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Recapping Our 2018-19 Season Previews

In Special Features on October 12, 2018 at 9:29 am

Our four-part season preview is complete! Catch up here:
Plante East
Plante West
Sawchuk East
Sawchuk West

And here’s a recap, and a ranking, of where these teams could be headed in 2018-19.

But first, a note: When we began compiling these previews, we were absolutely determined to keep science out of it. (If you want science, here’s your freaking Martin Ratings already.) The, ahem, evidence for this is clear: we’ve chosen too many playoff teams in each conference! Chalk it up to wanting to keep the hope alive.

Plante
1. Parry Sound – Contender
2. Baltimore – Contender
3. Salem – Contender
4. El Dorado – Playoffs
5. Pittsburgh – Playoffs
6. Winnipeg – Bubble
7. Charleston – Rebuilding
8. South Side – Rebuilding
9. Great Lakes – Rebuilding
10. Denver – Rebuilding

Sawchuk
1. Delta – Contender
2. Ice Harbor – Playoffs
3. Hamilton – Playoffs
4. West Virginia – Playoffs
5. Adirondack – Playoffs
6. Boston – Bubble
7. Farmington – Bubble
8. Portland – Bubble
9. San Jose – Rebuilding
10. Vancouver – Rebuilding

An interesting trend emerges when you look at the conferences this way. In the Plante, it’s go-big-or-go-home, as it hosts three of the league’s true powerhouses, and a couple of dark horses. Nearly everyone else is full-on rebuilding. The Sawchuk is much closer (as we saw in last year’s tight playoff race), with Delta the only sure-fire contender, and Ice Harbor a near-contender. Neither even made the playoffs last year, and the next five or six slots are anybody’s guess.

Now let’s drop that puck!

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Season Preview: Sawchuk West

In DEL, HAM, IHS, PWH, Special Features, VAN on October 11, 2018 at 8:48 am

In our fourth and final season preview, it’s time to look at the Sawchuk West, where big changes are afoot.

Check out the other previews:
Plante East
Plante West
Sawchuk East


Delta Sturgeon
Last Season’s Finish: 38-34-10 (6th in conference); missed playoffs
Notable Arrivals: F Jonathan Toews, D Jake Muzzin, D Zdeno Chara
Notable Departures: F Scott Hartnell, F Kris Versteeg, F J.T. Compher, D Cody Ceci

Wow! Sensing that its core — Nathan MacKinnon, Nikita Kucherov, Taylor Hall, and veteran Eric Staal — was on the cusp of becoming something truly special, the Sturgeon threw caution to the wind, dealing draft picks for the second straight season and acquiring the pieces it needed most: a faceoff guy (Toews), a puck-mover (Muzzin), and a stay-at-home beast (Chara). Mission accomplished. With a deep, if a bit workmanlike, blueline and the makings of a truly great goalie tandem in John Gibson and Antti Raanta, Delta has found itself in long-forgotten territory: contending not just for a playoff berth but for a championship. This is a roster with very few weaknesses. After missing the playoffs last year, the Sturgeon is about to become the league’s most improved team.

Verdict: Contender


Hamilton Ti-Cats
Last Season’s Finish: 42-35-5 (4th in conference); lost in 1st round
Notable Arrivals: F Mark Jankowski, F Blake Coleman, F Alex Iafallo
Notable Departures: D Mark Streit, D Toby Enstrom

The sign on the front door says ‘Under New Management’ and that may be the biggest difference for a team that’s contended for years without ever quite having enough for a championship. The team has stagnated badly over recent seasons as stars like Daniel Sedin and Henrik Zetterberg have aged. With those two nearing retirement, the Ti-Cats have two big factors keeping them in the playoff mix: a trio of star scorers in Claude Giroux, Patrick Kane, and Jakub Voracek, and one of the finest and most dangerous top-fours in the league in P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, Tyson Barrie, and T.J. Brodie. They weren’t able to add much besides bottom-sixers over the offseason, though, and if one of Corey Schneider or Keith Kinkaid can’t come through big, they may struggle. But a playoff spot is a safe bet for now.

Verdict: Playoffs


Ice Harbor Storm
Last Season’s Finish: 30-47-5 (8th in conference); missed playoffs
Notable Arrivals: F Alex DeBrincat, D Nick Leddy
Notable Departures: none

One of last season’s biggest mysteries was why the Storm were underperforming. On paper, they should have been vying for a playoff spot. In practice, they limped along to a terrible record, scored the second fewest goals in the league, and came up with another high draft pick. So is this the year they turn it all around? Once again, on paper, it’s hard to find glaring weaknesses in Ice Harbor’s lineup. And with just-drafted Alex DeBrincat, they addressed one of them: the need for a scorer who’d be hungry for goals. The Storm have, bar none, some of the best forward depth in the league, especially up the middle, where Kyle Turris and Mikael Backlund will be competing just for 4th line minutes. Blake Wheeler, Aleksander Barkov, Kris Letang, Rasmus Ristolainen… This team should be scoring plenty to support a still-solid Henrik Lundqvist. But that’s just on paper.

Verdict: Playoffs


Portland Winterhawks
Last Season’s Finish: 22-50-10 (9th in conference); missed playoffs
Notable Arrivals: F Pierre-Luc Dubois, F Jesper Bratt, F Riley Nash, F Mattias Janmark, G Michal Neuvirth
Notable Departures: F Luke Glendening, F Mark Letestu, F Dale Weise, D Radko Gudas, D Brandon Montour

The very definition of a bubble team, the Winterhawks followed up a surprisingly good ’16-’17 campaign with a disappointing one in ’17-’18 but have yet to throw in the towel and call rebuild. Last year’s acquisition of Phil Kessel, combined with the emergence of Brad Marchand and Artemi Panarin as top left-wingers, is a good base to build around. They parlayed the second overall pick into Pierre-Luc Dubois, who has a good shot at some top six time this season, and also drafted Jesper Bratt who will also be seeing GWMHL action. Still, the Hawks aren’t an especially deep team — David Krejci will be asked to do an awful lot as their top centre, and beyond Matt Niskanen the defense is a huge question mark, especially after the team flipped Brandon Montour for more forward help just prior to the season. They could sneak in, but will most likely find themselves out of the playoffs.

Verdict: Bubble


Vancouver Night Train
Last Season’s Finish: 42-30-10 (2nd in conference); lost in 2nd round
Notable Arrivals: F Denis Malgin, D Matt Grzelcyk, G David Rittich
Notable Departures: F Jonathan Toews, F Tomas Plekanec, F Johan Larsson, F Zack Kassian, D Alex Edler, D Kevan Miller, G Pekka Rinne

After making the postseason and taking the Boston Banshees to seven games in the Sawchuk Final, the Night Train made the surprising decision to commit to a rebuild. But did they go far enough? Vancouver brass has seemed reluctant to part ways with Mark Stone, Anders Lee, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and with Sergei Bobrovsky in goal, they’ll probably win a few. But with big gains coming from division rivals Delta and Ice Harbor, the Night Train chose to part ways with Rinne, Toews, Plekanec, and Edler. It’s a huge burden to put on the shoulders of young players Mathew BarzalThomas Chabot, and Shea Theodore, and the majority of the Train’s 2018 draftees are a season or three away. The loss of glue guys Shea Weber (to injury) and Toews will make them a lot easier to play against than in years past.

Verdict: Rebuilding

Season Preview: Sawchuk East

In ADI, BOS, FFS, SJH, Special Features, WVR on October 9, 2018 at 3:13 pm

Welcome to part 3 of our season previews, featuring what’s maybe the toughest division to predict: the Sawchuk East.

Missed the Plante Conference previews? Check it here: East and West.


Adirondack Aces
Last Season’s Finish: 43-35-4 (3rd in conference); lost in 1st round
Notable Arrivals: F Jake DeBrusk, F Alexander Kerfoot, F Justin Williams, D Ethan Bear
Notable Departures: G Cam Ward

The Aces’ slow ascendance culminated in a playoff berth last year before the team was dumped in the first round.  They’re also a big reason why this division is tough to call. Even as Henrik Sedin enters his final season, the team has a ton of talent in the forward ranks, starting with Patrice Bergeron and Johnny Gaudreau. On top of that, there are whispers that management foresees a huge breakout year for William Karlsson, and the Aces managed to grab a couple of GWMHL-ready draftees in Jake DeBrusk and Alexander Kerfoot. The team’s goaltending duo of Devan Dubnyk and Semyon Varlamov is the most solid it’s been in years, too. The acquisition of Justin Williams for third-stringer Cam Ward gives the team options for the middle six. But the team’s Achilles’ heel may be on defense, which is overflowing with journeymen after the top-flight pairing of Drew Doughty and Zach Werenski and stay-at-homer Brett Pesce.

Verdict: Playoffs


Boston Banshees
Last Season’s Finish: 50-27-5 (1st in conference); lost in Gump Cup final
Notable Arrivals: F Ryan Getzlaf, F Cody Eakin, F J.T. Compher, F Micheal Ferland, F Tage Thompson
Notable Departures: F Artem Anisimov, F Justin Williams, F Brandon Dubinsky, D Mike Green, D Zdeno Chara, D Nick Leddy, D Jake Dotchin

Are they rebuilding, or what’s going on here? After the Banshees pushed the Cup Final all the way to a seventh game, there were surprising rumbles of a total rebuild. It seemed to be going that way when they shipped out Nick Leddy and, later, Zdeno Chara. But as the offseason wore on, the team took a flyer on 33-year-old centre Ryan Getzlaf after the draft, not to mention a pair of veteran goalies (Jimmy Howard and Cam Ward), only to release them both. Anyway, the team seems poised to at least make the playoffs, with Getzlaf joining a competitive group led by Sean CouturierJoe Pavelski, and highly touted rookie Brock Boeser up front. It seems Mike Smith will see the lion’s share of starts, and the team will have to lean hard on young defensemen Darnell NurseJosh Morrissey, and Brandon Carlo after the Banshees ditched Leddy, Chara, and Mike Green. The team may find itself at a crossroads come mid-season. Will they load up or throw in the towel?

Verdict: Bubble


Farmington Fighting Saints
Last Season’s Finish: 37-35-10 (7th in conference); missed playoffs
Notable Arrivals: F Matt Nieto, D Greg Pateryn, D Vince Dunn, D Christian Djoos
Notable Departures: F Mike Cammalleri, F Matt Cullen, F Dmitrij Jaskin, D Niklas Kronwall, D Trevor Van Riemsdyk

Historically, Farmington management has taken a patient approach to team-building and it’s paid off. Without sacrificing wins in the present, the Saints have managed to keep the cupboard stocked with good talent, most notably Mikko Rantanen, who’ll quite possibly the team’s top scorer of this coming season, alongside a truly great group of centres headlined by Vincent Trocheck and Ryan Johansen. Still, the team made some big changes on D, dumping declining veteran Niklas Kronwall and bringing in rookies Vince Dunn and Christian Djoos, that add an air of uncertainty despite the overall consistency of John Carlson and Dustin Byfuglien. The winger talent on the club is good if not great. But by far the biggest concern is the health of starting goalie Corey Crawford. If Crawford misses significant time, the team won’t be going anywhere without a career performance by Robin Lehner.

Verdict: Bubble


San Jose Hosers
Last Season’s Finish: 23-52-7 (10th in conference); missed playoffs
Notable Arrivals: D Charlie McAvoy, D Joakim Ryan
Notable Departures: F Brock Nelson, F Antoine Roussel, D David Schlemko

The Great San Jose Rebuild continues! When defender Charlie McAvoy fell to the Hosers at #3 in this year’s draft, management couldn’t say no, and the team now has unquestionably one of the most promising groups of young defensemen in the league with John Klingberg, Shayne Gostisbehere, and Mikhail Sergachev. That alone could be deadly, especially on the powerplay. And at a certain point, this team has to turn the corner, right? Up front, the team has some nice weapons in John Tavares and Jack Eichel, with Gabriel Landeskog and Mitch Marner on the wings, but after that quartet the Hosers have a lot of rising talent that hasn’t quite, well… risen yet. A big season from Martin Jones would be start, and it definitely seems unlikely that this will be a bottom-three team again, but San Jose probably needs one more season before making a run at the playoffs.

Verdict: Rebuilding


West Virginia River Rats
Last Season’s Finish: 40-34-8 (5th in conference); missed playoffs
Notable Arrivals: F T.J. Oshie, F Brock Nelson, D Travis Sanheim, D Jan Rutta
Notable Departures: F Andrew Shaw, F Antoine Vermette, D Marc Methot, D John Moore

Here’s where San Jose hopes to be a year from now. After a bold selloff over the course of two seasons and missing the playoffs by one measly point in 2017-18, the River Rats are finally poised to push for a top-four finish and a postseason berth. Newly acquired winger T.J. Oshie may well debut on a top line with Sebastian Aho and Leon Draisatl, allowing the team to roll out a deadly combo of Patrick Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers on the second. The defense is also maturing at the right time: reports are that Matt Dumba may be ready for top-pairing minutes alongside ever-dependable rearguard Jaccob Slavin. By far the biggest unknown for this exciting young group is in net. Will Jacob Markstrom be asked to shoulder the starter’s burden? Or will the team rely on Ryan Miller and Juuse Saros? At least they have options.

Verdict: Playoffs

Season Preview: Plante West

In BAL, CHA, EDH, GLP, PAR, Special Features on October 8, 2018 at 2:56 pm

Welcome to part 2 of our season previews: a look at the Plante’s West division, which includes not one but two bonafide cup contenders. You can read our preview of the Plante East here.


Baltimore Crab
Last Season’s Finish: 47-29-6 (3rd in conference); lost in 1st round
Notable Arrivals: F Sidney Crosby, D Kevan Miller
Notable Departures: F Jonathan Drouin

After being stunned in the first round, the 2017 champs must have known they needed something to keep up with the Joneses. And they did it in a big way, flipping three draft picks and young forward Jonathan Drouin for Sidney Crosby. Already a powerhouse up front, Crosby instantly becomes the Crab’s best player and will likely centre a first line with Vladimir Tarasenko and one of Filip Forsberg or Jaden Schwartz on his wings. No team scored more in 2017-18, and the goals should flow freely again this season. Add to that a strong top-4 D, headlined by Brent Burns and Ryan McDonagh, and you have a contending recipe. The only wild card is in goal, where Roberto Luongo and Philipp Grubauer will duke it out for the starting role. Can either of them be the go-to guy over a long season and playoffs?

Verdict: Contender


Charleston Chiefs
Last Season’s Finish: 29-45-8 (8th in conference); missed playoffs
Notable Arrivals: D Haydn Fleury, D Andreas Borgman
Notable Departures: F Anze Kopitar, F Cody Eakin, F Chris Kunitz, D Luke Schenn, G Kari Lehtonen

The Chiefs’ promising season was totally undone by injuries to Jonathan Quick and Steven Stamkos. But with both vets back in the saddle, fans’ expectations may have been high — until the team unloaded Anze Kopitar. Talented prospects Casey Mittelstadt and Dylan Sikura aren’t quite ready to make the jump, outside of Viktor Arvidsson there isn’t much to get excited about on the wings, and the blueline is a bit thin after Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Morgan Rielly. Even with Stamkos and Brayden Point still patrolling the middle, the Kopitar deal took the Chiefs from a bubble team to a rebuilder.

Verdict: Rebuilding


El Dorado Lynx
Last Season’s Finish: 37-34-11 (6th in conference); missed playoffs
Notable Arrivals: F Ryan O’Reilly, F Darren Helm, D Jonas Brodin, D Alexander Edler
Notable Departures: F Teuvo Teravainen, F Torrey Mitchell, D Johnny Oduya, D Dennis Seidenberg

The Lynx have been living life on the bubble for what seems like forever now. Shrewd drafting has stocked the forward ranks with a host of exciting talent around Alexander Ovechkin: Clayton Keller, Kyle Connor, Mikael Granlund… the list goes on. It’s one of the most exciting winger groups in the league. And the Lynx can usually count on one of Tuukka Rask or Carey Price to have an “on” year. Most notably, El Dorado went out and addressed its two biggest weaknesses through trades, grabbing a top-line centre to step in for injury-plagued Ryan Kesler (Ryan O’Reilly) and acquiring Alex Edler and Jonas Brodin to fill out a less-than-stellar defense corps. The Lynx still don’t have a star puck-mover on the back end and that may cost them, but now have the pieces to make a serious run. This is squarely a playoff-bound team.

Verdict: Playoffs


Great Lakes Pilots
Last Season’s Finish: 28-49-5 (9th in conference); missed playoffs
Notable Arrivals: F Jonathan Drouin, F Nolan Patrick, F Jason Pominville, D Madison Bowey
Notable Departures: F Sidney Crosby, F Ryan Getzlaf, F Jussi Jokinen, F Brian Gionta, F Nail Yakupov

The writing was on the wall for the Pilots after a very disappointing season: It’s rebuild time. They jettisoned Crosby for Drouin and picks, then parted ways with Ryan Getzlaf too, and grabbed highly touted Nolan Patrick in the first round. It’s a promising, if painful, start. But progress will be slow. While the Pilots’ D, led by Jacob Trouba, Jake Gardiner, and Erik Johnson, is pretty solid, and the team expects Andrei Vasilevskiy to be a high-end starter for years to come, much of the team’s young talent — Patrick, Ryan Donato, Jesse Puljujarvi, Tyson Jost — is at least a season or two away from contributing to a competitive top 6. Led by Tomas Hertl, Vladislav Namestnikov, and Drouin, the Pilots will find goals and wins hard to come by in 2018-19. Especially in this division.

Verdict: Rebuilding


Parry Sound Orrsmen
Last Season’s Finish: 52-24-4 (1st in conference); lost in 2nd round
Notable Arrivals: F Evgeni Dadonov, F Blake Comeau, F Brandon Dubinsky D John Moore, D Thomas Hickey, G Pekka Rinne, G Curtis McElhinney
Notable Departures: F T.J. Oshie, D Braydon Coburn, D Ben Lovejoy, G Jimmy Howard

The league’s best team during the regular season was left reeling after being bumped in the conference finals by Salem. One reason may have been a distracting goalie platoon. The Orrsmen nipped that in the bud early in the offseason when they acquired veteran Pekka Rinne from Vancouver to take sole possession of the starter’s job, and then signed veteran backup Curtis McElhinney. Parry Sound still has the best top 9 in the entire league, led by Connor McDavid, Evgeni Kuznetsov, and Auston Matthews down the middle, and David Pastrnak‘s emergence as a top sniper makes it a truly deadly group. The Orrsmen went big at the Free Agent Draft, picking up several roleplayers who should contribute to a cup run. The defense is still lacking oomph, especially if rumours of health issues for Kevin Shattenkirk are true. But that won’t be enough to stop this powerhouse. This team wants the cup.

Verdict: Contender

Season Preview: Plante East

In DEN, PIT, SAL, Special Features, SSR, WIN on October 7, 2018 at 11:08 am

Welcome to the first of our 2018-19 season previews: brief overviews of what’s new, what’s old, and what’s expected as 20 GWMHL clubs prepare for a new year.

We start our tour of the league in the Plante East, home of the defending Gump Cup Champs.


Denver Spurs
Last Season’s Finish: 45-29-8 (4th in conference); lost in 1st round
Notable Arrivals: F Martin Frk, F Carl Soderberg, F Stefan Noesen, F Brian Gibbons, F Noel Acciari, G Anton Khudobin.
Notable Departures: F Riley Nash, F Marian Hossa, F Jaromir Jagr, F Lance Bouma, F Derek MacKenzie, D Thomas Hickey

The Spurs headed into last season having acquired Brayden Holtby, Marian Hossa, Mike Fisher, Erik Karlsson, and Jaromir Jagr, and the spending spree paid immediate dividends, vaulting Denver into playoff position and helping them take a high-powered Parry Sound to 6 games. Now, with Jagr and Hossa out, Fisher unlikely to play much, a quiet offseason, and no 2018 draft picks until the fourth round, expectations are lower — a lot lower. The Spurs still have Karlsson to lead a solid defense alongside Keith Yandle, but the forward ranks are paper-thin after Matt Duchene, Cam Atkinson, and Derick Brassard, even after the signing of Carl Soderberg. Spurs fans will likely need to be patient until the 2019 draft when they can start replenishing with top-end talent.

Verdict: Rebuilding


Pittsburgh Hornets
Last Season’s Finish: 32-39-11 (7th in conference); missed playoffs
Notable Arrivals: F Evan Rodrigues
Notable Departures: F Joel Ward, F Matt Martin, D Dmitry Kulikov

After limping along to a 7th place finish in ’17-’18, the Hornets might seem to be stuck in neutral — they didn’t make a single trade during or after the season and most of its top prospects need another year. What the Pittsburgh front office seems to be banking on is the continued growth of a fine core to finally give stars Evgeni Malkin and Victor Hedman the supporting cast they deserve. Bigger contributions from Ivan Provorov and Noah Hanifin on the back end, plus Timo Meier, Anthony Beauvillier, and unheralded Danton Heinen up front should put the Hornets firmly in the playoff race if they can get a strong performance in goal from Ben Bishop.

Verdict: Playoffs


Salem Sabercats
Last Season’s Finish: 42-27-8 (2nd in conference); won Gump Cup
Notable Arrivals: F Anze Kopitar, F Vladimir Sobotka, D Brandon Montour, D Samuel Girard, G Marc-Andre Fleury
Notable Departures: F Mattias Janmark, F Patrick Sharp, F Sonny Milano, F Ondrej Kase, F Brendan Perlini, G Craig Anderson, G Steve Darling

It shocked many observers that Salem, widely seen as a team on the decline, managed to capture yet another championship. But smart drafting has kept the Sabercats competitive even as key vets have retired. A drop-off seemed inevitable, despite the emergence of young forwards Yanni Gourde, Bo Horvat, and Travis Konecny, plus the addition of Brandon MontourSamuel Girard, and Travis Dermott to a very deep blueline, keeping them in the mix. Above all, the acquisition of Marc-Andre Fleury from South Side will have the biggest impact, allowing the Cats to trim some fat in goal. At the end of the day, Salem’s best veterans — Alex Pietrangelo, Nicklas Backstrom — can still produce with the best of them, and the late-preseason pickup of Anze Kopitar will be crucial in keeping up with other contenders’ top-line talent.

Verdict: Contender


South Side Renegades
Last Season’s Finish: 17-60-5 (10th in conference); missed playoffs
Notable Arrivals: F Nico Hischier, F Teuvo Teravainen, F Artem Anisimov, F Sonny Milano, D Cody Ceci, D Deryk Engelland, D Jake Dotchin, D Dylan DeMelo, G Tristan Jarry
Notable Departures: F Ryan O’Reilly, F Micheal Ferland, F Nikolai Kulemin, F Lee Stempniak, D Jake Muzzin, D Jonas Brodin, D Cody Franson

Renegades fans survived a terrible season with the best kind of silver lining: the first overall pick. With it, South Side gained centre Nico Hischier and a fresh new outlook. With four first round picks in 2018, plus the acquisition of young forward Teuvo Teravainen, the rebuild is off to a good start — but it’s not over yet. Although Hischier joins a nice group up the middle, alongside Dylan Larkin and Mika Zibanejad, there isn’t much talent on the wings yet. And the once-strong South Side defense corps is looking pretty shaky after Seth Jones, Colin Miller, and Cody Ceci. Connor Hellebuyck will probably steal them some games and it would be surprising if they plumbed the same depths as last season, but it’s looking like another rebuilding year for the Renegades.

Verdict: Rebuilding


Winnipeg Falcons
Last Season’s Finish: 44-32-6 (5th in conference); missed playoffs
Notable Arrivals: F Chandler Stephenson, F Vinnie Hinostroza, F Kyle Brodziak, D Will Butcher, D Trevor Daley, D Carl Gunnarsson, G Darcy Kuemper
Notable Departures: D Andrei Markov, D Fedor Tyutin

The Falcons missed the playoffs by a mere four points last season, and they remain a bubble team this year. Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Mike Hoffman will still lead things up front, and the addition of rookie Will Butcher will be a boon to Winnipeg’s defense. But there are many question marks: Can Ryan Suter lead a blueline comprised of mostly 4-5-6th defensemen? (His partner may well be someone like Trevor Daley, a late free agent pick.) Can netminder Jake Allen rise to the challenge as starter? Will the real Corey Perry please stand up? The Falcons are a team that can surprise opponents, especially if they get favourable line matchups, but they’ll need some luck to break into the conference’s top four for a playoff berth.

Verdict: Bubble

[Press Release] Vancouver Season Preview

In Special Features, VAN on September 30, 2018 at 9:50 am

The Vancouver Night Train all but acknowledged to fans today that this season would likely be a rough one.

In a meet-and-greet for season ticket holders and press, Night Train management told fans to expect a rocky go of it, as division rivals like Delta and Ice Harbor emerge as possible powerhouses.

Vancouver shed veterans Jonathan Toews, Pekka Rinne, and Alex Edler in offseason trades, and word has leaked that the team plans to cut longtime top-6 centreman Tomas Plekanec as well. The outlook is not good on the injury status of Shea Weber, who may miss most of the season, alongside perennial walking wounded Chris Tanev.

But the team has hope for the future: Already, it’s one of the youngest groups in the entire league. Team coaching staff expects 2017 draftees Mat Barzal and Thomas Chabot to step in and play important minutes in their rookie seasons. Of the most recent draft class, only defender Matt Grzelcyk may see regular ice time this year: Martin Necas, Luke Kunin, Adam Gaudette, and Logan Brown are all at least a season away.

Veterans Mark Stone, Kyle Palmieri, Anders Lee, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Sergei Bobrovsky, and Nick Foligno will be asked to fill the leadership void left by Toews. Still, none of their jobs are safe and the team may look to send some of them to contenders before the trade deadline.

[Press Release] Delta Pre-Season Preview

In DEL, Special Features on September 18, 2018 at 8:28 pm

Supplied by the Delta Sturgeon

With the 2018 season quickly approaching, Delta Sturgeon fans and Management really believe this could be the year to end their long playoff drought (9 years) and, perhaps win a championship.

Said Coach Martin, “It’s really amazing the fan support and the support of the ownership group. They have been extremely patient through these dark years. Even more so, they have been supportive of the last two campaigns where we were tantalizingly close to making the playoffs, but just fell short again. I can tell you the entire team and I are excited for the upcoming season. Not only did I think we would be a contending team, but the huge additions in the offseason clearly speak to the belief of Upper Management that now is the time to win. The acquisition of superb professionals Jonathan Toews and Zdeno Chara will not only shore up our overall defensive play, but also make us a much harder group to play against. They will be a calming influence on our young players, and allow them to continue to develop.”

Asked by several reporters after draft day how the coach planned to deploy the newcomers.

“We’ll just have to see who they gain chemistry with. Let’s face it. These are guys who can play against opponents’ top offensive players in shutdown roles. I would expect them to see similar roles here, but we really need to see if they develop some chemistry that makes a particular combination better. Certainly I believe our penalty kill today is better than it was a few days ago.”

Where do the lines sort out and who moves to the 4th line?

“I won’t speculate right now on line combinations. For sure we had some good line combinations last season, but each season is new. You’ve got to try and put things together in a way that helps as many folks as possible succeed. Plus, we have some young guys in Vrana and Strome that I am excited to see how they can improve, and maybe supplant veterans. So, you will just have to wait and see”

John Gibson was all smiles. “I tell you, having two players like that will really help your team defense. I think we did a fine job last season..but wow! Am I excited to see those guys work daily against the opposition.”

With the Free Agent draft underway, and teams in camp trying to figure out who will make the cut and stay in the league, the Sturgeon have a nice problem. Too many quality players. Let’s see what they can do to end their playoff drought once the season begins.

-30-

History Repeating: This Ain’t the River Rats’ First Rebuild Rodeo

In Special Features, WVR on October 7, 2016 at 7:58 pm

When the West Virginia River Rats shipped out stars Sidney Crosby, Brent Burns, and Henrik Lundqvist (along with core players like Eric Staal, Dan Hamhuis, and Jason Chimera) in September it shook the very foundations of the league. But it wasn’t the first time GM Jim Connell decided to blow the whole thing up.

A little bit of backstory. In late 2003, the Bristol River Rats were a competitive team, but a heartbreaking loss to South Carolina in the Gump Cup Final put the franchise in a bind. With an aging core, the team was in no man’s land; not quite strong enough to win it all, yet too talented to replenish with top-flight draft picks.

So, before the 2003-04 season even started, the team acted, shipping out scorers Peter Bondra and Alex Mogilny. At the mid-season trade deadline, the ax fell on Mark Recchi and Nicklas Lidstrom. Despite all this, the Rats finished atop the Sawchuk East with a 43-26-16 record — only to be swept by Ice Harbor in the first round of the playoffs.

Any lingering doubts were erased. The GM acted. Along with a massive trade that sent superstar defender Scott Niedermayer to the rival Storm, the Rats dealt away all their top scorers: Jaromir Jagr (coming off a 40-goal year), Alexei Yashin, Ray Whitney, Tony Amonte… even Bobby Holik. Between September 14 and October 19, 2014, the the team made 14 trades and jettisoned basically every veteran on the squad.

When the dust settled, the River Rats had amassed six first round picks and four second rounders: 10 picks in the top 30. With them, they drafted:

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GUMP History Update

In Special Features, Teams on March 31, 2016 at 12:22 pm

All of the history files have been updated including the 2015-2016 season. Once again a huge thanks to Dave for providing the data!
There are some interesting items and milestones that occurred this year.

Jaromir Jagr
The ageless wonder has surpassed Teemu Selanne as the all-time leader in GUMP history with 1,433 points. Not only that, but he continues to play at a high level and could become the first GUMP player to exceed 1,500 total points. He also moved up to #2 all-time in assists breaking the 800 barrier and also became the 5th player in league history to register 600 goals. He also moved into 3rd place all-time in games played.

Joe Thornton
Jumbo Joe has become the first player in GUMP history to surpass 1,000 assists this season. He has also moved up to #3 all-time in points with 1,360.

Jarome Iginla
Moves into 4th place all-time in points with 1,357 and stands #3 overall in goals scored with 657.

Patrick Marleau
Became the 14th player in league history to register 1,000 points, landing at # 12 with 1,008 total points.

Roberto Luongo
Moves to #3 all-time in wins with 382.

In team related news, South Carolina set a new record low in faceoff win percentage winning just 39.59% of thier draws. Amazingly, the Delta Sturgeon set the 2nd lowest faceoff percentage last season at 39.98%!

Farmington had the 7th highest team faceoff percentage @ 57.74%

 

2012-2013 Award Winners

In BOS, NAS, SAL, SFS, Special Features, STL on August 7, 2013 at 9:07 am

In a season notable for a lack of headline-making offensive performances, many players still shone in the 2012-13 GWMHL regular season. As a few select teams battle it out in the playoffs, we take a (totally biased and absolutely unscientific) look at the players who made the biggest mark on the year.

Scoring Champ

Claude Giroux, Nashville Knights
Giroux won his first-ever — and not likely his last — scoring title in style. With 108 points, he was the only player to surpass 100 and was 11 points up on his nearest competition. Most remarkably, and we’ll circle back to this, is that Giroux finished the year with 42 points more than his nearest teammate, Patrick Kane. Where would the Knights have gotten without him? Not very far.
Honourable Mentions: Erik Cole, Saint Louis Blues (97 points), Patrik Elias, Boston Banshees (96 points)

Sniper Award

Erik Cole, Saint Louis Blues
Erik Cole was lighting it up even before Saint Louis started acquiring a deep supporting cast at the trade deadline.  We didn’t see many stratospheric point totals this season, but Cole had some close competition in the goals race, but the winger — who had 32 goals last season and just 16 the season before — just kept ticking en route to his league-leading 54.
Honourable Mentions: Steven Stamkos, Charleston Chiefs (51 goals), Milan Lucic, Boston Banshees (47 goals)
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