Tag:New York Islanders
Posted on: September 28, 2011 10:03 am
Edited on: September 28, 2011 10:27 am
 

Daily Skate: Doughty stalemate, K.C. auditions

By Brian Stubits

STANDING STRONG: There's a lot more going on these days, but don't forget that Drew Doughty is still not in camp with the Kings, stuck in a contract stalemate. President of the Kings' parent company Tim Leiweke is on GM Dean Lombardi's side in an informative conversatoin with Helene St. James. (L.A. Times)

KANSAS CITY AUDITIONS: Once again Kansas City played host to an NHL exhbition game and once again the city showed well for the game between the Penguins and Kings with 17,779 packing the Sprint Center. But the latest audition still doesn't do much to boost the city's chase for a new team. (Kansas City Star)

DON'T I KNOW YOU? Not everybody hates Sean Avery, the New York Rangers' world-reknowned pest. Check out this look-alike fan in Prague, where the Rangers are getting ready for their season opener. What's one thing Petr Rada likes about Avery? "He's a very funny guy." I'm curious how many agree to that. (NHL.com)

THRILL FROM KIRIL: Looking to get a roller-hockey game going on Long Island, one of the players realized they were short a man. Being friends on Facebook with Kirill Kabanov of the Islanders, one player decided to take a shot in the dark and ask Kabonov to join them. Next thing you know, the Isles prospect was there, creating one Wild roller game. (New York Times)

SPEECH THERAPY: There has been a ton of discourse regarding Wayne Simmonds (apparent but not proven) use of a gay slur on the ice. Here's an excellent one from Bruce Arthur asking why, if the NHL can get rid of the dangerous hits in its league it can't get rid of other hurtful actions. (National Post)

MOVING ON UP: That didn't take long. The No. 2 overall pick in this summer's draft, Gabriel Landeskog to the Avalanche, was declared the most NHL-ready prospect there was. Now he's showing it. The Swede has already worked his way on to the top line in Colorado with Paul Stastny and David Jones. (Denver Post)

SHARK CENSORSHIP: For many years you have been able to see shirts near the penalty box and benches in San Jose for Bad Boys Bail Bonds. The owner, a long-time season ticket holder, advertised with the team last year but didn't renew, saying the exposure wasn't worth it. Now the Sharks are banning patrons from promoting or marketing their businesses. There are some unhappy people. (Puck Daddy)

NOTHING BUT NET: In an attempt to help fans see the action on the ice through the mesh netting, the Capitals tried something new on Monday at the Verizon Center, debuting a new white net, hoping it would blend in better and be less obtrusive. Early returns from the fans say not so much. It could be back to normal sooner than you'd think. (Capitals Insider)

JUST SHOOT ME: If the Predators are looking to increase their scoring on the power play, there's a pretty simple suggestion: shoot more! Here's a breakdown of how often (or little) Nashville is shooting with the man advanatage among other Western Conference teams. (Pred Gold)

BACK ALREADY: It was just on Monday when it was said that Avalanche defenseman Jan Hejda was expected to miss a couple of weeks with a knee injury. Yet on Tuesday Hejda was right back on the ice, joining the Avs in practice without skipping a beat. Just in case you didn't believe it, Adrian Dater included some video. (Denver Post)

Photo: Dan Rosen

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: September 27, 2011 11:48 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2011 11:49 pm
 

Nabokov makes Islanders preseason debut

NabokovBy: Adam Gretz

After spending the 2010-11 season playing in the KHL and sitting in limbo while refusing to report to the New York Islanders, Evgeni Nabokov made his preseason debut for the team on Tuesday night, stopping 15 of the 16 shots he faced in two periods of play during their 2-0 loss to the Calgary Flames.

Last summer Nabokov signed a four-year, $24 million deal with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL after spending 10 productive seasons with the San Jose Sharks. His KHL experience proved to be a disappointing one, posting a .888 save percentage in 22 appearances (by comparison: the other two goalies on his team were both over .900 for the season) before he and the team mutually parted ways in December.

At that point Nabokov attempted to make a return to the NHL, signing a one-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings. Because he had spent part of the season playing overseas he had to pass through waivers before he could play for Detroit, and the Islanders, in desperate need of a goaltender after a series of trades (Dwayne Roloson) and injuries, put a claim in for him. Nabokov ultimately refused to report and didn't play again in 2011.

He later said that his decision to not join the Islanders had nothing to do with his unwillingness to play for the team, and more to do with the fact that he hadn't skated in nearly two months and didn't feel he could help the team in what was -- at that time -- a playoff push.

Here's what he told Newsday prior to training camp:
“What made me make that decision is that I hadn’t skated for a month-and-a-half when they claimed me. They were out of the playoffs, but battling to get in and, as a goalie, I know the goalie position is important when fighting for position [in the standings],” Nabokov said. “I didn’t feel that I could help them to get to the playoffs. I needed three to four weeks to get ready and the season would’ve been over.”

“I was not feeling the strongest and Detroit was in a totally different position,” Nabokov said. “They were going to the playoffs and willing to wait. The Islanders needed help then.”

Still under contract with the Islanders, he reported to camp this season and is competing for a roster spot to go along with the oft-injured Rick DiPietro.

He finally made his first appearance on Tuesday, and for the most part things went well playing behind a roster that dressed few NHL regulars and a number of prospects and minor leaguers. He did allow a shorthanded goal to Curtis Glencross at the 4:10 mark of the second period, but stopped every other shot he faced on the night.

The most frustrating part of his performance, if you're an Islanders fan, is that he seemed to make things more difficult for himself and his teammates by turning the puck over on a number of occassions, especially in the first period, while attempting to play it.

It should be interesting to see what plans the Islanders have for Nabokov. Will he compete for the No. 1 job with DiPietro? Will they look to use him as a chip in the trading market? Or will they go with him as DiPietro's backup as a veteran insurance policy in case of an injury? Either way, Tuesday night was a promising start.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: September 27, 2011 6:08 pm
Edited on: September 27, 2011 6:12 pm
 

Atlantic Division Preview: Penguins climb to top

Atlantic1

By: Adam Gretz

Since the NHL went it to its current divisional alignment with Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New Jersey and both New York teams occupying the Atlantic Division it's pretty much been a three-team race at the top every year.

Since the 1998-99 season only three teams have managed to win the Atlantic outright -- New Jersey (seven times), Philadelphia (four times) and Pittsburgh (one time). The Rangers and Islanders have never won it, while only one of them, the Islanders during the 2001-02 season, has finished higher than third (second place).

Will it be one of the same three teams fighting for the top spot this season, or will one of the New York clubs find a way to win it for the first time under this current setup?

This year the division is loaded with story lines. The Flyers, the defending division champs, re-tooled their roster over the summer, while the Penguins may have to start the season without their best player -- and arguably the best player in the world -- as Sidney Crosby continues to recover from a concussion.

The Islanders look to be a team on the rise, while the Rangers landed the biggest free agent that hit the open market over the summer (of course they did). Meanwhile, the Devils look to build on the momentum of a strong second half and have to figure out what to do with Zach Parise, playing on a one-year deal, as he's eligible to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Atlantic Division (in predicted order of finish):

PenguinsPittsburgh Penguins: Playing without Jordan Staal for the first half of the season and without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin for the second half of the season the Penguins still managed to finish tied for the top spot in the Atlantic last season with 106 points, losing in a tiebreaker to the Flyers. That's an impressive accomplishment given how the team is built around those three players. Malkin and Staal look to be ready to go this season, and assuming Crosby returns to his former self, the Penguins should have the personnel to not only finish on top of the division, but also make up for two straight early exits in the playoffs.

Strengths: How did the Penguins manage to stay competitive last season without their three best players for such a long period of time? An outstanding defense anchored by Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang, Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin. Combine the defense with the goaltending of Marc-Andre Fleury and Brent Johnson and the Penguins finished the regular season allowing the sixth fewest goals per game in the league. Even if Crosby isn't ready for the start of the season the Penguins still have excellent depth down the middle with Malkin, Staal and Mark Letestu, a nice two-way player that excels in the faceoff circle.

Weaknesses: When you have so much money invested down the middle (centers, defense and goaltending) it's going to be difficult to fill in talent on the wings. James Neal is supposed to be the goal-scoring winger they've been searching for, but he struggled in his debut season with the Penguins after coming over in a trade with Dallas. Steve Sullivan signed a one-year deal this summer and can still provide some offense, assuming he's able to stay on the ice.

The Penguins power play has been, well, pretty awful the past three years, even with the talent they're capable of putting on the ice. There are a lot of reasons they went out in the first round last year, and their 1-for-35 showing on the power play is at the top of the list.

RangersNew York Rangers: Surely you're not surprised that the biggest free agent available (Brad Richards) landed with the New York Rangers. Especially when said free agent has such a great track record playing for coach John Tortorella. The two spent a number of years together in Tampa Bay, including the 2003-04 season when the Lightning won their Stanley Cup, while Richards took home the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

Still, a lot of their success will depend on how well Richards and Gaborik play together, and whether or not Gabork bounces back from a disappointing season a year ago.

Strengths: Henrik Lundqvist is as steady and durable as they come in the crease, and a goaltender that's capable of stealing a game by himself. Brandon Dubinsky and Ryan Callahan bring a nice mix of skill and grit to the top lines.

Strong team defensively -- and Lundqivst certainly helps that -- even if their blue line, which is anchored by Marc Staal and Dan Girardi, doesn't contain a single player over the age of 27.

Weaknesses: Speaking of Staal, he's still dealing with some symptoms as a result of a concussion he suffered at the end of last season, which is not a good thing. Gaborik, for all his skill and ability, is always one shift away from his next injury (and yes, that's technically true for every player, but Gaborik's career speaks for itself: he's played more than 65 games just five times in 10 years). Mediocre power play during the regular season that scored one goal in 19 attempts during their first-round playoff loss to the Capitals.

FlyersPhiladelphia Flyers: Talk about a team that went through a transition this summer. When all was said and done the Flyers basically swapped Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Ville Leino, Daniel Carcillo, Sean O'Donnell and Darroll Powe for Ilya Bryzgalov, Jaromir Jagr, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Brayden Schenn, Andreas Lilja and Max Talbot. Better? Worse? The same? Paul Holmgren and Flyers fans are about to find out.

Strengths: Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk are excellent young forwards, and Van Riemsdyk could be ready to have a breakout season following his impressive postseason run from a year ago. Danny Briere is still around to be one of their leading offensive weapons.

In a bizarre twist, goaltending moves from an area weakness to one of their biggest strengths thanks to the offseason addition of Bryzgalov from the Phoenix Coyotes.

Weaknesses: Unfortunately, in order to improve their goaltending the Flyers had to make a series of moves that involved trading Richards and  Carter, while also losing Leino to free agency. That's three of their top-five scorers from a year ago.

It's possible the addition of Bryzgalov, combined with the development of the young players and draft picks they acquired in the Richards and Carter deals, could allow this to  allwork out for the better in the long run, but they may have taken a step back in the short-term.

Will Giroux and Briere be as productive now that they'll be facing the other teams best players in the absence of Richards and Carter?

Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen are both a year older, and Pronger's health was a big problem last season.

DevilsNew Jersey Devils: When it comes to making coaching changes, no league seems to make more than the NHL, and within the NHL, no team seems to make more than the New Jersey Devils. After a summer-long saga involving their pursuit and eventual signing of Ilya Kovalchuk (who they acquired at the trade deadline of the previous season), the Devils had a disastrous start to last season, winning just nine of their first 31 games, resulting in the firing of head coach John MacLean.

Who did the Devils turn to at the point? Jacques Lemaire, naturally, for his third different stint with the team.

They finished with a 29-17-3 record under his watch and managed to stay in the playoff race longer than anybody could have expected following their awful start. Pete DeBoer takes over behind the bench this season, making him the 9th different coach to lead the team since the start of the 2000-01 season.

Strengths: The Devils should have a strong top-six once Travis Zajac returns, and they'll also benefit from the return of Zach Parise after he missedall but 13 games of last season. He's also playing on a one-year contract (perhaps a "show me" contract. As in, show me you're fully recovered and can once again be one of the top left wingers in the league before we sign you long-term).

As always, they finished with strong numbers defensively allowing just over 2.5 goals per game. Will they be as strong defensively without LeMaire running the ship?

Weaknesses: Who on the defense is going to provide some offense? No defenseman scored more than Andy Greene's 23 points a season ago. Adam Larsson, the Devils first-round pick in June, looks to have a ton of upside but some growing pains should be expected as a rookie.

Martin Brodeur is a Hall of Famer and one of the best goalies to ever play in the NHL, but he's clearly not the player he once was. And if the Devils do make it back to the playoffs, well, he's been pretty bad in two of his past three postseason appearances, while the Devils haven't made it out of the first round since 2006-07.

IslandersNew York Islanders: The New York Islanders made headlines last season because of a massive on-ice brawl in early February. They should make headlines this season because they're an improving team that's going to compete for a playoff spot thanks to their impressive collection of young forwards, with the recently signed John Tavares leading the way.

The Islanders offseason didn't see them bring in anybody significant from outside the organization, unless you're counting on Brian Rolston returning to his 30-goal form from four years ago, but they are getting back their top defenseman, Mark Streit, who missed all of last season with a shoulder injury, and that can be a huge addition to a team that's thin on the blue line.

Along with the return of Streit, a full-season for Kyle Okposo, an excellent two-way forward, will be a welcome addition as well.

Strengths: Definitely their forwards. They're young, they're productive, and many of them are signed long-term for what could be excellent value against the salary cap. The Islanders had eight different players score at least 10 goals last season, and seven of them are returning this season (the only one that isn't is Rob Schremp and his 10 goals).

Michael Grabner, Matt Moulson, Tavares, Blake Comeau and P.A. Parenteau all scored at least 20 goals for the Islanders a year ago.

Frans Nielsen is one of the NHL's most underrated defensive forwards and showed last season he's also capable of chipping in some offense, scoring 13 goals. He finished sixth the voting for the Selke Trophy which goes to the NHL's best defensive forward.

Weaknesses: Even with the return of Streit, as well as the presence of emerging young defenseman Travis Hamonic, who looks like he's going to be quite a player, there is still a lot of questions about this team defensively and in goal, and in the end that could prove to be their downfall this season. 

Rick DiPietro is still signed through the 2020-21 season and has appeared in just 39 games over the past three years.

NHL season preview schedule
Wed., Sept. 21: Step-back players Tues., Sept. 27: Atlantic Division
Thur., Sept. 22: Breakout players Wed., Sept. 28: Central Division
Fri., Sept. 23: Southeast Division Thur. Sept. 29: Northeast Division
Mon., Sept. 26: Pacific Division Fri., Sept. 30: Northwest Division

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: September 27, 2011 10:06 am
Edited on: September 27, 2011 10:12 am
 

Daily Skate: Marchand's champion tattoo typo

By Brian Stubits

WE ARE THE CHAMPIANS: Brad Marchand was one of the Bruins that celebrated the Stanley Cup victory by going out and getting inked up. Too bad the tattoo artist couldn't spell champions correctly. One of his teammates soon spotted the typo and Marchand had it corrected, but not before some photos were taken. (ESPN Boston)

STAAL STAYS BEHIND: While the Rangers headed to Europe after last night's controversy-filled game against the Flyers to finish out the exhibition schedule before the regular season begins in Sweden, Marc Staal stayed behind. The alternate captain of the Blueshirts is dealing with post-concussion symptoms, but coach John Tortorella expects Staal will join the team later and play in the games that count. (NHL.com)

QUESTIONING OVECHKIN: Here's an interesting question posed by Neil Greenberg of Capitals Insider: Is Alex Ovechkin an elite scorer or just a good shooter? The conclusion after stasticals analysis -- with charts! -- is that Ovie isn't the most skilled shooter around, he just gets more off than anybody by a large margin. (Capitals Insider)

BOOGAARD GETS A SHOT: After Derek Boogaard's death this summer, brother Aaron Boogaard was doing a lot of the speaking for the family, including explaining how his brother never quite overcame an addition to painkillers. But Aaron plays the game, too, and the former Minnesota Wild draft pick is all set to join the team's AHL affiliate in Houston. (Star Tribune)

ANOTHER WAIVER WONDER: It was about this time a year ago Dale Tallon was attempting to send Michael Grabner to the Panthers' AHL affiliate through waivers only for the forward to be claimed by the Islanders. we know how that turned out. Now another promising Panthers is on the wire, Michael Repik. While he doesn't seem to have Grabner's promise, here's one person who can't forget the gift Tallon gave them last year and would like to take a shot. (Lighthouse Hockey)

LOMBARDI AWARD: After the more high-profile cases of players sitting out after concussions such as Sidney Crosby and David Perron is Matthew Lombardi. The former Predators player who was shipped to the Maple Leafs this offseason is doing much better and looks like he'll be playing for Toronto. Feel-good story of the year candidate? Perhaps says James Mirtle. (Globe and Mail)

BATTLE UPDATE: In case you were wondering how the Battle of the Blades, the popular Dancing With the Stars meets ice skating show in Canada, here's your Week 1 recap. (Mile High Hockey)

ANYONE PUMPED UP YET? Came across this pump-up video for the Canucks this season. Surely they should have a lot of reason for optimism in Vancouver, but this video ... doesn't seem all that inpsiring. Set to Adele's Rolling in the Deep (which screams hockey) it mostly dwells on the Canucks losing to Boston, including Marchand punching Daniel Sedin. Excited?

Photo: ESPN Boston

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: September 22, 2011 1:23 pm
Edited on: September 22, 2011 1:30 pm
 

Canucks, Caps tabbed favorites to win Stanley Cup

By Brian Stubits

It's always fun to see how the oddsmakers view championship contenders. For example, many people believe that a better indication in college football is what Las Vegas says, not the AP Top 25.

So when the odds for the Stanley Cup were released by Bodog on Thursday the question was who is the favorite entering the season? Personally, I'm not removing the Bruins from that designation, but Bodog is. For the betting service the Vancouver Canucks and Washington Capitals are the co-favorites at 7-to-1 odds with the Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins with the second-best odds at 10-to-1.

Obviously there is no griping with either the Canucks or Caps being up that high. The Canucks were a win away from being the champions right now and the Caps have been knocking on the door for years and everybody agrees they only got better this offseason. In regards to the Penguins, you have to think the belief is Sidney Crosby will be back -- and recent signs are good since he's returned to practicing. They are still a good team without him, but second-best odds? I'm not sure.

Who is bringing up the rear? It's still the New York Islanders, believe it or not. I guess the oddsmakers aren't buying into the improvements the Isles have been showing of late. They go off at 80/1 to win the Cup. Not far behind is a three-way tie for second-longest odds with the Florida Panthers, Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets beginning at 75/1 longshots.

To see the entire odds from Bodog, here's the list.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: September 22, 2011 10:00 am
 

Daily Skate: A new Islanders plan; Yashin to KHL

By Brian Stubits

ANOTHER ISLAND IDEA: Hope is not lost for the Islanders to not only stay on Long Island, but to remain in Nassau County. Since being turned down by a public vote, the team has been solicitin proposals for the land and they unveiled one on Wednesday that calls for a minor-league baseball park, outdoor ice rink, shopping and renovations to the Nassau Coliseum that would include raising the seat capacity. (Newsday)

BACK TO THE U.S.S.R.: Or at least Russia. After a summer of flirtation and rumors about rejoining the New York Islanders, Alexei Yashin will be returning to the KHL this season. Once he passes a physical, Yashin will be the newsest member of HC CSKA Moscow. (The Score)

DEEPER LOOK INTO ENFORCERS: This summer has illuminated the life of enforcers more than ever before with former fighters coming forward to tell their stories. Here's another player sharing his experiences as Brent Severyn. One of the most interesting parts for me is how no matter if he won or lost a fight, he was upset, either by his own embarrassment or knowing the embarrassment the other fighter is going to endure. (SI.com)

CHANGED MAN: Jordin Tootoo was once an up-and-coming prospect for the Predators who surprised everybody when he checked himself into the NHL/NHLPA Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health program in December. Now he's back in Nashville camp and looking like a brand new player. (The Predatorial)

MIKKO READY TO WIN: This summer Mikko Koivu got a taste of winning, seeing his native Finland win the world juniors resulting in a massive party in Helsinki. Now the Wild captain is looking forward to bringing that same kind of success to Minnesota, where they haven't been to the playoffs since 2008. (Star-Tribune)

SIGNING SEAN: The Philadelphia Flyers got what some considered a gift when Sean Couturier fell to them in the NHL Draft, a top-5 talent slipping to No. 8. On Wednesday they gave him a gift of their own, signing him to a three-year entry-level contract. (NHL.com)

YEARNING FOR THE OLD DAYS: One of the best parts about franchises taking a turn for the worst is the hilarity that can come from grieving fans. Returning to their successful days at the beginning of last decade, a couple of Senators fans channel their inner Backstreet Boys below. (Senators extra via Puck Daddy)

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: September 21, 2011 2:43 pm
Edited on: September 21, 2011 2:51 pm
 

Islanders name Mark Streit the newest captain

By Brian Stubits

The Islanders made their selection for a new captain on Wednesday, naming Swiss veteran swingman Mark Streit the new team leader. He was one of the alternate captains last season for the Islanders, sharing that role with former No. 1 draft pick John Tavares.

Streit takes over the role from the retired Dough Weight. He is the 13th captain in the franchise's history. Moreover, he is the first Swiss player to be named a captain of an NHL team.

"I have big footsteps to fill -- players from the past like Bryan Trottier, Denis Potvin, Pat LaFontaine. There's so much history here, it's an honor for me. And to be the first Swiss captain in the NHL, it's a big privilege."" Streit said at the news conference to announce the move. "I think the future is now. We want to win games."

Many believed that Tavares was the favorite to earn the C. Considering he's the face of the franchise and was the team's leading scorer last season at just 21 years of age, it seemed to make sense. Alas, they elected to go with the more veteran Streit, the team's top defenseman who also has a penchant for playing as forward.

Streit didn't play a single game last season for the Isles, sitting the year out after shoulder surgery. But he is expected to be fully recovered this season and New York is hoping he can return to his form from two seasons ago when he played in all 82 games and had 11 goals with 38 assists.

Despite being 33 years old, Streit doesn't have a whole heaping of NHL experience, but it is more than Tavares. He has just five seasons in the NHL under his belt, three with the Canadiens before going to New York. He does have experience as a captain under his belt, however, serving as the leader of the Swiss national team since the 2006 Olympics.

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: September 21, 2011 12:05 pm
Edited on: September 21, 2011 12:11 pm
 

Step-back players: Can Columbus' Wiz keep it up?

By Brian Stubits

We see it over and over again in sports. Player has a career year, player gets a fat new contract with new team, said player fails to live up to the new deal.

After an offseason of numerous exorbitant contracts, this description will likely apply to plenty of players this upcoming year. That includes the guy who received the biggest bounty on the first day of free agency, James Wisniewski.

Signed by the Columbus Blue Jackets for a robust six-year, $33 million, Wisniewski is the second-highest paid player on an annual basis on a team that includes Rick Nash and Jeff Carter. That's a lot of coin for a player who has one season on his resume worthy of such. In his defense it was last season, so he picked a good time for his best season.

But surely you can see the red flags here. Wisniewski would appear to be a prime target for a step-back season. Now it's possible that last season was the Wiz actually stepping into his prime, after all he is 27 years old now, the magical age in all sports. But when a guy scores 21 more points in a season higher than his previous career high, it is only fair to wonder if it can be repeated. Such a jump indicates likelihood to regress to the mean a little bit.

Throw in the fact that Wisniewski is coming to a new environment, joining players he has never played with before and in an organization that has not had much success to talk about and you have the making for much quieter year.

What could help Wisniewski replicate his 51 points from a season ago with the Canadiens would be getting a lot of ice time, especially on the power play, with Rick Nash and Jeff Carter. Depending on how quickly they jell up front could impact Wisniewski's play and numbers. He'll certainly share the ice with the two high- scoring forwards a bit, but the more (probably) the better.

Now is as good a time as any to explain the rationale here, because it always gets misunderstood. This is no way to say that Wisniewski or any of the other players below will have bad years. That isn't the object one bit. It's simply players who might see a regression. Think of it this way: If a player is great and he regresses, he can still be very good. That fit Alexander Ovechkin last season, despite still being one of the best players in the league, it can't be argued he didn't have as strong a season last year. Now, on to the ...

Step-back candidates

Michael Grabner/Taylor Hall/Logan Couture/Jeff Skinner/Tyler Seguin/Brad Marchand: We're just throwing all of last season's top rookies into one category and labeling this one the "sophomore slump" group. Chances are one of them won't continue to blossom or match their rookie outputs. If I had to pick one, it would be Grabner of the Islanders.

Teemu Selanne, Ducks: The guy is a wonder, recording more than a point per game last season with the Ducks at 40 years old. But his offseason knee surgery and subsequent wait to see if he'd be ready to go (and advanced age) would seem to indicate a player who doesn't seem likely to keep up his pace. Just playing the odds on this one. Then again, we are talking about Selanne here.


Danny Briere, Flyers: Somebody is likely going to suffer a setback in Philadelphia with the absence of Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, and Briere would be my best guess. He posted 34 goals and 34 assists last season, his highest point total in since 2007-08 and he's no spring chicken any more as he will turn 34 years old on the Flyers' opening day.


Christian Ehrhoff, Sabres: He is coming off a season where he posted 14 goals and 36 assists along with a plus-19. That in and of itself is tough to repeat. My colleague Adam Gretz wrote about the prospect of replacing Ehrhoff in Vancouver, noting that he was a bit protected. Now he will still be surrounded by a very good team in Buffalo, but it's looking like he will be paired with Jordan Leopold, the second defensive pairing behind Tyler Myers and Robyn Regehr. It's going to be very tough to replicate his excellent last two seasons.


Michal Neuvirth, Capitals: This is the gamble the Caps are taking by bringing in Tomas Vokoun. Neuvirth was very solid last season, posting a 27-12-4 record with a 2.45 GAA and .914 save percentage. They are risking him taking a step back in his growth as a player by relegating him to backup minutes, not to mention the possibility of a hit to the psyche of bringing in another goaltender and naming him the starter soon after the acquisition.


Sean Bergenheim, Panthers: He had the best season of his career with the Lightning a season ago, scoring 14 goals and 15 assists through 80 regular-season games. Where he drew plenty of attention for himself, though, was in the playoffs when he had nine goals for the Bolts. Coming up with the Islanders there had been plenty of hope and potential for Bergenheim, so perhaps he's just starting to break out. I'm expecting a point total in the low 20s, like his numbers in the days on the Island.


NHL season preview schedule
Wed., Sept. 21: Step-back players Tues., Sept. 27: Atlantic Division
Thur., Sept. 22: Breakout players Wed., Sept. 28: Central Division
Fri., Sept. 23: Southeast Division Thur. Sept. 29: Northeast Division
Mon., Sept. 26: Pacific Division Fri., Sept. 30: Northwest Division

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com