Early NHL Studs and Duds
About one month of NHL hockey is in the books. Certain teams and players have exceeded expectations, while others are making hockey analysts scratch their heads. Here are some studs and duds from the first month of the season.
Stud: Anaheim Ducks
An early Stanley Cup favorite, the Ducks have not disappointed so far. They boast the best record in the league, with 22 points. Right winger Corey Perry is leading the offensive charge for Anaheim, notching 15 points, good enough for eighth in the NHL. The Ducks’ other star forward, Ryan Getzlaf, is pitching in as well, tied with Perry at 15. Newcomer Ryan Kesler is also making an impact.
The one question mark going forward for Anaheim is goaltending. Their goalie situation was shaky already, but just this week, John Gibson was ruled out for six weeks with a groin injury. It will be up to Frederik Andersen and Jason LaBarbera to carry the weight.
Dud: Colorado Avalanche
Last year at this time, the hockey world was abuzz with the shocking hot start of the Avs. This time around, it’s a far different story. Colorado has only won four games so far this season, good enough for second-last in the Central Division. Granted, they are just three regulation wins out of first place, but this is still a far cry from their incredible start to last year’s campaign.
There isn’t much of an explanation for this sluggish start. They did lose top center Paul Stastny in the offseason, but they signed an aging Jarome Iginla, and still have young stars Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan Mackinnon. If the Avalanche want to make it back to the postseason, they’ll have to pick up their play, and quick.
Stud: Nashville Predators
We all expected a new-and-improved Predators team this season. But, nobody expected this. Nashville is off to one of the hottest starts in franchise history, hanging around near the top of the Central Division. New head coach Peter Laviolette’s system has encouraged speed, shooting, and scoring. Players like Craig Smith and Colin Wilson have found new life under Laviolette. Newcomers like James Neal and Mike Ribeiro have been hot as well.
The biggest difference maker, however, has been rookie Filip Forsberg. He is getting top-line minutes, and is making them count. He leads the team in points with 13, and is an early contender for the Calder Trophy. It will take another month or two to figure out if the Predators are truly contenders, but if they keep this up, watch out come playoff time.
Dud: Carolina Hurricanes
There has not been a worse team in the NHL than the Carolina Hurricanes. They didn’t win a game for the entire month of October, and looked atrocious doing it. Even before the season started, their outlook was bleak. They lost top forward Jordan Staal for three to four months with a broken leg suffered during the preseason.
Their leading offensive players are Jiri Tlusty and Riley Nash, who only have eight points so far. It’s just ugly hockey in Raleigh right now. It’s beginning to look like the Hurricanes are the leaders for the 2015 NHL Draft Connor McDavid sweepstakes. A player like McDavid would put this franchise back on track, as the 2006 Stanley Cup Champions look to regain their winning ways.