NHL 2014-15 Recap Week 1 – California Teams Hot, Buffalo not and not a fun place to play either, Floria has no fans and Kuemper and Seguin have arrived
Well the NHL is finally back and ready to launch what should be one of the best seasons in awhile. You have the really wide open Eastern Conference and then you have the tight Western Conference. You also have Los Angeles and Chicago trying to each add their third Stanley Cup with, mostly, their same core from previous wins. But let’s start at the bottom. Word going around this week is that the Buffalo Sabres aren’t a great place to play. Go figure. Ville Leino is now playing in the KHL and recently accepted a buyout from his Sabres Contract. Leino sums up his time in Buffalo with these two paragraphs.
“My Buffalo time was pretty bad overall. I was disappointed for the players and the organization and I think they are going to be like that.”
“There’s a huge difference between teams. NHL is hard, you have to have chemistry, a good line, you have to have a good team to win, a good coach and GM and everything in place. Like we were just talking about those great organizations, Philly, Detroit, they were that, Buffalo is not that. They, well, during my time they fired two coaches, GM had to go, they just have 2-3 players that used to be there when I got there. They are going to struggle for the next couple of years.”
This is just after Christian Erhoff, now with the Penguins who was also bought out, shared his views.
“I thought it was a team on the uprise. They had a good roster and I felt, with a few additions, that they could take the next step to be a competitive team. Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way and they went into full rebuild mode. That was obviously a little frustrating because that’s not the reason I (signed) there.” Source http://prohockeytalk.nbcsports.com/2014/10/16/pens-ehrhoff-frustrated-with-time-in-buffalo/
It’s never a good thing when an organization buys out contracts because it means they didn’t do their homework before they signed the players. This isn’t putting the blame on the players, that they are the reason it didn’t work out, but that the GM doesn’t know what the team needs and how the players will mesh with who they have currently. Which is sad, because that’s basically what the GM’s job is. Having said all that, former GM Darcy Regier did lead the team to the Stanley Cup Finals once so he can’t be that inept. But lately, other than their 1st place finish in 2010, the Sabres haven’t done much. The jury is still out on new GM Tim Murray. It’s a shame really because the Owner of the Sabres Terry Pegula, who just bought the Buffalo Sabres, seems like a great guy and probably knows more about hockey than most other owners. I’m not sure how involved he is in things in the organization but he may need to be more involved. But as for this season? The Sabres are currently in last place in the Eastern Conference and are tied for the worst goal differential in the NHL. It’s going to be a long season in Buffalo.
Things I like
1. Guess whose in 1st place in their division without any losses (until they lost to the Penguins on Saturday Night)? That would be the New York Islanders. One of my Eastern Conference Finalist picks. The pick doesn’t look so ridiculous now does it? The Islanders are clicking offensively and John Tavares has raised his game to the next level. He’s averaging two points a game and should warrant a Hart nomination when the season is over. New goalie Jaroslav Halak has been okay but he will need to improve for the Islanders to be serious threats.
2. Speaking of other things I predicted… at the top of the NHL scoring leader list is Mr. Tavares, Sidney Crosby and Tyler Seguin. This will be Seguin’s breakout season so make sure to catch Dallas Stars games when you can. And how about Patrick Hornqvist also at the top? Playing on the Crosby line, Hornqvist should have his firsts a point per game season ever.
3. The Minnesota Wild had an unusual season last year going through a lot of goalies. But all of them played well. Darcy Kuemper was one of those injured goalies and he’s back healthy and better than ever. He started the season with back to back shutouts, the youngest goalie in NHL history to do so. He’s only allowed 2 goals in three games so far. Expect Kuemper to continue to play well. Not to bad for a 6th round pick.
4. The Battle of California starting hot. The Kings opened up their defense against the Sharks and didn’t play well but they’ve turned it around and have now won four in a two. The Ducks also didn’t start out so well against the Penguins but they turned it around for five wins in a row. The Sharks, Kings and Ducks each only have one regulation loss so far. Expect a fun and tight battle for the division with these clubs.
Things I don’t
1. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Whose at bottom of the standings, again, this season? Why Florida, Buffalo and Edmonton. Granted, it’s still early but it doesn’t seem like things will improve for any of those teams. I do have faith that Edmonton will have some good stretches this season, although maybe I shouldn’t based on their start. For Florida, well… they had 11 people standing in line to buy tickets for the home opener and an all-time franchise low of 7,311 fans in attendance for the game against the Ottawa Senators. In the Panthers defense, Miami isn’t really a sports town unless you win and I mean really win. The Dolphins aren’t drawing a lot of people lately and they aren’t even that bad.
2. But even Buffalo has a regulation win. One team that doesn’t yet (But of course they just beat the Stars in what Claude Giroux called, “An Ugly Win”)? The Philadelphia Flyers. Last year they also started out slow and they axed their coach, Peter Laviolette, for their current coach. I’m not saying that Craig Berube’s days are numbered but the Flyers aren’t exactly known for longevity with their coaches. As only two coaches have ever coached for more than four seasons. One of them was Laviolette.
3. The Colorado Avalanche have started out the season with the 3rd worst goal differential in the NHL and didn’t even score in their 1st two games. They’ve also started three goalies so far this season, in only six games, with Semyon Varlamov injuring his groin and backup Reto Berra also getting injured. Things just aren’t going right at the moment but it’s early. It was a tough Game 7 lose to the Wild and then opening the season, with back to back games, against the Wild probably wasn’t the ideal situation. They did beat Boston at Boston for their only win of the season. It was a few games ago now but it’s something to build on. I expect them to turn it around eventually.
Fights of the Week
Special thanks to hockeyfights.com for making this section a little easier to do.
Cody McLeod vs Jarred Tinordi
A decent hoss fight.
Kevan Miller vs Nicolas Deslauriers
Short and sweet. Yes, my fight comments are getting worse.
Goat of the Week
Craig Smith – Nashville Predators
In an early clash for division supremacy, the Predators were tied with the Blackhawks in overtime but the Preds got a little to cute with their passing and Jonathan Toews capitalized for a breakaway rebound goal. Nice job of Toews not giving up on the play.
Stat Line of the Week
10/18/14 St. Louis 6 vs. Arizona 1
Jaden Schwartz had hist first career hat trick and paced the Blues in their big win over the Coyotes. The Blues aren’t known for their explosive offense so having Schwartz, in his second full season, get off to a hot start is important.
3 – Teams without a regulation loss (Washington, Nashville, Chicago)
1 – Apology by Milan Lucic for gestues against Montreal that I don’t even think were bad
4.72 – Oilers Team GAA
0 – for 22 on the powerplay for the Sabres
2 – Teams, only, below 90% attendance capacity. Florida, of course, and the Islanders.
This Week in Hockey History
Special thanks to the Hockey Hall of Fame site for making this section a little easier to do.
October 13, 1955 Montreal announced that Henri Richard had been signed to a two-year contract with the team. Two days later, he scored his first goal in his NHL debut against the Rangers, and went on to win Stanley Cups in each of his first five NHL seasons.
October 14, 1999 Adam Foote scored with 4:44 remaining in the third period to give the Avalanche a 2-1 over the Boston Bruins, in the first NHL game played at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado.
October 15, 2003 Daniel Alfredsson scored twice to become the Ottawa Senators’ all-time leading scorer (with his 492nd career point) in a 4-3 loss to the Kings in Los Angeles. Alfredsson broke the franchise mark of 491 points set by Alexei Yashin.
October 16, 1988 Guy Lafleur scored his first goal in three years, 11 months, and 22 days. It was his first goal as a NY Ranger. He also added an assist, and led the Rangers to a 3-2 win over the Canucks, at MSG.
October 17, 1972 Pittsburgh’s rookie goaltender Denis Herron recorded his first career NHL shutout, as the Penguins won 5-0 over the Islanders at New York in the first game ever between the two teams. Ron Schock led the scoring with three assists.
October 18, 1970 Eddie Giacomin recorded his 32nd career shutout as the NY Rangers won 1-0 over Montreal. It was the last Rangers’ shutout over the Canadiens for 20 years — the next came Oct. 13, 1990 (a 3-0 win by John Vanbiesbrouck).
October 19, 1975 Buffalo goalie Roger Crozier recorded his 200th NHL career victory as the Sabres won 5-4 over the visiting Capitals. Crozier became the 18th goaltender in the NHL to get 200 wins.
The rankings are based on how the teams are currently playing.
3. Los Angeles
4. San Jose
5. NY Islanders
Author: Alex Mueller
Alex Mueller graduated from Temple University with a minor in journalism over a decade ago. He’s been writing about NHL hockey, on and off, since the Fall of 2009. He’s written for Pucking Awesome, the Checking Line and now Hockey Recaps. He played goalie at San Diego Ice Arena. His first novel, Bobby Sterling vs Truth, is available on Amazon now.