Welcome to Week 2 of our weekly feature on LAKings.com, 4 on 4. Four prominent hockey writers; John Hoven of The Mayor's Manor, Bryan Reynolds and Nathan Eide of Hockey Wilderness, Derek Tanabe of Fear the Fin, and Thomas Drance of Canucks Army will answer 4 questions pertaining to the sport we all love.
CLICK HERE to read Week 1 of 4 on 4.
Feel free to give your own answers, and pose questions for future weeks in the comments.
1. True or False? Rick Nash makes the Rangers the team to beat in the East.
John Hoven @mayorNHL -Well, Vegas odds have Pittsburgh ahead of New York as favorites for the Stanley Cup, and Boston as more likely to win the Eastern Conference title in the regular season. That being said, Philadelphia hasn't made their big move yet. GM Paul Holmgren isn't going to sit by and allow those three teams to steal all the headlines come opening week of next season (whenever that may end up being). We already know he lost out in his attempts to land Shea Weber. We also know he's kicking the tires on Bobby Ryan and Shane Doan. Still, unless he can get a top flight dman without giving up too much from his current roster, they'll likely remain behind the top three. In picking a lead dog, it's a toss up between the Pens and Rangers. New York has the edge in net with Lundqvist and Pittsburgh still needs some help on the blueline. Nash helps New York up front, certainly. But, a healthy Sid and Malkin is enough to keep Mario's club a notch above Richards, Nash and the Blueshirts. Thus, false.
Nathan Eide @hockeywildernes - True. They already had world-class goaltending, excellent two-way defensive play, offensive skill and a solid mix of youth and veteran leadership. Adding a prototypical power forward with a proven history of 40+ goals can only make them even more difficult to beat. Putting a big body with the ability to create problems and score dirty goals alongside a sniper like Marian Gaborik and playmakers like Brad Richards will only make them more potent offensively. The road to the Eastern Conference is Broadway.
Derek Tanabe @fearthefin - False. New York spent a lot more time in their own end than almost all of the elite teams last season and relied heavily on Henrik Lundqvist and shot-blocking to survive. Flipping two of their best forwards at driving the play out of the defensive zone in Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov for a fairly average defensive player in Nash who's been on a decline offensively for a few seasons now probably won't do much to alleviate the Rangers' puck possession woes. Although I think trading Zbynek Michalek, especially considering the return he got, before ensuring he had Ryan Suter in the bag was a rare mistake by Ray Shero, he got a terrific return on the Jordan Staal deal and added one of the best post-lockout (how long until we have to start saying "between lockouts"?) goalies in Tomas Vokoun as an insurance policy should the overrated and mediocre Marc-Andre Fleury falter. So while the Penguins might be bringing back a slightly worse team and there's always the chance Sidney Crosby misses half the season, they're still in a class of their own in the East as far as I'm concerned and I'd also introduce Boston into the conversation before even discussing the Rangers.
Thomas Drance @CanucksArmy - False, and I don't even think they're the team to beat in their own division!
Rick Nash is a nice addition to a solid forward group (they shouldn't have any issue replacing Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Ansimov's adorable Twitter account), and the Rangers already possess the world's best goaltender, and a fearsome group of blue-liners - but I'm still not convinced that they're better than the Pittsburgh Penguins are. For what it's worth, the betters agree with me (@ChrisKuc) ! While the Penguins haven't made any splashy additions like the Rangers have, they remain the class of the East in my view. Their one-two punch of Malkin and Crosby is unrivaled, their defense is solid, Brandon Sutter is an absolute beast, and Tomas Vokoun should bring some much needed stability between the pipes.
Rick Nash will put up points in Manhattan next season, and he should help the Rangers become less reliant on Henrik Lundqvist, but I see the Bruins and the Penguins as the East's real juggernauts. I'd put the Rangers in a class just below those two teams, and just above the Flyers, Caps and Hurricanes (yes, I think they've improved that much this summer).
2. Agree or disagree? The Predators had to match the Flyers offer sheet for Shea Weber
John Hoven - Agree. If they wanted to keep the team in Nashville long-term, they had to. On one hand, the Predators have been an extremely stable franchise over the last eight years, qualifying for the playoffs seven times. However, let's be honest, it's not a hockey market just yet. Music City USA locals are more likely to support college football or basketball than a little game of stick and puck. Beyond the gate though, taking four first round draft picks in exchange for their best defenseman (maybe even the NHL's best dman) just wasn't going to help the franchise over the short run. After losing Ryan Suter to free agency, there was no way they could sell losing Weber to the fan base. Nor was there any way they'd earn enough points to make the post-season because they're an offensively challenged team who rely on great goaltending and defense to win games.
Bryan Reynolds - Agree. Unless David Pollie wanted to be a laughing stock, this was an absolutely no brainer. The Predators were going to get four first round picks in compensation, yet they were going to be four late first round picks. There isn’t even a chance those picks turn into someone with as much skill as Shea Weber. Plus, if Weber and Ryan Suter both left in the same summer, Pekka Rinne likely would have shown Pollie exactly why you don’t anger Finnish goalies.
Derek Tanabe -Agree. Losing the best player to ever wear a Predators sweater (as long as we agree, like the rest of the hockey world, to forget Peter Forsberg played in Nashville for about eight seconds) for four picks in the 20th to 30th overall range would have crippled that franchise and not entirely due to on-ice competitiveness issues alone. It's no secret Nashville has developed an extremely strong fanbase with their success over the years but it would have been hard to blame the Predators faithful if everyone other than the die-hards decided they'd rather not shell out their hard-earned money to watch the Martin Erat and Kevin Klein show. Weber's a draw the Predators organization couldn't afford to lose in the same summer they bid farewell to Ryan Suter as well as Alexander Radulov for the second time. Nashville will still have a lot of work ahead of them to return to contender status, although their stable of talented young defensemen should accelerate that process, but having one of the best defensemen in the NHL (the best if Zdeno Chara ever decides to hang up his size 20 skates) in the fold won't hurt.
Thomas Drance - Absolutely, positively, 100% agree.
I didn't doubt for a second that the Predators would match the contract Weber signed with the Flyers. In fact, within minutes of Shea Weber signing Philadelphia's offer sheet I urged Caucks Army's readers (Read Here) to "prepare for significant hand-wringing in the Vancouver sports media market: "why didn't you negotiate Weber's next contract with the Predators for Poile, huh, Mike Gillis?"
To his credit, Paul Holmgren (aka the architect of the 2012 Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings) made Shea Weber one hell of a creative offer. The deal will ultimately pay Weber 27 million in the first 11.5 months of the contract, which is the equivalent to 1/6th of the value of the Predators franchise, and is more than the team makes in gate revenue over the course of an entire season. Matching the Shea Weber offersheet was probably a tough pill for Poile and the Predators to swallow, but locking up one of, if not the best defenseman in the league for less than 8 million per season is a no-brainer.
Getting Shea Weber signed long-term makes hockey sense for the Tennessee franchise, and beyond that, it was necessary to protect their brand. This one was never in doubt.
3. Shane Doan ends up a ________.
John Hoven -Shane Doan ends up a player on a Western Conference team not located in Phoenix. He's taken the idea of loyalty to a whole new level with his efforts to remain as a member of the Coyotes. Like most players though, he'll realize the window is closing quickly and if he has any hopes of reaching the Stanley Cup Final before his career is over, he needs to get out now. The Desert Dogs are a wreck with no end in sight. Sure, several Eastern Conference teams will likely throw more money at him. Yet, a desire to remain close to his Arizona compound will be motivation enough to keep him in the Pacific time zone. Vancouver makes sense, given his ties to British Columbia. However, the Sharks just have to do something other than getting another year older, don't they? San Jose is a team missing grit and a killer instinct. Doan would give them both.
Nathan Eide - Umm, Detroit Red Wing? I mean, their fans think they're entitled to everyone, right? Honestly, the Doan saga is a disaster. He should have already been signed by the Coyotes, but now looking at who is left and the needs of the teams remaining, Detroit has some work to do to fill the roster with talent. Doan is a garbage man who, when put on a team that can create offensive chances, can still put up 30+ goals. He would be a great fit in Detroit, and who doesn't want to see the Doan face in the winged wheel?
Derek Tanabe -Flyer. Is there any doubt the 4-year, $30 million offer Doan was rumored to have received from an "unnamed Eastern Conference club" came from Paul Holmgren? The deal itself makes absolutely no sense for any team but Doan as a player would be a good addition for Philadelphia assuming they'd like to go into the season with a better second line than Brayden Schenn, Daniel Briere and Wayne Simmonds. If Chris Pronger is going to spend the season on long-term injured reserve, the Flyers would be allowed to exceed the cap's upper limit by enough to fit the reported, and ludicrous, contract and, even otherwise, it seems like a pretty safe bet Holmgren would be able to find a GM looking to meet the cap floor who would be interested in taking Andrej Meszaros' bloated deal off his hands. It still wouldn't surprise me to see Doan end up back in Phoenix after giving them chance after chance to prove their ownership situation is approaching stability but I think the allure of Philadelphia's alleged offer is enough to make Doan reconsider his stance of wanting to stay near the west coast.
Thomas Drance - I have no idea, but If I had to hazard a guess for where Shane Doan ends up, I'd pick the Penguins. Doan has also met with the likes of Philadelphia, Montreal, New York and Vancouver; and I think he'd make sense on any of those teams.
In terms of the possibility that Doan might sign with the Canucks (the two sides met this past week in Vancouver), it has been reported that Doan is looking for a massive payday and I'm not sure Vancouver would be willing to pay out more than what they pay the Sedin twins (6.1 per season each) or Ryan Kesler (5 million per season). That said, based on the loyalty Doan has shown to Phoenix, and his reluctance to leave Arizona (he's really given prospective Coyotes owner Greg Jamison every opportunity to retain him), I'd speculate that the comfort and happiness of Doan's young family is playing a big role in his decision. If that's the case, then perhaps the Canucks could have an inside track on Doan's other suitors; since Doan's family has extensive ties to the Pacific Northwest.
But money talks, and if Vancouver's offer isn't competitive, I don't think they'll end up winning the "Doan Derby."
4. Which player that we haven’t yet heard of makes a name for himself next year in the NHL?
John Hoven - Since the 2010 NHL Draft in Los Angeles, three players taken in the top 10 have already made thier impact on the NHL - Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin and Jeff Skinner. Next season, look for three American-born players taken in the opening round to have breakout campaigns. Beau Bennett, selected 20th overall by Pittsburgh didn't forgo his final two years of college eligibility to play all of next season in the AHL. Expect to see the Gardena, CA native join the Penguins sooner rather than later. Another Southern California product who will burst on the scene in a big way is Emerson Etem. Taken 29th by the Ducks, he scored 61 goals last year in the WHL. This coming season he's expected to play top-6 minutes in Anaheim. Finally, keep an eye on Charlie Coyle in Minnesota. While Wild fans are nearly in a full froth over the thought of Mikael Granlund joining the team, there are questions about his ability to quickly transition to the North American game. Meanwhile, Coyle played for Boston University two years ago and won the QMJHL championship with Saint John last season. Additionally, he's been one of the top forwards for Team USA at the last two World Junior tournaments. Originally selected by San Jose with the 29th pick, Coyle was dealt to Minnesota last summer in the Brent Burns trade. Look for him to be mentioned as the 'steal' of that deal for many years to come.
Bryan Reynolds - I have to go with the homer pick here. Mikael Granlund has been in Finland for the past two years scoring goals and putting up points in a truly professional and high level league. He won’t need time in the AHL, and he is going to see top 6 minutes, possibly even skating with Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise, if he can earn the spot. He is creative, he is fast, and his shot is absolutely wicked. If he is anywhere close to what Chuck Fletcher and the Wild have billed him as, it’s time to start lobbying Congress to put him on a stamp here in the US, because the Finnish savior is about to win the Calder.
Derek Tanabe - There are a couple of former NCAA stars in Carolina defenseman Justin Faulk and Columbus winger Cam Atkinson who got their feet in the door last season as well as two higly-regarded prospects in Minnesota's Mikael Granlund and Florida's Jonathan Huberdeau, all of whom should play important roles for their respective clubs next year. But they're also probably all fairly well-known, at least among those who follow the league closely. One player who continues to fly under the radar despite having 120 NHL games under his belt is Washington Capitals forward Mathieu Perreault. Despite spending a lot of his time playing alongside bottom-six forwards like Jason Chimera and Matt Hendricks last season, only 34 forwards in the entire league scored more even-strength points per sixty minutes than Perreault's 2.41. That was a higher scoring rate than what superstars like Anze Kopitar, Daniel Sedin, Zach Parise and Martin St. Louis managed. Perreault also accomplished that while providing extremely effective two-way play--for every sixty minutes that Perreault was on the ice at even-strength, the Caps directed 12 more shots at the opposition's net than they had directed at their own. With Alexander Semin taking his talents to the Hurricanes and Mike Knuble, who in the past had been the designated crease-crasher on Alex Ovechkin's line, likely gone, Perreault should benefit immensely next season from increased minutes, more talented linemates and potential power play time. If you're looking to get a leg up on your fantasy league, you could do worse than taking a late-round flier on Perreault.
Thomas Drance - I'll pick Jonas Brodin of Reynolds' Minnesota Wild. Despite the addition of Ryan Suter and the massively under-rated Tom Gilbert, the Wild remain razor thin along the blue-line. They have several young defenseman who are solid enough in Spurgeon, Stoner and Scandella, but I don't buy that those three are ready to succeed while playing regular tough-minutes at the NHL-level. As such, I think Jonas Brodin has a tremendous opportunity to seize a spot in Minnesota's top-4.
Brodin really impressed me at the World Championships, where he played some very competent defensive hockey for Team Sweden. He seems like a mature decision maker for a player his age, and that's an important trait for a young defenseman to possess. When you throw in Brodin's solid skating and physical make-up - I think his talent will translate well at the NHL level this season, and I'm expecting big things from him.
John Hoven is the founder and editor of MayorsManor.com - a full multimedia site, including exclusive on-ice video interviews from the 2012 Stanley Cup Final. As a credentialed writer based in LA, his hockey insights and information have been featured on several well known websites, magazines and in print for the LA Newspaper Group. He can also be heard over the airwaves, as he's a regularly featured guest on sports radio stations across North America. Be sure to follow along at www.twitter.com/MayorNHL for his daily notes and inside scoop.
Bryan Reynolds is the editor of Hockey Wilderness, the SB Nation site covering the Minnesota Wild. He also covers the Minnesota Swarm of the NLL for SB Nation Minnesota and dreams of one day being the Senate confirmed Director of Vengeful Beatings - @hockeywildernes.
Nathan Eide is the managing editor of Hockey Wilderness, a Minnesota Wild fan community. Nathan likes long walks on the beach, spending time with his family and enjoys the schadenfreude surrounding the Edmonton Oilers.
Derek Tanabe is currently the managing editor for Fear The Fin, a Sharks blog with up-to-date news and analysis concerning California's only team still chasing the Stanley Cup. You can follow him on twitter at @fearthefin.
Thomas Drance is a Vancouver native currently based in Toronto. He works at MThrty communications , is the managing editor of canucksarmy.com, and a contributing writer at Pass it to Bulis (the Vancouver Sun). He's an avid singer who swims everyday in the summer, and eats food that is too spicy for normal human persons. You can follow him on twitter at @CanucksArmy.