightning fall short

Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 11:24 AM / Season in Review

Lonnie Herman - NHL.com Correspondent

What happened?

Injuries decimated the team, with only three players making it through the full season unscathed. At one point, Tampa Bay had nine regulars out and fielded a team that featured two lines of American Hockey League players called up from Norfolk. Goaltending was another problem – Dwayne Roloson started the season as the No. 1 goalie, but only flashed his best form once the team was out of playoff contention.

How to fix it?

The Lightning need to find a goaltender that can be counted on game after game. That player is likely to come from outside the organization via trade or free agency, since Roloson, the oldest player in the NHL, likely will not be back and the prospects in the minors are not turning any heads. Tampa Bay will also need to find another top forward to add to the scoring.

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'Canes seek quick turnaround with Muller at helm

Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 11:02 AM / Season in Review

Kurt Dusterberg - NHL.com Correspondent

What happened?

Captain Eric Staal and goaltender Cam Ward both got off to difficult starts. Through 24 games, Staal had four goals and 10 points with a minus-17 rating. Ward's goals-against average climbed as high as 3.37 in early December. Their slow starts played a huge role in Carolina's coaching change, as Kirk Muller replaced Paul Maurice on Nov. 29.

Three free agent acquisitions fell short of expectations. Forward Alexei Ponikarovsky and defenseman Tomas Kaberle were both traded by midseason. Forward Anthony Stewart passed through waivers.

How to fix it?

The Hurricanes spent the 2011-12 season on the lookout for a top-six forward, but never landed one. Realistically, they probably need to acquire two established scoring forwards.

The leadership group in Carolina is a quiet bunch. The Hurricanes might want bring in a veteran player who adds a respected voice in the locker room. The blue line may undergo a couple of changes, too.

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Slow start leads to forgettable season for Habs

Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 10:47 AM / Season in Review

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor LNH.com

What happened?

What didn't? The Canadiens began the season expecting top defenseman Andrei Markov to come back from knee surgery sometime in October. Then it was November. And then December. By the time he finally returned in Vancouver, it was March 10 and Montreal was out of playoff contention. In the meantime, the Canadiens got off to their worst start to a season in 70 years, first costing assistant coach Perry Pearn his job, and ultimately that of head coach Jacques Martin as well, with both of them fired on a game day. Finally, GM Pierre Gauthier was shown the door just before the end of the season. The power play, a traditional strength of the Canadiens, became their biggest weakness and was a major factor in why Montreal's winning percentage in one-goal games was just .306, lowest in the League. The Canadiens also developed an extremely bad habit of blowing leads, winning just 71 percent of the games they led after two periods, the third-lowest percentage in the NHL. Markov was not the only injury, either, as the Habs led the League in man games lost. Captain Brian Gionta, Scott Gomez, Travis Moen, Mathieu Darche, Ryan White, Mike Blunden, Petteri Nokelainen, Raphael Diaz and Chris Campoli all missed significant time with injuries. The Canadiens simply don't have the depth to withstand so many casualties.

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Isles find themselves in the lottery again

Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 10:38 AM / Season in Review

Brian Compton - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

What happened?

The Islanders had expectations of qualifying for the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but a glaring lack of depth -- both up front and on the blue line -- hurt the club's chances of succeeding. The defense was not properly addressed by general manager Garth Snow last summer, which forced 38-year-old Steve Staios to average 17:04 of ice time per game. The trio of Tavares, Matt Moulson and PA Parenteau provided plenty of offense, but fourth-line Marty Reasoner nearly went the entire season without a goal, while 19-year-old rookie Nino Niederreiter had just one goal and zero assists in 55 games. Michael Grabner went from 34 goals as a rookie last season to 20 this time around, while Kyle Okposo struggled to find his identity. Team captain Mark Streit was a minus-27 as the No. 1 defenseman, while Milan Jurcina was a League-worst minus-34.

In the end, the Islanders finished 27th in the League standings, which means they've finished in the lottery for a fifth straight season.

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Another season ends prematurely for Leafs

Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 10:31 AM / Season in Review

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

What happened?

They couldn't keep the puck out of their net. The Maple Leafs were 10th in the NHL with 229 goals scored, but only Tampa Bay prevented them from being the worst team at goal prevention. Goaltending was a scapegoat, but Toronto's expensive defense corps wasn't good enough, either. The Leafs led the Northeast Division into late November, which raised expectations. They also crashed at the end of the campaign, winning just seven times in the final 28 games.

How to fix it?

The search for a goaltender will dominate the headlines in Toronto this offseason, but the Maple Leafs also need to improve the defense corps (even though the Leafs spent more than $23 million on the position, and more than $26 million if Jeff Finger's contract is counted). A better goaltender, another year of development for Gardiner and better health for John-Michael Liles might be enough on defense, but they could probably use one more top-four guy.

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After big summer, Sabres fail to meet expectations

Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 10:20 AM / Season in Review

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

What happened?

Buffalo spent a lot of money in the offseason to increase expectations, but the Sabres needed a late surge to get back in the playoff hunt before four losses in the final five games left them just short. Miller struggled a bit early in the season and was concussed in what some pundits wanted to point to as a season-defining moment (Milan Lucic ran Miller over and no one from the Sabres responded), and the offense sputtered until the late-season run. When it came time to finish the comeback, injuries to top defensemen Tyler Myers and Christian Ehrhoff were a big problem.

How to fix it?

Adding Cody Hodgson could potentially be a big first step to tinkering with a team that isn't far from not only being a playoff-bound club but a Stanley Cup contender. There will be more than $7 million come off the books in Brad Boyes and Jochen Hecht, but a raise for RFA Tyler Ennis is going to eat up part of that. Expect the narrative in Buffalo to be all about toughness -- the Sabres' collective team spirit was questioned when Miller was injured.

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Major acquisitions don't equal success for Jackets

Monday, 04.09.2012 / 1:33 PM / Season in Review

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

What happened?

Neither of the team's big offseason acquisitions, Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski, met expectations because of suspension and injuries (for Wisniewski), as well as injury and ineffectiveness (for Carter). More injuries followed, but poor goaltending from Steve Mason was another huge problem during the team's miserable start.

How to fix it?

The Blue Jackets need to find a solution, both for the short- and long-term, in net. Sanford delivered respectability, and Mason has been better since switching his gear to be more comfortable but expect the Jackets to look outside the organization for a solution. The Rick Nash Trade Saga, version 2.0, will commence once the playoffs are over as the organization tries to find the right return for the franchise player. If Nash is traded, the Blue Jackets will rebuild around Johansen, Moore and a top-two pick in the 2012 NHL Draft.

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Flames extinguished by injuries, poor finish

Monday, 04.09.2012 / 1:26 PM / Season in Review

Aaron Vickers - NHL.com Correspondent

What happened?

Much of what was expected. Heading into the season, the Flames were expected to be one of the teams battling for few precious spots near the bottom of the Western Conference playoff chase. In what has become a seemingly annual tradition, Calgary was slow out of the gate, winning just eight of the team’s first 21 games to start the season. The Flames saw a resurgence in the middle portion of the schedule, despite being decimated by injury after injury that eventually accumulated into 389 man-games lost during the campaign.

Their play in spite of those setbacks gave hope to a team that was expected to compete until the final days of the regular season. But with just two regulation wins in their final 11 games of the season – and one after being officially eliminated - despite returning key members to the lineup, the Flames absolutely collapsed down the stretch. Scoring just 15 goals in the nine games leading up to their elimination, including a combined three from leading goal-scorers Jarome Iginla, Curtis Glencross and Olli Jokinen, playoff aspirations were crushed earlier then hoped and sent Calgary home with their lowest point total since earning just 75 in 2002-03.

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Quote of the Day

They said, 'You're going to love the city. It's smaller than Philadelphia, but you're going to love it. You're going to love the fans. Just watching the playoffs last year, the fans seemed louder there than they did anywhere. I'm really excited about that.

— Forward Scott Hartnell on his upcoming season with the Columbus Blue Jackets