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Rosen's mailbag - Sept. 9, 2015

by Dan Rosen

Here is the Sept. 9 edition of Rosen's weekly mailbag, which runs every Wednesday. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

Let's get to it:

Who do you think will finish this regular season with more points, Sabres or Oilers? Why? -- @babaac

It should be the Edmonton Oilers, and that's not a knock on the Buffalo Sabres. Edmonton had 62 points last season and Buffalo had 54. The Oilers and Sabres should take significant strides this season, but the Oilers are in a better position currently to do more damage because of the addition of Connor McDavid, the steadiness and possession game from the back end that they'll get from Andrej Sekera, the stability behind the bench that coach Todd McLellan provides, and the leadership in the front office from general manager Peter Chiarelli. Toss in the expected strong center depth they'll have with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Anton Lander and Mark Letestu, and they seem to have a lot going for them. Goaltender Cam Talbot remains a question mark for me, but this is his first time getting the opportunity to be a No. 1 at the start of the season so we have to give him time. They have flaws, among them a defense that isn't deep enough and lacks a true No. 1, but the time is now for the Oilers to start playing some meaningful hockey. Is a conservative prediction of 80 to 85 points out of the question? It won't get them in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but it'll be progress. Wouldn't that be something?

The Sabres also should make a jump. I don't think 35-40 wins is out of the question for them. They're still a step behind the Oilers in their rebuild. Again, that's not a bad thing. If you're a Sabres fan you have plenty of reasons to be optimistic and hopeful.

With the New York Rangers' acquisitions this summer, does Tanner Glass have a place on this team? At the start of the season what lines will the Rangers go with? -- @shaya_forman

Tanner Glass
Tanner Glass
Left Wing - NYR
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 5 | PTS: 6
SOG: 53 | +/-: -12
Glass will have a place on the Rangers as either the fourth line left wing or an extra forward. The only way he doesn't is if someone other than Oscar Lindberg shines in training camp and forces the Rangers into trying to trade Glass or waiving him for the purpose of sending him to the American Hockey League. Coach Alain Vigneault likes having Glass on the roster because he feels he serves as a deterrent to the opposition. I tend to disagree, but that's not what we're debating here.

As for the lines on opening night, I see them this way, at least before training camp starts:

Rick Nash - Derick Brassard - Mats Zuccarello

Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Kevin Hayes

J.T. Miller - Dominic Moore - Emerson Etem

Oscar Lindberg - Jarret Stoll - Jesper Fast

Dan Girardi - Ryan McDonagh

Marc Staal - Dan Boyle

Keith Yandle - Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist

Antti Raanta

Scratched: Tanner Glass, Viktor Stalberg, Raphael Diaz

What is going on with Cody Franson? Last I heard the Sabres were interested. Any truth to that? -- @MTH4214

My feeling at this point is it doesn't make sense for Franson to sign a bargain-basement contract when waiting could be his best play. There will be injuries during training camp, at which time Franson might have the upper hand in a negotiation to potentially get a better contract (still not great) from what he would get now, before training camp, when teams basically have their rosters set. He could sign a professional tryout offer, which probably isn't a bad idea because it gets him on the radar and probably gets him some preseason games. As for interest from the Sabres, well, they should be interested but I haven't heard much on that recently. Every team should be interested. I have no idea why the Columbus Blue Jackets or Boston Bruins, both teams with playoff aspirations and defenses that need help, haven't signed him. He would be an upgrade. The whole thing is puzzling.

Of all the Anaheim prospects/rookies, who do you think has the best shot at nabbing a roster spot this season? -- @AaronMurray46

It's a good question, but the answer is difficult because the Ducks have a lot of good, contributing young players, making it a difficult roster for a prospect to crack this season. They have 13 or 14 definite NHL forwards, six or seven without-question NHL defensemen, and three quality goalies, of which one, likely John Gibson, will have to start the season in the AHL provided everyone is healthy coming out of training camp. As I said, not much room. But a few names to watch are defenseman Josh Manson, who technically isn't a rookie because he played 28 games last season, and right wing Stefan Noesen. Defenseman Shea Theodore has a chance, but defensemen always take a bit longer. Left wing Nick Ritchie is a top prospect to watch, but he's still a year or two away.

What is one thing that you are looking most forward to this season? - @SKaplan13

Too hard to narrow it down to one. So I'll give you a list of ones:

One player: Connor McDavid

This one is easy. As intrigued as I am about Jack Eichel, I'm definitely going to stay up late on the east coast (I live in New Jersey) to watch the Oilers play this season far more than I have in the past. McDavid is the reason. You don't miss a generational talent go to work.

One team: Calgary Flames

Dougie Hamilton
Dougie Hamilton
Defense - CGY
Goals: 10 | Assists: 32 | Pts: 42
Shots: 188 | +/-: -3
Every statistic in the analytics world points to regression on the part of the Flames because last season they made the playoffs despite poor possession numbers and largely because of their unpredictable and likely unsustainable plus-36 goal differential after the second period. But they targeted some of their shortcomings from last season and upgraded with the additions of defenseman Dougie Hamilton and forward Michael Frolik. They're young and fun. I want to see if they improve or if the analytics are accurate in this case.

One concept: 3-on-3 overtime

It worked incredibly well in the American Hockey League, so it's coming up to the big show. I want to see how the coaches handle it. Will they put out two forwards and a defenseman? Will they put out three forwards? Which teams will succeed at this and why? Which teams won't and why? I want to see miracle saves by goalies. It's all so very intriguing.

One division race: Central Division

Easily the deepest division in the League, the Central is better this season because the Dallas Stars should be vastly improved from last season. How does that manifest itself? If Dallas is going to play its way into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, who is coming out? My hunch is the Winnipeg Jets. I want to see if I'm right.

Do you think the Columbus Blue Jackets will make the playoffs this season? -- @KMcKenna_tLT5

I already have predicted that they will make the playoffs as one of five teams that get in from the Metropolitan Division, but their defense is suspect and has given me second thoughts. That said, the addition of forward Brandon Saad legitimizes their offense even more, and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky is one of the best in the League. I think they get in, but it'll be close.

What is your opinion of the San Jose Sharks? -- @slushyjake

Good, probably better than last season, but not good enough to get into the playoffs this season. I say that because I think the Central Division is loaded and five teams will get in, because the Anaheim Ducks will run away with the Pacific Division, because I don't think the Flames will regress to the point where they miss the playoffs, and because I think the Los Angeles Kings will come back to life after a long and definitely needed offseason to get back in the playoffs. That leaves the Sharks out. All that said, I like their offseason additions of forward Joel Ward and defenseman Paul Martin, but I'm still trying to determine what direction they're going. They seem like a team that wants to get younger but can't figure out how to do it because they're hamstrung by some contracts, so instead they're signing veterans with the hope that they might have one more run in them.

Why should us Blues fans believe this team can win in the playoffs? Is there a reason we should have hope? -- @matt_winthrop

I'm not sure you should believe they can win in the playoffs because what proof do you have that they can? It's tough to have belief at this point because three seasons in a row have ended in disappointment and likely earlier than they should have. However, the Blues are a good team with a deep defense, a superstar goal scorer in Vladimir Tarasenko, a quality young goalie in Jake Allen and one of the best hockey minds in the coaching business in Ken Hitchcock. It's easy to see this team succeeding in the regular season again, but the playoffs are all that matters. The hope should come from Tarasenko. He's legit; he could score 50 goals. He could be the difference-maker in St. Louis. He's the reason to believe.

Who will the Islanders' sixth defenseman be at the start of the season, and do you see Kyle Okposo being traded? -- @samfeygin

I see Ryan Pulock making the opening-night lineup and being on the third pair with Thomas Hickey or Brian Strait. Pulock has size (6-foot-2, 214 pounds) and a blistering slap shot that has been clocked at around 100 miles per hour. He has a lot of upside and he's coming off a strong first professional season in the AHL, with 17 goals in 54 games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

As for Okposo, it's obviously not out of the question that he gets traded because he is about to enter the final season on his current contract. But the other way to look at it is the Islanders have a team that should be in contention all season, in which case trading a top-six forward would be difficult to swallow. If they're going to trade him, it has to be done either early, or if they're out of it by the 2016 NHL Trade Deadline. If Michael Dal Colle proves to be ready to play it could take away some of the doubt GM Garth Snow would have about moving Okposo early in the season.


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