Upward and Downward Trends in the NHL

Just a few years ago the Colorado Avalanche looked as if they would always be on top of the league. Today, it wouldn’t be very far-fetched to predict the Avs to be in bottom 8 in the West at the end of next years season. On the other hand, the Anahiem Ducks are by most considered cup contenders for next season, possibly battling teams like Nashville, Pheonix, or even Minnesota in the opening round of the playoffs. It is clear that times have changed in the NHL.

A new era is upon us. Teams that have traditionally been bottom-feeders are now showing that they are to be taken seriously (see the NY Rangers, Buffalo Sabres, Anahiem Ducks, etc.), and teams that have traditionally (as in, over the past few year) been on the top of the league are showing signs of weakness (see Colorado, Vancouver, etc.).

So what? you might ask…

Well, as all of us know, this sort of thing is perfectly normal and even to be expected in the NHL, and even more so in the “new” NHL, where talent is being spread out more than it ever has been before.

The question is, “Which teams are going in which direction?”

This of course to a certain degree is just a matter of speculation, although in some cases it is pretty obvious where a team is headed.

Example:

The Anahiem Ducks:

This team is definitely on an upward trend. They are deep in every position, have a great mix of youth and veteran players, a solid core of prospects, and are a pretty safe pick to finish high up in the standings in the West.

This same thing (IMO) could be said about Carolina, Calgary, San Jose, NYR, Buffalo, and Edmonton, while teams like Nashville, Pheonix, Atlanta, Boston, Toronto, and maybe even Minnesota and St. Louis are at least showing signs of entering into an upward trend.

On the other hand, consider teams like Colorado, Vancouver, and Tampa Bay. Will any of these teams even make the playoffs next season? Each of these clubs are almost definitely experiencing a downward trend and will most likely finish lower in the standings for the next couple seasons at least.

Then there are the teams that for the most part seem to be staying at the same level. In this group I would probably include Dallas, Montreal, Detroit (although I could see them losing ground this year), New Jersey, Philly, and Ottawa (even though most would agree that they took a definite step back in terms of overall talent with the loss of Havlat, Chara, Smolinski, and Hasek).

So my question to you all is this:

What trends do you see/predict in the NHL in the next few years and why?


28 Responses to Upward and Downward Trends in the NHL

  1. Aetherial says:

    Detroit benefitted HUGELY from playing 8 games each against the 3 weakest teams in the west. That is 29% of their games! They were on a downward trend last year that shows no signs of stopping.

    The Leafs are the same level. They will fight for the last playoff spot, just like last year.

    Montreal… upward trend

    Buffalo… same level as they were last year

    Edmonton… still upward, even after losing Pronger and Peca

    Vancouver… Down. I am not sure why people have them as a surprise pick

    Ottawa… stable or upward. I think this team has not lost much, and may, in fact, be better(!) than last year.

  2. paul_dc10 says:

    oilers suck

  3. simplyhabby says:

    As the team goes, I would definately agree with you about Ottawa but points wise, I think they will be down this year.

    Simply based that they are in an even stronger division this year. I don’t think they will win as many games as they did in the NE.

    Boston: not a cup contender but definately improved over last year (didn’t take much)

    Leafs: Overpaid D but a better one that is for sure (Antyhing is better over Berg)

    Montreal: Essentially the same team but should move up in the standings if they meet expectations

    Buffalo: Lost a couple guys but great team with youth , speed and solid goaltending.

  4. Treva says:

    At the very least, Vancouver is a team that is stable – going neither up or down. They lost Bertuzzi – which every one says is a plus, and lets face it – he only plays well in contract years and when he is under consideration for the olympic team. They lost Jovo which is a big one, no argument. Carter is gone, but I think anyone paired with the Sedins has potential to be a 20 goal scorer.

    Take a look at Vancouvers youth.

    Henrik and Daniel – only going to improve.

    Luc Bordon – new prospect should do well with ohlund teaching him.

    The additions of Pyatt, bulis and choinard all help team speed.

    Jason King and Kessler are forwards with hustle and less than two seasons behind them.

    Last year the Manitoba moose was essentially the third and fourth lines. And for the most part did well.

    Vancouver has Luongo who is a good young goalie (maybe not the best in the league despite everyones comments).

    This is a far more defensively sound team than last years squad. They still have one of the best snipers in the league and if Morrison really was hampered by a hip injury all of last year then he will help naslund but in a few more. if not he is one of the best second line centers in the game.

    But yeah colorado is done like dinner.

  5. thegoalie1976 says:

    I see in the next 3 years a total flip of the standings from 3 years ago. The west was once owned by Detroit, Dallas, vancouver, Colorado. All these teams are sliding down fast. The lower playoff challenger seeds like Edmonton, LA, San Jose, Minnisota, nashville, Calgary (I know they finished 3rd last season) are all moving up, and building strong young core players.

    I expect all these teams to own the top of the conference in the next 3 years, while the has-beens on 2000-2005 will be fighting for 7th to 10th.

    But that’s just my opinion.

  6. JFJfan says:

    Not to reply to my own post or anything..but I’d like to give my opinion regarding a certain team from southern Ontario that everyone seems to have an opinion about but very few seem to really see the big picture.

    Yes, I am talking about the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    As my name might have given away, I am a Leafs fan, and thus feel obligated to share with the world that I feel like the Leafs are DEFINITELY starting an upward trend, and probably will not even have to get worse before they get better.

    Why would I think such a crazy thing?

    Well consider this. Nobody can say that the Leafs didn’t get better in the offseason (and if they do they are probably Sens or Habs fans) and it seems like finally the organization is getting it’s act together in terms of focussing on developing talent from within, and building around the draft and around solid free agent aquisitions. This I will certainly credit to JFJ, who came into the picture as a rookie GM having to clean up one heck of a mess left behind by Pat Quinn (trading away all of TO’s future for washed up players like Nolan and refusing to adapt to the new NHL and hold players accountable for poor play).

    Does that mean that I think that all of JFJ’s moves have been good ones?

    NO. Signing Belfore again= bad move, signing Allison and Lindros= could have worked out but didn’t, so another bad move, and not getting a winger for Sundin (at least not yet)= another bad move. But what I can say that I am very happy that he and Maurice at least seem to be moving TO in the right direction. JFJ has made some great moves too though. Example: Bringing in Paul Maurice to coach the Marlies and now the Leafs, signing Peca, Kubina, Raycroft (will probably work out well, and we still have Pogge), Gill (TO needed a tough stay-at-home D-man) and then bringing in guys like Suglobov, Westrum, Pohl, Foster, Earl, etc. and keeping draft picks in the process.

    So to all of you doubters and haters out there I say this,

    The Leafs WILL be back next year and WILL contend for a playoff spot, and in maybe 5 more years will be at the top of the standings looking down at teams like the Sens who had their window (see the past 2 seasons) and missed it both times. Hopefully when the Leafs are there they will not do the same thing.

  7. NHLman says:

    Basically, a teams future depends on its scoring prospects/young players, two-way prospects/young players, goaltending prospects/young players, and defense prospects/young players, as well as the ability to manage the cap so as to be able to go out and sign players to compliment home-grown players. Notice 4th line and third line players are not key, they are abundant. Based on this I see a few organizations in good shape:

    Pittsburgh Penguins- plenty of top end talent, though weak on defense; and with their numerous high draft picks in recent years they have no excuse.

    Anaheim Ducks- lots of good young forwards, a few good defensive prospects and decently young goalies.

    Buffalo Sabres- They do have a lot of young players but not too many great prospects, they will run into cap issues in the next few years and this may prevent the team from ever really reaching its potential.

    Carolina Hurricanes- With Eric Staal they’ve obviously got a gret young core, but I’m not sure how much premium talent remains in the system. Cam Ward needs to prove he is for real.

    Philadelphia Flyers- Tons of up and coming players with the likes of Carter, Richards, Pitkanen, Umberger, as well as others. Could use more goaltending, but perhaps Nittymaki (sp?) will continue to improve. However, bad cap situation.

    Chicago Blackhawks- pretty much the Western conference equal of the Penguins, but they are missing goaltending. Alhough they have better defense prospects. Need Ruutu to really step up.

    Columbus Blue Jackets- Incredible list of young talent. As long as prospects pan out they could build a dynasty; they are of course led by Rick Nash.

    New York Rangers- Tons of 2nd line calibre and below prospects, good high end defensive prospects as well as goaltending depth, but may be missing true scoring touch in the system. A lot rests on the likes of Nigel Dawes, Petr Prucha, Hugh Jessiman, and Jarkko Immonen (among others) to be first line talents.

    LA Kings- With the acquisition of O’Sullivan they have really done good for the future. I like a lot of their young players, such as Frolov, and believe they have talent for the future. May need more goaltending depth.

    Edmonton Oilers- They have a lot of good young players, although some of them are getting older without necessarily making the progress thought they would. For example, Horcoff had a great playoff run, but overall has not been a great player, same goes for Raffi Torres. I think Ales Hemsky is the key to the teams future, he is one of the most talented young players I’ve seen and needs to work hard at all times.

  8. Aetherial says:

    I think Montreal improved themselves. I guess the question though is how are they “trending” Their best players are aging a little (Kovalev and Koivu). I think they will be better than last year though.

  9. Aetherial says:

    The Sens window is still open as far as I am concerned.

    I am a Leafs fan, all my life. I see the potential improvement this year and the good crop of prospects, especially on defense.

    What disturbs me is that there are no “superstars” up and coming, either forward or D. There are a number of “good” players… I just don’t see “great” players…

    So I fear that this current 5 year cycle will end the same as the past 10 years or so… they will rise to be a decent team again, just decent enough to not get a superstar in the draft… and continue the cycle of mediocrity.

  10. jouby says:

    If I was a leafs fan, I would not consider contending for a playoff spot an upward trend. Especially since they have made the playoffs for I don’t know how many years before last year.

    To me that is just a return to were they were before.

  11. samsdad says:

    My opinion is that it is going to take a few years for this to iron all out….and by that I mean, salary management on each team.

    For example, lets look at the Bruins (because I know them best).

    Now they are young – Bergeron-Boyes-Kessel-Toivenen.They also have some veterns with higher salaries – Murray 4M, Savard 5M, Chara 7.5M, Mara 3M, Brad Stuart 2.5M.

    So they also have several young up and comers…. Pelletier, Karsums, Krejci, Kalus,Lashoff,Collins.

    So what I see happening is that teams will be forced to choose…In a few years these guys may be very good, and want salaries in the middle range…like Sturm,Axellson,Primeau. So this trend will start happening to all teams…they will be forced to pick between up and comers, and established talent. This will allow teams that don’t draft well, or have traded away picks, to restock with established, middle of the road talent.

    There will be a constant changing of each team…probably 3-6 players each year. There will be alot of parity. Each team will have have some stars, several rookies, and a few middle of the roaders. Dynastys will be a thing of the past. Teams will cycle from the top of the league to the bottome in 5-8 year cycles.

  12. Hoondog2 says:

    Only difference now is with the cap…You will see star players as free agents a lot younger than before. Pittsburgh wont have a 10 year window to win the cup because all these high draft picks will want raises (Ottawa being the perfect example). IMO teams are better off to draft middle of the road and good players, then they can control the salaries better, then look to free agency and put money into a young star (for example; Elias could have signed with any team).

  13. Hoondog2 says:

    except the players were all thirty somethings before, now they are all young and they will keep coming with the expanded scouting of prospects.

  14. mafew says:

    The Leafs haven’t had a decent draft position in years

  15. navajo says:

    I want to know what’s going to happen if the cap drops after next year? What’s Boston going to do with Chara, what are the Leafs going to do with Kubina and/or Mccabe? Is it going to be another buy out frenzy? I’m not just picking on Boston, 7.5 milly is a lot of money, just as is Mccabe’s salary. I think it’s funny though how the owners wanted a cap, and now they can’t even manage it themselves.

  16. PrairieFire says:

    Nashville is Showing signs of improvement???

    Nashville has an outstanding team.

    Had Vokoun not been injured at the end of last season, they may have made the cup final.

    This year, depending on injuries, (as always), they may take the cup.

    They have three solid scoring lines and is Radulov bursts onto the seen the way he did the QMJHL, they will run away in their very easy Division.

    Also they have one of the best groups of all around D-Men in the game.

    I chaulk it up to no one on this board watching them, as they are not generally televised unless you get the Center Ice package I do.

    Now all you Leaf fans feel free to bash this old Canadian Hillbilly, but come April, I’ll bring up my post…and the bashings…and enjoy reminding y’all :o)

  17. dcz28 says:

    Were the Wings in one of the worst division…yes but tell me why the the other divisions in the west had a hard time to beat St Louis, Chicago and Colombus?

    The Wings also had a good record against the other divisions but everyone always over look that like it didn’t happen.

    Wings will finish 4th or 5th and still compete with the top teams this season and in the future because they have great people building the team and drafting.

    I can’t wait to hear the reasons why the Wings were good this season. Last season they cut the payroll in half and people said they were weak…when they did good it was because of the weak division only. What will be the excuses this year after the Wings prove you guys wrong again? schedual? injuries to other teams? Wings were just lucky?

    I love that the Wings are underdogs this season…it’s been a long time since that has happened.

  18. dcz28 says:

    Funny how most always mention Smolinski being a loss when the guy was garbage (4th line player at best) and a good thing for Sens he is gone. I guess most of you didn’t watch many Sens games if you think he is a loss and didn’t notice he had to be in the Havlat package to get rid of him (just like DeVries with the Hossa deal).

  19. I_hate_LA says:

    Did Nashville sign Hamhuis yet?

  20. FrankTheTank3388 says:

    Boston Bruins – They have some great young talent, they’re just underrated. We have Kessel, Kalus, Krejci, Karsums, Sobotka Pelletier, and Collins up front. For defense we have Alberts, Jurcina, M Stuart, and Lashoff. And in net we have Toivonen and Rask. We still have Bergeron (21) and Boyes (24) up front and they’ve already proved themselves in the NHL.

  21. Pedro says:

    Ya don’t they! Man Im a huge canucks fan, and i hate watching them beat my team down all the time. Watching repeat my favorite team’s in one year, but no they really suck. Especially when they beat down my favorite team again, and we miss the playoffs again.

  22. Pedro says:

    They have good prospects, but the problem is they are not great prospects. You have to build through drafting and free agents, they don’t through drafting that well.

  23. Pedro says:

    Actually i like Nashvilles team too. Im a Oiler’s fan, and I can honestly say they done well from building within. They will beat out Detroit for top spot in the division, but their point total will be around the same because Colombus and St.Louis are better teams this year. Not as many give me points now. Just speculation though.

  24. FrankTheTank3388 says:

    I don’t see why people think Oilers are going somewhere. Sure they made it to the Stanley Cup finals but they just barely made the playoffs. They just barely took 8th place by 3 points. And they lost Pronger, one of the very important players on the team. I don’t think they’ll even make the playoffs this year.

  25. Pedro says:

    Horcoff had 70 points last year, the season before he had 40????? I think thats progress but what do i know. Jarret Stoll finnished with almost 70, the year before he just cracked 30. Is that progress???? Hempsky is just amazing, and we have him for 6 years at a reasonable price.

  26. zdeno_duchesne says:

    i see detroit on their way down. they will make way for either san jose or anaheim for the top seed in the west.

    just look at their division,

    chicago added havlat, smolinski. rene bourque should see an improvement. if tuomo ruutu signs and stays healthy, he will be a force. their young defense will get better (keith, seabrook, vandermeer)

    columbus is a young team, and should improve. if zherdev signs, i have him pinned at around 80-90 points.

    st louis made a few improvements to their roster, adding guerin, rucinsky, legace, mckee.

    nashville was strong last year, there’s no reason to believe (IMO) that this year will be any different, especially with the additions of jason arnott and josef vasicek.

  27. I_hate_LA says:

    True, but they always managed to get to the top even when everyone doubted them. They’ve got young talent in the datsyuk and zetterberg duo and prospects such as hudler and filpulla could possibly step up. I can’t see detroit going down with the leadership they already have, with or without Yzerman.

  28. I_hate_LA says:

    no, this year the oilers will be the same not upward. We’ll just have to wait until the season unravels.

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