Mailbag: Canucks, Islanders under the radar; Ruffles plan without Couturier

Which two teams (one in each conference) do you think are flying under the radar and could potentially be a playoff team? — @punmasterrifkin

The Vancouver Canucks in the Western Conference and the New York Islanders in the Eastern Conference.

The Canucks have question marks and holes, particularly on the right side of their defense and potentially in their final group of six forwards, but they also have a lot of bright spots and feel good about how they finished last season under Coach Bruce. Boudreau (32-15-10 after replacing Travis Green on Dec. 6). I love the depth of their center if they go with Elijah Pettersson, jt miller Y Bo Horvat. Miller could move to the wing, but they need a strong presence in each of the top three lanes and they can have it if Pettersson, Miller and Horvat are the top three centers.

The left side of his defense is a fortress with Oliver Ekman-Larsson, quinn hughes Y travis dermott. Hughes could move to the right side if needed. Thatcher Demko He showed last season that he is a workhorse, the No. 1 goaltender by playing 64 games, third in the NHL, but the Canucks need to manage their workload, which makes spencer-martin, the probable number 2, of vital importance. Vancouver also needs a good start because, like last season, I don’t think the team is deep enough to come all the way back if it struggles in October and November. A strong start with their goalkeeping, center depth and a wide open Pacific Division after the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers gives me reason to believe the Canucks can be a Stanley Cup playoff team.

The Islanders need to find a little more offense in the forwards. Matthew Barzal, anthony beauvillier, Oliver Wahlstrom Y Kyle Palmieri. I’d say 10-15 percent more from each player could be enough to put them in the playoffs after they didn’t make it last season. They didn’t have a 60-point scorer last season (Barzal and brock nelson each was 59). Barzal should be an 80-point scorer if he plays the full season. He is among the best players in the world with the puck on the stick. Wahlstrom scored 13 goals in 73 games, and with his shooting and Barzal’s playing ability, he should be a 25-goal scorer. Beauvillier is capable of scoring in all 20 after getting 12 goals in 75 games. And Palmieri needs to be more consistent. The Islanders didn’t make any major upgrades up front, so they’re relying on the players they have to make them better. If they are, I think they’ll be a playoff team.

Video: Thatcher Demko’s Top 20 Saves of the 2021-22 Season

Now that the Philadelphia Flyers have another injury with Sean Couturer, a herniated disc in his back that could sideline him for a while, what’s the plan in Philly? Is Chuck Fletcher on the bench? Antoine Roussel is on a PTO. Are we seeing the revival of the Broad Street Bullies? — @theashcity

That’s a lot to unpack. Let’s start with Couturier and the Flyers’ plan. The plan does not change because Couturier is week after week with an upper body injury. Executing the plan becomes more challenging because Couturier is one of the veteran leaders who can establish the kind of culture coach John Tortorella wants. The Flyers in their first season under Tortorella will face the challenge of becoming a more cohesive team with better leadership and much more accountability than last season. It’s more difficult if Couturier isn’t part of it. They collapsed without him last season, going 13-34-6 in the 53 games he’s missed, but Tortorella’s plan is to create the kind of team culture he believes is essential to success on the ice. . He’s been pretty open about his concerns about the locker room and what’s going on in there and said that has to change, or get fixed, before anything else happens. Not having Dressmaker and Defense Ryan Elliswho will likely start the season on long-term injured reserve, will make it more difficult in the short term.

As for Fletcher being on the bench, all GMs are always on the bench because they’re judged by what happens next. For example, if the defender tony deangelo As he turns out to be a stud, a Tortorella favorite and an impact player on and off the ice, the decision to trade him and sign him to a two-year, $10 million deal will look great. If DeAngelo doesn’t mesh well with Tortorella and Philly, Fletcher will deal with it. The Flyers made some significant changes after a miserable season. Fletcher knows the moves have to work or he could face the consequences.

And no, we’re not seeing a revival of the Broad Street Bullies. The Flyers will try to become a much more difficult team to face. They will push back. But no team can survive in the NHL today trying to be what the Flyers used to be under Fred Shero and Bobby Clarke and others. The game has changed dramatically in the last 50 years.

Who are the top three rebuilding teams you see taking the next step this season? — @nyrprpokemon

They’re all in the Atlantic Division, the Ottawa Senators, the Buffalo Sabers and the Detroit Red Wings. I’ll add the New Jersey Devils, but let’s focus on the three in the Atlantic for the purposes of your question.

Ottawa becomes evident with additions of forwards Alex De Brincat Y claude girouxand goalkeeper Cam Talbot. You have to take the Senators seriously when you add a 40-goal scorer, a veteran playmaker and leader, and a solid goalkeeper to a team that has already felt the irruption of forwards Tim Stutzle, Brady Tkachuk, Joseph Norris Y drake bathersonmore defense Thomas Chabot. The next step is to compete for a playoff spot. They fell short by 27 points last season and I don’t think they’re good enough, particularly on defense, to close the gap enough this season. I also don’t think it takes 100 points to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference like it did last season, so the Senators have a chance.

The Sabers return to a core group that features young players who are confident they are the answer in Buffalo. They went 16-9-3 in 28 games from March 2 through the end of last season, a .625-point percentage that was tied for 12th in the NHL with the Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche. . Tag Thompson (28 points), Jeff Skinner (26), Victor Olofsson (25), Rasmus Dahlin (19), Casey Mittelstadt (16) and Alex Touch (16) all finished strong. defending Owen Power, the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, had two goals and one assist in eight games. The Sabers can build on their tail end until last season, but it’s easier to play when you’re already out of the playoff race than early on when you’re in and the pressure is on. They need a good start.

The Red Wings added forwards Andrew Copp Y David Perronand defenders Ben Chiarot Y Olli Maatta. They reinforced their goal by incorporating ville husso link Alex Nedeljkovic. dylan larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi Y jakub vrana they are strikers in the prime of their careers. Moritz Seiderthe Calder Trophy-winning defenseman voted NHL Rookie of the Year last season, and forward Luke Raymond should benefit from the additions. New coach Derek Lalonde comes from the Tampa Bay Lightning, where he was an assistant for three straight trips to the Stanley Cup Finals, championships in 2020 and 2021.

Do you think Buffalo should have waited for Thompson’s extension? I think it could be a pretty fair contract, maybe a little expensive if he had a few years like last season, but he has struggled to get a place in the NHL in the seasons before last. — @ Phlyers24

I don’t care about Thompson’s seven-year, $50 million contract. That’s a big number for a 24-year-old forward who had a good season, but this is what we’re seeing a lot of in the NHL today, teams buying long-term young players who still have a year left on their current contracts. Senators did it with Stutzle. The St. Louis Blues took over the forwards Robert Thomas Y Jordan Kyro. The Montreal Canadiens did last offseason with small forward nick suzuki. The idea is to make it a value deal for the team in the long term and show the player that they are interested in him as well.

The Sabers are banking on Thompson. He scored 38 goals last season. He wants to be in Buffalo. He also has 223 career games of his own in the NHL, so he’s not a spring chicken. The Sabers are confident that Thompson’s production last season will become the norm. It is not unreasonable to think that he will average 30 goals per season for the duration of the contract. If he does, it will be a valuable deal for Buffalo, particularly after the 2023-24 season, when the salary cap is expected to rise significantly. It’s a gamble, but that’s part of the game teams are playing with today’s young players.

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