Friday, June 22, 2012

2012 NHL Off-season Guide, as written by bloggers

Well, the 2011-12 NHL season is just a memory now, and we're headed for another long hockey-less summer.  Before the hockey world completely shuts down for the summer after July 1st, I wanted to put together the second annual off-season guide post, as written by hockey bloggers from as many teams as I could find.  I found 25 bloggers (including myself), and most of them sent me a piece about their team, so here's your guide to the 2012 NHL off-season.

ANAHEIM DUCKS (written by Steve Palumbo - @StevePalumboNHL)

2011-12 Recap - The Anaheim Ducks went south faster than, well, ducks in the winter. Although they have a young team, they were led in scoring by 40-something winger Teemu Selanne. That alone should give you an idea of why the season went so "fowl." Despite the a talented group of forwards headed by 50-goal scorer Corey Perry, captain Ryan Getzlaf and Mr. "I hate New Jersey" himself Bobby Ryan, the Ducks couldn't find enough consistency on offense to win games. Combine that with the rapid demise of offensive-defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky, throw in a splash of wonky goaltending from Jonas Hiller and you have yourself a recipe for failure. It wasn't until a coaching change and a flip of the calendar, did they team start to resemble an NHL franchise again. 

Free-Agency - The Ducks have most of their important pieces locked up through the upcoming season. The biggest question mark being the future of Selanne. It's obvious this guy is no ordinary old man. He can still skate circles around the youngsters. Question is, can he peel himself away from the fun times in Finland for another 82 games? Oh, and there was that whole thing about some college defenseman, but I can't quite remember his name at this moment. Expect the Ducks to try and add capable veteran depth up front. 

Draft - The Ducks will get to pick 6th in the upcoming draft by virtue of losing many, many games and missing the playoffs. Don't you love consolation prizes? Having already been shot down by a defenseman they drafted it only makes sense for the Ducks to draft another...defesenman. Mathew Dumba should fall to Anaheim. Maybe this time they can actually lock him up before he changes his mind. 

2012-13 Outlook - It's hard to imagine a group with this much talent stinking two years in a row, especially with Selanne back in the mix. Bruce Boudreau will have a full year to recreate the late season magic of 2011-12. Plus, let's not forget that their neighbors just up the 5 freeway will be spending the summer parading around Tinsel Town with the shiniest trophy in all of sports. That should be motivating enough for at least 2 or 3 extra points in the standings. It's the other 12 or 13 points they missed the playoff by that I would be concerned about. 

BUFFALO SABRES (written by Eric Schmitz - @3rdManIn)

2011-2012 Recap: Terry Pegula spent his summer 2011 signing checks to free agents like no other owner in Buffalo history. Christian Ehrhoff got a 10-year deal and Ville Leino was assigned a $4.5 million cap hit. Expectations were great, and results... not so much. The team got knocked off the tracks as soon as Milan Lucic freight-trained Ryan Miller in November. A rough stretch followed, and even after Miller returned, they were rolling well enough to go on a 12-game road losing streak and find themselves dead last in the East in February. Instead of taking it in stride like bottom dwellers do an tanking the rest of the way, they didn't quit. In fact, they climbed their way back into the playoff race, and with a week left in the season, were sitting in 8th and ready to wrap up a playoff spot. But Buffalo decided to take a dump as the calendar turned to April and finished 9th in the East.

Free Agency: Unrestricted free agents expected to walk are Jochen Hecht and Brad Boyes. And technically, Ales Kotalik and Shaone Morrisonn, but they're not relevant. The Sabres locked up Tyler Myers last year, as he would've been a RFA this summer, so he and his $12 million salary for 2012-13 are not a problem. Restricted guys they need to lock up are superstud Tyler Ennis and the beloved Patrick Kaleta.

Draft: With two first round picks and four of the first 44 selections, Darcy Regier is looking to shop for the roster and stock the cupboards. Or one of the two. They'll likely go best player available if they stay at #12, so expect a defenseman. They could use adding a top line talent down the middle so their next pick (if they don't deal #21) will probably be a center. The team's done a good job nailing picks in the first few rounds over the last few years, so having multiple shots could yield gold.

2012-2013 Outlook: Expectations will be lower than last season, and the results should improve. Ryan Miller never got his head right last year, and maybe a summer of rest will get him back to Vezina form. If he steps up, and the offense fills the net like they did for the last two months of the season, they should at least contend for the division. No one knows if Terry is gonna find some new toys this summer, but odds are they'll be playing into late April. If there is a season.

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS (written by Hockee Night - @hockeenight)

2011-12 recap: A disappointing season, to be sure. Patrick Kane experienced a huge drop in his production while spending the season learning how to be a center, a position he's painfully unsuited for. We got to watch both Andrew Brunette and Sean O'Donnell start to decompose. Oh, and Jonathan Toews missed a quarter of the season with a concussion.
Let's get to this:
This time last year the Hawks had 2 first round picks and 2 seconds. They drafted Mark McNeill, Philip Danault, Adam Clendening and Brandon Saad. So naturally, a late rounder (Andrew Shaw) wound up making the biggest impact. But there's a lot of good organizational depth here. Good times are ahead.
Nick Leddy still has holes in his game, but when you have a defenseman who racks up over 35 points and turns 21 in the same season, that's pretty decent.
Viktor Stalberg scored approximately 800 goals against Columbus this season. The beauty of having a bumslayer on your team is that when you play the bottom feeders you don't want to have to lean on guys like Kane, Toews or Sharp to get it done on those nights.
The Hawks really need to deepen their forwards in the organization. Even with McNeill, Danault and Saad in the pipeline, and Jeremy Morin in the AHL, that's really about it. Oh, and did I mention they need to try to deepen up front in a blueline-heavy draft? On the bright side, the Hawks are still tight against the cap, but there really aren't any good free agents this season.
Daniel Carcillo for two more years? Christ on a bike.
Somebody got the bright idea that what the Hawks really needed was three guys playing instrumental versions of beloved rock songs during stoppages in play. Oh, and apparently part of the plan was to not get good musicians. The one bone they threw us was not naming the band, so we got to do it for them. If you Google search "Taint Nugget", you'll see that we're all over it.

COLORADO AVALANCHE (written by Jaye Horbay - @horbayj)

What Happened Last Year: Coming off of a terrible year, coupled with a trade that left both fans and experts scratching their heads. TWO first rounders for Varlamov? Is Greg Sherman insane? Would Caps GM George McPhee be wringing his hands in delight come seasons' end with a lottery pick? Days were looking dim in Avs land with the only bright spot was watching how new rookie Gabriel Landeskog would work out. Fast forward 9 months. Landeskog proved to be the real deal, and Varlamov could handle the pressure of being a bona fide number 1 starter. Included was the breakout season of Ryan O'Reilly and the seemingly instant chemistry between Paul Stastny, Jamie McGinn and David Jones. The lowlights included, well, not making the playoffs, again, and the injury plagued season of Matt Duchene. As I mentioned above, despite not making the playoffs, the team battled hard till game 81, where a combination of choking at the worst possible time (going 1-6 in the last week of the season) and all the other teams around them seemingly unable to lose in regulation (thanks 3 point games!) left the Avs on the outside looking in, finishing 11th in the conference.

2012 Draft: Thanks to the Varlamov trade, Colorado was, as some would say 'fleeced' of their first round pick. So Day One of the Draft will hopefully be spent wheeling and dealing and the Avs try to land both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. Which brings us to...

Free Agency: I really see July 1st coming and going and the Avs staying pretty silent. IF they make any moves, it would be for depth guys, similar to when they went out and got Steve Downie at the deadline. They've got guys like Duchene, O'Reilly and Erik Johnson to sign to (hopefully) long term deals, so there might not be much point of throwing bags of money at a pretty average free agent crop before getting their own ducks in a row.

2012-13 Outlook: The Avalanche showed, albeit in spurts last season, of being a playoff team. A big year from guys like David Jones (earn that $4 million) and a bounce back season from Matt Duchene will be key to the Avs making the second season for the second time in 4 years. Landeskog will be out to prove his Calder Winning season was no fluke. Add the confidence of Semyon Varlamov having just coming off a World Championship win with Russia, and the hopefully the season won't be lost after the All Star Break.

DETROIT RED WINGS (written by Andy, @FightNightatJoe)

2011-2012 recap: The Red Wings once again had a season where they floated on their superior skill and coaching without any hard work to a... first round exit. Last season they struggled at home, but they corrected it this year and set an NHL record for longest home win streak. To complement this, they flat out decided to just not show up for road games. Maybe they thought if they stopped showing up on the road they wouldn't have to play them any more? Anyway, this interesting combination lead to a 5th place in the Western Conference and a first round matchup with Nashville. There the tone was set early by Shea Weber who got to smash Henrik Zetterberg's head into the glass repeatedly with just a two minute minor. Disgusted with this miscarriage of justice, the Red Wings gave up and decided to play a parody of their standard puck possession hockey, to prove a point. This featured great moves such as "defender gives the puck away" and the old Wings standard "shoot at the goalie, not at the net". Surprisingly this lead to a 4-1 series loss.

Free agency: With the shocking discovery that Nicklas Lidström is human after all, or maybe a cyborg that needs an oil change or an alien recalled to his own planet, anyway, with Nicklas Lidström's retirement Detroit need to retool in free agency. And they have tons of cash. Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are alledgedly as good as Detroit players already, but why stop there? They can probably add Justin Schultz and trade for Jordan Staal and Rick Nash. Rumours also indicate that they might buy Lionel Messi from Barcelona and evolve their puck possession hockey into more modern tiki taka hockey. Pep Guardiola is set to become the new assistant coach to help with this.

The first rounds matter little to the Red Wings (we already wisely spent our first rounder on the always incredible forward 8th defenseman prospect Kyle Quincey. Weeee!), seeing as we know they’re going to draft some European player no one has ever heard of in the 6th round, and that said player will go on to dominate the NHL and win countless trophies for the next 15 years.
2012-2013 outlook: With expectations of Suter and Parise and a triumphant season for the Wings, it will probably go down like this: After signing Denis Wideman and overpaying for some AHL defender to replace Lidström, Mike Babcock coaches the team to play just about 40 % of their capability for most of the year. They then do a great late March run to get everyone excited, just to get knocked out in a gutless first round loss. Mike Babcock will then be fir... hahahah no of course he won't. Mike Babcock is the greatest coach in the world! How dare you suggest he has lost the team? YOU ARE NOT A REAL WINGS FAN IF YOU DO! *Goes and bangs my head against the wall*. I hate being a sports fan. 

In memory of Red Wings draft pick Bryan Rufenach. 1989-2012. Rest in peace.

FLORIDA PANTHERS (written by Matt Lichtenstadter - @JagsFan93)

2011-2012 Recap:  What a difference a year makes, eh? Last year I wrote about how everything needed to, and was going to, be changed. Since that happened, the Panthers actually made the playoffs (its 2012, kiddies), and almost won a series! I have this weird sensation right now about the Panthers, called… optimism. Odd, isn’t it?

Free Agency: Last year, the Panthers spent more money than the federal government on getting new players, and most of them worked out brilliantly. This year, they will go back to being a floor team. They may go after a second line scorer, which sounds ironic, but Stephen Weiss is their top line center. No Parise or Semin for these guys, because, we need to make money off of South Florida’s most exclusive waste of money, Club Red! Thanks Yormark. On their own team, there are a good number of guys that should be re-signed including Versteeg, Kulikov, Samuelsson, and Garrison.

Draft: Since they clearly didn’t fail for Nail, or slip for Filip, the Panthers will be drafting late in the 1st round. They already have hockey’s best farm system, so there really isn’t much to say they desperately need. They could use more scoring up front, but that’s really about it. I’d expect them to trade out of the 1st round.

2012-13 Outlook: Shouldn’t we wait on this to see if hockey will actually be played next year? At any rate, they need to score more next season, and if they can do that, they may actually repeat as Southeast Division Champions, and win a playoff round. But, as all other hockey fans will this summer, we will wait, and hope.

LOS ANGELES KINGS (written by Jack Weber - @Jack_Weber_)

2011-2012 recap: Well, the Kings won some big silver trophy this year, thanks to the amazing play of Anze Kopidor, Brad Doty and Jonathan Swift in the playoffs. As a Kings fan, I obviously must be a bandwagoner, so I forget what the trophy is called. I’m so happy about the Kings winning that trophy, though, that I’ve almost forgiven them for that nightmare of a regular season that they put me through. And all the other nightmare seasons they put me through.

Free agency: Not including minor league players, the Kings have four unrestricted free agents this year in Jarret Stoll, Dustin Penner, Colin Fraser and Scott Parse, and one restricted free agent in Dwight King. If the Kings re-sign King and let all of their UFAs go, even if they don’t sign any other teams’ free agents or make any trades, I still like the way this team looks next season and it leaves them with tons of cap space to be active in the trade market if necessary, as well as to keep their own players when they need new contracts, most notably Jonathan Quick who will be a UFA after next season, and, well, I’d say he’s in for a little bit of a raise from his current $1.8 million annual salary… However, it looks like Stoll’s going to be re-signed. Don’t be surprised if Fraser’s re-signed, too. Not sure Penner will be back, though, and Parse is as good as gone, but I’m literally willing to bet money he will score 30 goals with the Islanders next year.

Draft: It shouldn’t be a very busy draft for the Kings. Right now they’re scheduled to pick 30th, 121st, 151st, 171st, 181st, 183rd and 211th in this year’s draft, but because of the Jeff Carter trade, the Blue Jackets could still take the Kings’ first-round pick, but considering it couldn’t possibly be any lower, don’t be surprised if they decide to take the Kings’ first rounder in next year’s draft instead. The Kings are still a very young team and even after guys like Slava Voynov, Dwight King, Jordan Nolan and (sort of) Andrei Loktionov graduated to the big club this season and guys like Brayden Schenn and Colten Teubert were traded in the last year or so, the Kings still have a pretty good farm system because of all those years of being so terrible, but their farm system is stronger on defense and in goal than at forward, so if the Kings do end up keeping their first-round pick, look for them to draft a forward. To be specific, the Kings are much thinner at wing than down the middle, so perhaps look for a winger to be drafted. However, in Dean Lombardi’s time with the Kings, he’s drafted just two forwards in the first round -- Brayden Schenn with the fifth-overall pick in 2009 and Trevor Lewis with the 17th-overall pick in 2006 -- and neither were wingers. Well, Lewis played mostly wing this year, but he’s a natural center. Yes, the Kings took Trevor Lewis five spots ahead of Claude Giroux. *Cries softly*

2012-2013 outlook: Like I said, I like the way this team looks next season even if they do nothing this summer. How can you not? It’s most of the team that just had one of the most incredible playoff runs ever, and it didn’t just start in the playoffs, either. Their record since Carter trade is outstanding. If something happens, the most likely scenarios being Simon Gagne gets hurt (hey, don’t laugh!) and/or Loktionov isn’t ready for third-line center duty, then the Kings have some good prospects they could call up and they also have the cap space and assets to be active in the trade market if they need to be. That said, I totally expect the Kings to make a really hard push for Zach Parise, get the hopes of their fanbase up, and then have him sign elsewhere. Hey, I wonder how Zdeno Chara, Chris Drury, Daniel Briere, Marian Hossa, Marian Gaborik, Ilya Kovalchuk and Brad Richards are doing nowadays.

MINNESOTA WILD (written by JS Landry - @BubbleWild48)

2011-2012 recap: Seeing as Titanic fell back into style for some ungodly reason, I'll compare the Wild's season to the Titanic: Everything started beautifully, everyone (except statistic fanatics, whose heads were exploding one by one) was enjoying the ride. Then, they hit an iceberg. That iceberg was a loss to Winnipeg in which Zach Bogosian maimed the already fragile Pierre-Marc Bouchard. The ship started taking in water, it tilted, broke in half and sunk slowly and painfully. Only three players (Heatley, Brodziak, Powe) played every game and the Wild dressed 47 different players, including 13 rookies. They're the first team to miss the playoffs after leading the league in December. Most people predicted regression. We all knew they wouldn't stay in first place, that would have been crazy, but the Wild went right past regression and into a full-blown cataclysm. No one, NO ONE, could have possibly predicted such an epic decent. Basically everyone thought that with the acquisitions of Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi, the Wild would finally becom a decent offensive team. Turns out they finished dead last. Many will look at advanced stats, but the real culprit is injuries. At one point, 4 of their top 6 was out with injuries. Take out 4 of any team's top 6 and watch the team's production drop. It hurt the Wild even more considering they didn't have that much scoring pop to begin with.

Free Agency: GM Chuck Fletcher said he'll be going after some big fish this summer. We all assume he means hometown hero Zach Parise and/or Ryan Suter, you know, because Tom Gilbert played with them once, right Pierre McGuire? Of course, maybe Fletch meant Kristian Huselius and Jaroslav Spacek, because they kind of look like fish. As far as notable pending free agents on the Wild go, there's RFA Guillaume Latendresse, who has played 27 games in the last two years and probably won't receive a qualifying offer, though they want to make an offer when he becomes a UFA. There's also Josh Harding, who has been a pending UFA every single year since the Reagan administration and...that's pretty much it.

Draft: The Wild not only failed to make the playoffs, but they failed the Dive for Top 5 when they started playing good at the end of the season. As a result, they pick 7th. They're very likely going to pick a defenseman, seeing as the only top flight defensive prospect the Wild have right now is Jonas Brodin, while forwards Mikael Granlund, Johan Larsson, Charlie Coyle, Zach Phillips, Brett Bulmer and Jason Zucker are all knocking on the door of the Wild and/or Aeros. Fans are mostly looking at Jacob Trouba, Matt Dumba and Ryan Murray.

2012-2013 outlook: As usual, a lot of ifs and buts surround the Wild: IF they don't need to dress enough players to form two complete teams, they'll make the playoffs BUT they'll need some bounce-back seasons from most of their players. IF they can get a big fish in free agency, they have a shot BUT not if it's Jaroslav Spacek.  IF Mikko Koivu can last an entire season without an injury, the Wild have a shot BUT that won't happen, the hockey gods will not allow it. 

MONTREAL CANADIENS (written by Laura Kenney @habbykins)

2011-12 recap: The Canadiens' season was one for the record books – finishing last in the conference, 28th in the entire league playing boring uninterested hockey. The good news is the play finally got rid of one of the most boring coaches and general managers in the business. I would say it was a circus but Ringling Brothers would have been more entertaining. 2 coaches toasted and not in a good way, it remains to be seen if either finds their way back to the league. It was a relief when the season to forget finally ended for les glorieux.

Free Agency: There are a few key restricted free agents on the Habs that require attention. One being Carey Price and the other being PK Subban. These would be must signs for possible long term contracts. The one that will be most interesting is Price because long term contracts for goalies have at times been not good for the teams at all (See Luongo, Roberto, DiPietro, Glass). PK Subban has some maturity issues he has to deal with and I think the change in direction of this team will be beneficial – only time will tell.

Off season changes: So far the off season changes are all in the front office. The Apparition that was Ghostier was exorcised into oblivion and his sidekick Gainey is now employed in Dallas. In comes Marc Bergevin who promptly surrounds himself with strong assistants and is a real breath of fresh air. The new coach is a re-tread and media guy Michel Therrien who has added so far three assistants and will be hiring another to take over the defense. It will be interesting to see how this new group works together.

Draft: Habs earned third overall pick through the course of the circus of a season that was. Who they will pick is anyones guess at this point – Galchenyuk would be the most likely pick of the draft if it was under the old regime. It may still be as the draft Guru Trevor Timmins one of the very few hold-overs.

2012-13 Outlook: Looking at some changes on the team going into next season to be sure. I believe there will be some trades that will bring in a new look for the Habs and they will have a more exciting style at least that is the hope. The Habs will be tougher to play against this next season – if not we will be on the outside looking in once again.

NASHVILLE PREDATORS (written by Marc Torrence - @OTFMarc)


That's about all you can say after this season if you're a Nashville Predators fan. "All in." "Going for it." "God I hope we win, or at least make a legitimate run, because this would be really embarrassing if we didn't." Whichever one you like better, that was pretty much the mantra of the Predators following the trade deadline.

Seeing their "window of opportunity" closing, David Poile decided to hell with it and gave up a lot of assets to fill some key needs - a second-round pick for Hal Gill, a first for Paul Guastad and another second for Andrei Kostitsyn. Poile also lured Alexander Radulov back from Russia to play 10 games, fulfilling the last year of his entry-level deal.

And what does he have to show for it? Hm… well, they beat the Red Wings! And uh… yeah, did you hear? They beat the Red Wings!

But that's about it. The Preds got waxed by Phoenix after two awful games in the desert, the whole Radulov/Andrei fiasco, and then after an inspiring Game 3 wins, two more subpar performances.

As a Preds fan, this one was tough to stomach. Nashville never really has had much postseason success, but this year there were actual expectations to meet. In years past it was always "well we're a small market team" or "well at least we finally made it past the first round!" But this year, fans are upset, and reasonably so.

The offseason doesn't look much better either. The Preds don't have a pick in the first two rounds of the 2012 draft and arguably its best player, Ryan Suter, will be shown dump trucks of cash that the Preds don't have by Minnesota, Chicago, Detroit and Philadelphia, among others, on July 1st. Radulov, both Kostitsyns, Gaustad, Gill and a host of others are also free agents.

But it's not all doom and gloom, I guess. The Preds have a host of young talent that has shown flashes of brilliance either in Nashville or Milwaukee. So 2012-13 will still be a somewhat-competitive year regardless of what happens with the free agents.

NEW JERSEY DEVILS (written by Tony - @DownGoesAvery)

2011-12 recap: The 2011-12 season began as most do in New Jersey: with a new head coach.  But this time, it became apparent that this coach would be around more than (*checks John MacLean's resume*) three months.  Although I'll be bitter about losing to the Kings for a long time, this was a very encouraging season after the 2010-11 season for Devils fans.  The team finally proved that they can win in the playoffs in the post-lockout era, yet there is so much to do moving forward, such as get rid of Eric Boulton and find a rich guy to throw some money at Jeff Vanderbeek.

Free Agency: Brodeur, Sykora, Ponikarovsky, Gionta, Carter, Bernier, Hedberg etc. are all free agents.  Oh, and then there's Zach Parise.  He's quite important to the Devils, and it'd be really nice for him to re-sign in New Jersey.  Other than that, there won't be many players coming from outside to the Devils this summer. There won't be a new free agent head coach, either!

Draft: The Devils surprised a lot of people by not forfeiting this year's pick from the Kovalchuk contract penalty, but I guess management is confident that they'll have the 30th pick next season!  The Devils might trade up, but regardless of where they pick, they need a skilled forward.

2012-13 outlook: Aside from Brodeur and Hedberg, the Devils aren't really the "old team" everybody thinks they are right now.  Hopefully Parise re-signs, and if he does, and the team can stay slightly healthier, they'll definitely be a Stanley Cup contender moving forward.  It might take two or three years for them to actually get back to the Finals, but with Larsson, Merrill and all the young D-men coming, the Devils will keep winning and keep making the playoffs.

OTTAWA SENATORS (written by Ryan Mance - @ryanclassic)

2011-12 recap: All hail Paul MacLean and his glorious mustache! The
rookie coach did the impossible: he made Filip Kuba into a decent
hockey player. Also he made the playoffs and helped Erik Karlsson hit
78 points from the blueline, but mostly the Kuba thing. Despite goalie
Craig Anderson's attempt to dive-bomb the season out of the gate
(hitting a save percentage of above .900 in only 2 of 11 games, yet
going 6-3), the Senators were just good enough to take advantage of
other teams having terrible seasons. And somehow Filip Kuba was good
at hockey.

Free agency: Let's talk defence. GM Bryan Murray has already said one
season wonder Filip Kuba is gone. Once Karlsson signs, the Senators
will have three defencemen on one-ways. Three. After now-sophomore
Jared Cowen, the combined total NHL games played of every other
defencemen in the system is 10. Karlsson will take a lot of money, so
expect the Senators to go cheap. Step right up, Milan Jurcina, I

Draft: Last season I said anyone but defencemen, and then Murray
went ahead and drafted three forwards in the first round alone (!). So
this year… defencemen? The most exciting thing you'll probably see the
Senators do is make a trade for someone else's excess defenceman
(let's go with Derek Joslin from Carolina).

2012-13 outlook: I want to say playoffs, so I will: playoffs! It'll be
interesting to see if last season was a fluke. There are some
promising rookies coming in at forward, including Swedish Elite League
MVP Jakob Silfverberg and WHL scoring lead runner-up Mark Stone.
There's also the fact that they're the Ottawa Senators, a team that
loves to surprise fans with massive disappointment. Regardless, at least the coach has a heck of a mustache. 

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS (written by Matt - @DownGoesSpezza)

(DGS decided that writing about the Flyers would be too painful, so he tried to be funny instead.)

There are a lot of questions going into the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. It would help if you had an FAQ about the draft to help guide you through this tough time in the NHL, so here it is.

Q. Will Brian Burke finally acquire Roberto Luongo for the Maple Leafs?
A: Absolutely not. Brian Burke is blissfully unaware of the concept of “good goaltending” and besides, he doesn’t want to “squeak into the playoffs” like the 2010 Flyers and 2012 Kings both did. Instead, he plans on signing Michael Leighton on July 1 and trading 2 firsts and a second for Steve Mason and/or Sergei Bobrovsky.

Q. Will Rick Nash get traded?
A:  The media sure hopes not, everyday Nash isn’t traded gives the media something other than “impending lockout” and “Sidney Crosby’s concussion status” to write about.

Q. Will Edmonton keep the 1st overall pick or trade it?
A: Keep it, the Oilers want to rebuild the 1980s dynasty except that they’re unaware that drafting 1st is not the same as finishing first. In related news, Nail Yakupov is looking at KHL offers right about now because even Siberia is better than Edmonton.

Q: Will the Flyers solve their goaltending problem?
A: Rumor is Ilya Bryzgalov is searching the solar system to find a "powefull defensman" to make sure he doesn’t have to stop pucks like thereby making him look good.

Q: Just how will Scott Howson find a way to screw his team over even further?
A: At this point, he’s signed Brett Lebda, runs with Steve Mason as a starting goaltender, and traded 2 solid top 6 forwards in Vermette and Pahlsson away then traded for Anti-Shea Weber aka Jack Johnson so, at this point, pretty much the only thing left to do for Howson is trade the 2nd overall pick to the Devils for Cam Janssen and then claim Wade Redden and Matt Walker on waivers come September*.

Q: Will Gary Bettman get boo’d?
A: This is not worth answering.

Q: Will there be an announcement of a new CBA at the draft preventing months of summer speculation as to whether or not a labor agreement is reached before training camps are scheduled to open?
A: F—k this. I quit. See ya. I’m taking up drinking in hopes of forgetting about 04-05.

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (written by Brandon Sofranko - @Michalek_Island)

The season that wasn’t 2011-2012 recap: Introducing your 2011-2012 Stanley Cup paper Champions the Pittsburgh Penguins.  On paper the Pens had one of if not the most talented team in the NHL.  Picked by most “experts” to win the Cup.  Yeah how did that work.  The Pens had to spend most of the season with out captian Sidney Crosby and managed to stay near the top of the East all year minus a mid season losing skid.  Not calling Sid the best player in the world because that phrase gets bounced around more than Mike Sillinger or Dominic Moore.  Pretty sure I was the best player in the world for like a second.  Evegeni Malkin led the leagaue in points so there’s that.  The Pens finished the season gaining the 4th seed in the playoffs facing a familiar foe, the Philadelphia Flyers.  The Pens would get bounced in 6 games.  Don’t get me wrong the Pens had a good season but overall it was failure.  Pens fans may not want to hear this but it was.  The Pens wasted one of the most talented rosters in the leauge and couldn’t kill a penalty even if the played against a group of 8 year olds.  Sorry I am not sugar coating this season.  Except not really.

Free Agency:  The Pens don’t have many players going in to free agency so their team will pretty much remain in tact.  The Free Agents they will have are Steve Sullivan, Aaron Asham, Richard Park, Brent Johnson, Matt Niskanen and Eric Tangradi.  Out of those player the Pens hopefully bring back Steve Sullivan and Matt Niskanen.  The Pens can let the others walk.  Brent Johnson probably won’t be back because the Pens will either use Brad Theissen or sign a goalie in free agency.  Unfortunately Paul Martins ludacris contract isn’t up yet.  Hopefully the Pens bring in a legitimate back up goalie so Marc Andre Fleury doesn’t have to play 163 games next season.  I’d also like to see the Pens bring in a defenseman to try and stabalize the defense.

Draft: The Pens have stock piled defensemen in recent drafts so youd think they would draft a forward.  But who knows.  There has been some talk about Jordan Staal to Edmonton for the first overall pick.  Pretty sure even Edmonton isn’t that dumb.   God only knows what the Pens are going to do in the draft.

2012-2013 Season Outlook: Since the world is ending on December 21st 2012, we don’t need to write anything here right?  Kidding.  I could always go the uber homer route and say “The Pens will win the Cup in 2013.”  Not doing that.  What I will say is that the Pens will have one of the best teams in the league again next season and will be in the running for the Stanley Cup.  They have a solid group of forwards led by 2 of the best players in the game.  An above average defense (except in the playoff apparently) and one of the better goalies in the league.  The success of the Pens will be determined by one thing, and I’ve been saying this since 2009, their health.  If the Pens can stay healthy and not be playing with half of the beer league roster from the South Side, they will be a force to be reckon with.

SAN JOSE SHARKS (written by Chris Sampang - @chrissampang)

Well, here we are.

21 years without a Stanley Cup, and to top it all, Los Angeles now has


Since the Sharks were first birthed in an aging arena on the Daly
City/San Francisco border in 1991...

- Both Southern California hockey teams have won the cup AND appeared
in the Finals twice.
- This year's other finalist, the New Jersey Devils, have been to the
Finals on FIVE occasions, winning thricely.
- Beyond aging Jeremy Roenick and Rob Blake, San Jose has never signed
a marquee UFA.

But hey, the future's bright right?

Actually I'm not sure.  However, with my unsurpassed skills of
prognostication, I am certain of two things.

1. BRING FOUR IN THE NET, PIZZA YOU GET BACK.  Ever since the team
snubbed Round Table (by inviting another pizza provider to the Tank)
and had to switch their famous promotion over to the much-mocked Jack
In The Box Taco Minute, we have not won a playoff round.  That proves
beyond a reasonable doubt that 99 cent facsimilies of food are holding
us back!!

2. Speaking of the Devils, let's see how the Sharks did with MAJOR FREE

- Worst seeding since 2000
- Worst playoff performance ever
- did not make playoffs officially until Game 81
- worst roadtrip in many, many years that basically handed the division
over to Phoenix

But hey, $1 million and a no-movement clause will produce some useful
on-ice play, right?  Spectators cringing upon the sight of Colin on ice
and expecting a goal against: that's just straight up irrationality,
correct?  Well...

- He ended up -5 in his 54 regular season games.  Yep, second coming of
Scott Stevens right there, folks.  Fans would beg for Todd McLellan to
supplant him with Jim Vandermeer week after week...but to no avail.
- 0.07 points-per-game average!  Oh man.  Netminders quaked in
fear...that giving up a goal against him would mean being chewed out by
a coach for extraordinary inattention.
- Most of all, BOTH games he scored a goal, once in the regular season
(against Tampa) and in the playoffs (against St. Louis), the Sharks
lost by one!  Bonus points for Colin going -3 in the Tampa game DESPITE
breaking an extended goal-less drought.


So there you have it, the two keys to future success for Team Teal. 
More pizza, less defensemen with no
value-over-replacement-traffic-cone, and we're set.

Sure, Brad Stuart Part II may not bring us the Next Chris Pronger we
were promised in the draft all those years ago, but at the very least
he'll make us forget about the worst blueliner to ever suit up in San
Jose, and for that we are all extraordinarily grateful.

And just as San Jose's experience with ex-Devils went painfully, New
Jersey's 2012 pickup of a former Shark didn't quite resemble the era of
Jeff Friesen, now did it...or maybe it kinda did, if we want to talk
"will be remembered forever."

WASHINGTON CAPITALS (written by Rebecca - @BeccaH_JR)

2011-12 recap: After years of raising everyone’s expectations during the regular season only to flame out spectacularly in the first or second round, the Caps decided to mix things up this year by convincing us all that just making the playoffs was an accomplishment…you know, before flaming out spectacularly in the second round.

In all seriousness, this was the kind of up-and-down season that had even the most veteran fans reaching for the motion sickness meds. A season-opening seven game winning streak gave way to festering mediocrity, which led to a beloved coach getting the axe, which led to a beloved former player’s hiring and the beginning of Hunter Hockey (along with a warning not to operate heavy machinery during games). There were matching slumps by Alexes Ovechkin and Semin coupled with Jason Chimera’s first career 20-goal season, Nicklas Backstrom’s half-season absence (thank YOU, Rene Bourque) and Braden Holtby’s transition from the future of Caps goaltending to the present.

It all sorted itself out in time for a first round meeting with – and triumphant ousting of – the reigning Stanley Cup Champs, as the Caps seemed to find their game at the right time and take it to the Bruins. Hell, that Game 7 overtime winner that sent Tim Thomas scurrying to his Colorado bunker was almost worth losing to the Rangers in the following round.


Free agency: The Caps generally sign a few guys over the summer, but this season could be a more eventful one than usual, as they’ll have more spots to fill than usual. On the blue line they’ll likely be looking for another veteran defenseman to replace Dennis Wideman, and the departures of Mike Knuble and Jeff Halpern will leave a few holes in the “aging veteran” column.

It also looks as though the end of the road is near for the Alexander Semin project, freeing up a healthy $6.7 million that needs to go towards replacing Semin’s mighty 40 go-…er, 35 g-…uh, okay, 21-goal…oh, they just need secondary scoring, okay?? Of course if some – or all – of that money were to be earmarked for a second-line center who could fill in on the top line as needed (instead of a third-line guy trying to do the job), I wouldn’t complain.

Draft: The Caps have a League-leading 11 picks in this year's draft, including Colorado's first- and second-round... so presumably they're going to pick some awkward-looking teenagers that they hope will someday become part of the franchise and not flee to the KHL. Dare to dream, GMGM.

2012-13 outlook: After the last few years, I feel fairly comfortable in stating that this team will finish somewhere between 1st and 8th place. Also, they’ll probably hire a coach at some point.