Cleat Geeks

NHL’s Weekly Withdrawal Roundup: Blackhawks, Avalanche, Blue Jackets 2015-16 Season Projections

In the third week of “NHL’s Weekly Withdrawal Roundup” I’ve created a more in depth analytical outlook on each team. Readers like you have asked for it, and Cleatgeeks is making it happen. Added to every team is each on ice component (forwards, defense, goaltending). The teams for this addition are the obvious top contending Chicago Blackhawks, as well as the Colorado Avalanche and Columbus Blue Jackets; organizations that are a little harder to project. While Chicago will continue to be a force, I’ll explain why you can estimate Colorado to remain at the bottom while Columbus should have a breakout season.

 

BLACKHAWKS

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

 

 

 

 

2014-2015 Overall Record: 48-28-6 (102 Points) 4th in the Western Conference

***2014-2015 Stanley Cup Champions***

BLACKHAWKS TEAM LEADERS

Chicago Blackhawks: 2014-2015 Team Leaders

Notable Offseason Losses:

F Patrick Sharp (New Team: Dallas Stars)

D Stephen Johns (New Team: Dallas Stars)

G Anders Nilsson (New Team: Edmonton Oilers)

LW Brandon Saad (New Team: Columbus Blue Jackets)

F Brad Richards (New Team: Detroit Redwings)

C Alex Broadhurst (New Team: Columbus Blue Jackets)

D Michael Paliotta (New Team: Columbus Blue Jackets)

G Antti Raanta (New Team: New York Rangers)

Notable Offseason Acquisitions:

D Trevor Daley (Former Team: Dallas Stars)

F Ryan Garbutt (Former Team: Dallas Stars)

C Liam Coughlin (Former Team: Edmonton Oilers)

C Marko Dano (Former Team: Columbus Blue Jackets)

C Artem Anisimov (Former Team: Columbus Blue Jackets)

RW Corey Tropp (Former Team: Columbus Blue Jackets)

LW Jeremy Morin (Former Team: Columbus Blue Jackets)

F Ryan Haggerty (Former Team: New York Rangers)

Main Team Stats Breakdown:

GFA (Goals For Average): 2.70 (NHL Ranking: 17th)

GAA (Goals Against Average): 2.23 (NHL Ranking: 2nd)

SV% (Save Percentage): .925 (NHL Ranking: 2nd)

The Blackhawks standout as arguably the best 21st century NHL team, and have won the Stanley Cup 3 times in the last 6 seasons. Looking logically at the Blackhawks, they still have enough to make it deep into the Playoffs. Every offseason, a few move out and a few in and yet they still remain a consistent force. I don’t see that changing this upcoming season until proven otherwise. The Hawks play a very smart grinding and passionate defense, while scoring productivity suits their style of play. Their net coverage is among the best (2nd in overall save percentage) with very underrated goaltending. The Blackhawks won’t overly surprise anyone in the regular season, nor do I see them taking the top spot in the Central. What I do see from the Hawks is maintaining a stable record with formidable play, while doing what they do best in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Forwards:

The forward core is led by the two superstars, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Not only are these respective forwards some of the best in the world at intelligent gameplay, but they’re leadership also comprises two out of the three forces that make this team a force to be reckoned with year in and year out. Luckily for Hawks fans, these two will likely be apart of Chicago’s organization for many years to come. A consistent core group of guys is pivotal to success, especially when they have the compete level these two have. What it also means for Chicago, is that regardless of roster moves, the Blackhawks have the stability that will continue to allow them to compete at optimal production.

There is some concern about one of their other star forward, Marian Hossa. How will Hossa hold up at now age 36, as he has been a key piece in Chicago’s forward play and point production. There’s also some concern with the departure of Brad Richards, who though only had 37 points in the regular season, was instrumental during the Blackhawks Stanley Cup run. Will Andrew Shaw be able to step up his game even more and fill the skates of Richards? Shaw does make up the last forward on the list with more than 20 points on the roster last season. There is hope that more playing time will add to his numbers and overall effectiveness.

At age 20, the much talked about Teuvo Teravainen is another interesting piece at leftwing. Teravainen will look to get his opportunity this upcoming season for more playing time. Chicago has given him ample time to grow. They’re hoping he’ll become an effective part of on ice play as a result.

Defense:

When one thinks of Chicago’s defense, the name Duncan Keith comes to the forefront. At 32, Keith is arguably the best defenseman in the world. Without Keith, it is hard to imagine Chicago being the defensive juggernaut they’ve been in recent history. The statistical breakdown, comparing how the Hawks fair when Keith is on and off the ice is astounding. Though he’s aging, there’s no reason he shouldn’t continue to be one of the, if not the best at his position for the next few years. The other pieces to Chicago’s defense still have concern.

Due to salary cap issues, the only defenseman acquired by Chicago this offseason was Trevor Daley through trade, while giving up the young projected solid prospect Stephen Johns. Much was made about the Blackhawks heading into the Playoffs last season with their defensive core injury riddled, while Chicago had to over-utilize their top four. This obviously worked, but one must ask; is this really feasible over long stretches, or will this be the Achilles heel for the Blackhawks next season? There are some doubts, but one cannot argue with holding the second spot in the league overall in goals against average. It may be a goalie statistic, but it’s also a great representation of a solid defense.

Goaltending:

As mentioned in the summary, one of the most underrated goalies in the league by many experts is Corey Crawford. In fact, if you look back as recent as the 1st round of the Playoffs, many were asking if Crawford’s career was over (or at least in Chicago). Yet against the odds, Crawford continues to get it done amidst his critics and those that tend to look every other direction but his for Chicago’s success. At four years younger, Scott Darling is part two of this goalie tandem and played exceptional in the spotlight of the 1st round Playoff series. Without his play, another team might have claimed Lord Stanley last season. Look for this duo to hold their own this season.

2015-2016 Season Projection: 3rd in the Central

AVALANCHE

COLORADO AVALANCHE

 

 

 

 

2014-2015 Overall Record: 39-31-12 (90 Points) 11th in Western Conference

***Did Not Make NHL Playoffs***

AVS TEAM LEADERS

Colorado Avalanche: 2014-2015 Team Leaders

Notable Offseason Losses:

F Ryan O’Reilly (New Team: Buffalo Sabres)

F Jamie McGinn (New Team: Buffalo Sabres)

Notable Offseason Acquisitions:

D Nikita Zadorov (Former Team: Buffalo Sabres)

F Mikhail Grigorenko (Former Team: Buffalo Sabres)

F J.T. Compher (Former Team: Buffalo Sabres)

F Carl Soderberg (Former Team: Boston Bruins)

D Francois Beauchemin (Former Team: Anaheim Ducks)

Main Team Stats Breakdown:

GFA (Goals For Average): 2.50 (NHL Ranking: 23rd)

GAA (Goals Against Average): 2.67 (NHL Ranking: 22nd)

SV% (Save Percentage): .918 (NHL Ranking: 6th)

The Colorado Avalanche receive the biggest let down award for the 2014-2015 regular season (or the Kings). After taking the Central the year prior, the Avs followed it up last season with weak production and long stretches of playing “where’s the net?” Goaltending was about the only aspect of Colorado’s play that wasn’t hard to watch last season. Next season doesn’t appear any different for Colorado, especially if they plan to continue the brand of hockey seen last season. With their offseason acquisitions and departures, one can’t expect that they haven’t improved much, if at all. If Colorado were in another division (say somewhere in the east) they’d have a higher projection of pulling themselves out of the dark. They’re not however, they’re in arguably the toughest division in the NHL.

Forwards:

No offense to Colorado’s forward core, but when two of your three leading point producers are over the age of 35, you’ve got serious problems. Jarome Iginla is 38 years old and Alex Tanguay will be 37 shortly after next season begins. Other than the other 37 year old Daniel Briere, this is a young group of forwards. This leaves a telling conclusion. The younger guys, especially those veteran’s on the team, are not stepping up and filling the roles needed for the team to be successful. The leadership of Gabriel Landeskog will need to be revitalized in order to pull the Avs from the bottom.

Defense:

Putting it bluntly, the defense last year for the Colorado Avalanche was subpar. Ranking 22nd in the league in goals against average is telling. Especially when your goaltenders cumulatively ranked 6th in the league. Tyson Barrie led the Avs defense last year and was seemingly the only overall productive and defensively disciplined defenseman. Erik Johnson was somewhat productive as well, but injury left him playing only 47 games. Don’t expect the Avs defense to impress next season. The addition of Francois Beauchemin does little to help, other than providing mentorship to the young core working toward solidification in the future.

Goaltending:

Semyon Varlamov is one of the top tier goalies in the league who can steal games whenever he’s in the crease. Goaltending is easily the strongest component to the Avs franchise currently. In 51 games last year, Varlamov had a not so good 2.56 goals against average, but did sport a strong .921 save percentage with 5 shutouts. Varlamov is only 27 years old and should hold the top net spot for years to come, even with Calvin Pickard vying for playing time.

2015-2016 Season Projection: 7th in the Central

 

BLUE JACKETS

COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS

 

 

 

 

2014-2015 Overall Record: 42-35-5 (89 Points) 11th in Eastern Conference

***Did Not Make NHL Playoffs***

BLUE JACKETS TEAM LEADERS

Columbus Blue Jackets: 2014-2015 Team Leaders

Notable Offseason Losses:

F Artem Anisimov (New Team: Chicago Blackhawks)

F Jeremy Morin (New Team: Chicago Blackhawks)

F Corey Tropp (New Team: Chicago Blackhawks)

F Marko Dano (New Team: Chicago Blackhawks)

Notable Offseason Acquisitions:

F Brandan Saad (Former Team: Chicago Blackhawks)

F Michael Paliotta (Former Team: Chicago Blackhawks)

F Alexander Broadhurst (Former Team: Chicago Blackhawks)

D John Ramage (Former Team: Calgary Flames)

F Gregory Campbell (Former Team: Boston Bruins)

F Brett Gallant (Former Team: New York Islanders)

D Andrew Bodnarchuk (Former Team: Los Angeles Kings)

Main Team Stats Breakdown:

GFA (Goals For Average): 2.73 (NHL Ranking: 12th)

GAA (Goals Against Average): 2.98 (NHL Ranking: 25th)

SV% (Save Percentage): .910 (NHL Ranking: 19th)

The Columbus “can’t you stop getting injured” Blue Jackets look to get off to a healthy (much faster paced) start next season. Injuries worked hand in hand with a slow start that essentially ended the Blue Jackets season before October of last year had even concluded. By the end of October, 9 roster players were sidelined with injuries and general manager Jarmo Kekalainen was quoted as saying, “It’s a nightmare.” I’d like to think this years’ Blue Jackets will be spared the same tragedies that left them on the outside looking in when last season’s Playoffs began. These Blue Jackets should be hitting the season with force and pushing for a middle of the pack Playoff spot by the end of next season.

Forwards:

Led by Nick Foligno (73 points) and Ryan Johansen (71 points), the forward core of the Blue Jackets can definitely hold their own offensively. Even with a first quarter injury riddled debacle, Columbus ended the season ranking 12th in goals for average. The Blue Jackets didn’t make many changes in the offseason, but they did make one of the biggest trades while upping their fire power in a big way with the acquisition of the young star, Brandon Saad. It would be an odd prediction to think that those numbers would go anywhere but up.

Defense:

The defense will need to step up next season to ensure the Jackets stay consistent, while using their big bodies more often. The core is led by Jack Johnson and David Savard. Johnson will have to tighten up his defense and become as effective as he is on offense. Ranking in the bottom 6 in +- with a -13 is not where you want one of your top defenseman on the team. Defense may continue to be a slight hindrance to this club at times with costly play that may leave their goaltenders fending for themselves, but overall they have the speed to keep up with most teams in the league. Discipline and positioning will be key in their defensive zone next season and there’s a lot of pressure on these guys to perform.

Goaltending:

If there’s one goalie around the league that fans of the game can get around, it’s Sergei Bobrovsky. Injuries have plagued the 26 year old, most notably last year when he couldn’t seem to catch a break. Bobrovsky came back with a furry toward the end of last season and was stellar for the Jackets. If he can stay healthy and play his impressive brand of hockey, there won’t be many goals going in without full effort by the opposition. Bobrovsky may just be the biggest key to the Blue Jackets success next season.

2015-2016 Season Projection: 4th in the Metropolitan

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