Mid-season is fast approaching. A third of NHL clubs have already played 41 games or more. Here are five surprising teams since the start of the season. Tomorrow, Friday, disappointments.
The Canucks missed the playoffs by twelve points last year and the team’s number one center, Elias Pettersson, seemed in no rush this summer to sign a contract extension. There were a lot of loose ends to be fixed by the new administration, put in place less than two years ago. Captain Bo Horvat was traded at last year’s trade deadline for a first-round pick and general manager Patrick Allvin bought out defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson’s monstrous contract.
Goaltender Thatcher Demko has returned to good form, the arrival of defenseman Filip Hronek, obtained from the Red Wings for a late first round pick, has allowed Quinn Hughes to have the perfect partner in defense, Brock Boeser has regained his scoring touch, Pettersson and J. T. Miller are having a splendid season and here are the Canucks in second place in the general standings with a record of 27-11-3 and the best offense in the NHL, almost four goals per game… supposedly with coach defensive, Rick Tocchet!
New Predators general manager Barry Trotz made an aggressive fire sale upon his arrival late last season. Mattias Ekholm and Tanner Jeannot were traded for first-round picks and prospects at the trade deadline even though Trotz officially wasn’t on the job yet. Then this summer, Trotz got rid of the club’s first two (overpaid) centers, Matt Duchene and Ryan Johansen. He bought out the contract of the first and traded the second to the Avalanche without getting anything in return (Alex Galchenyuk moved to the Predators but he was a week away from his autonomy and we did not retain him.
Still, if the playoffs started today, Nashville would be qualified, with its record of 22-18-1. With Ryan O’Reilly, obtained a very reasonable contract to supervise young people, as first center and Colton Sissons, never more than 30 points in a season, as second behind O’Reilly. Denis Gurianov and Juuso Parssinen occupy positions on both offensive trios and Luke Schenn is in the defensive top 4. Michael McCarron, CH’s infamous first choice in 2013, is now a regular in Nashville. Even goalkeeper Juuse Saros is not having a great season. Let’s see if they last until the end. Hats off to coach Andrew Brunette.
Winnipeg seemed at a crossroads last summer. Goaltender Connor Hellebuyck and center Mark Scheifele were entering the final year of their contracts. Pierre-Luc Dubois demanded a trade and fallen captain Blake Wheeler was released. General manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has not given in to the temptation to rebuild. He offered eight-year contract extensions to Hellebuyck and Scheifele even though they were entering their thirties and preferred to obtain short-term reinforcement for Dubois than high draft picks.
The Jets are not suffering from the loss of Dubois. Gabriel Vilardi, 24, the heart of this deal, has 18 points in 22 games, two more than Dubois in Los Angeles, even though Dubois has played 15 more games. The Jets have the best defense in the National League even if, after the excellent Josh Morrissey, we find Dylan Demelo, Brenden Dillon, Neal Pionk, Dylan Samberg and Nate Schmidt. Goaltender Hellebuyck obviously makes a difference, but his backup, Laurent Brossoit, has similar statistics. Who did the Jets see as No. 1 overall at midseason?
This time, they had to be condemned. The Bruins, after all, lost their first two centers last summer, the now legendary Patrice Bergeron, and David Krejci. Pavel Zacha, a winger the previous season, and Charlie Coyle, a third center, were counted on to replace them. Boston did not collapse. The Bruins sit fourth overall with a 24-8-8 record. We even allowed ourselves the luxury of sending Zacha back to the wing since Morgan Geekie, hired for a rather modest salary of 2 million per season for two years (by NHL standards), never scored more than 28 points in a season , does the job at the center of the second line.
In the absence of injured Brandon Carlo and Derek Forbort, relatively unknown Mason Lohrei and Parker Wotherspoon have been promoted to the top 4. But the Bruins’ formula works, no matter who the players are. They are sixth in the NHL in goals allowed and goaltenders Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman get the job done, supported by effective zone defense. Boston, however, has won only one of its last four games, but has collected at least a point in two of its three defeats.
By winning their shootout match against the Canadian on Wednesday, the Flyers maintained their third place in the metropolitan section, four points ahead of the New Jersey Devils, the last club excluded from the playoffs, but three games less to play. The Flyers are, however, resolutely rebuilding. They traded their number one defenseman from last year, Ivan Provorov, for a first-round pick, and liquidated Kevin Hayes and Tony DeAngelo, two undesirables under rough coach John Tortorella.
GM Daniel Brière was lucky in a deal last summer: he traded the disappointing Travis Sanheim, 27, to the St. Louis Blues for veteran Torey Krug, 32, but the latter aborted the deal. transaction by invoking its no-exchange clause. Was Sanheim whipped by this news? He has relaunched his career and is the Flyers’ number one defenseman this season. The return to health of Sean Couturier also brings stability.
The Flyers don’t have a lineup to thrill, however, with Morgan Frost at second center and Scott Laughton behind him, but coach John Tortorella gets the most out of everyone and has established a solid defensive structure. Philadelphia is also seventh in terms of goals allowed per game in the League. They maintain a surprising 21-14-6 record despite the worst performance on the power play, but had won only two of their nine previous meetings before facing CH on Wednesday. Let’s see if they will hold up.
After a checkered start in the American League, defender Logan Mailloux has found his feet in recent weeks, to the point where he will represent the Laval Rocket in the All-Star game, at only 20 years old.
This late first round pick in 2021 has amassed ten points in his last twelve games in Laval, with a record of 5. He had ten points in his first 21 games and a record of -12.
The arrival of Arber Xhekaj, his partner in the first duo, contributed to the transformation of the young man, not only offensively, but also, above all, defensively, but there is more. His teammates had to call him to order, reveals Nicholas Cloutier, from TVA Sports.
“The maturity wasn’t there at the start of the season, the guys attacked him a couple of times,” confides coach Jean-François Houle in our colleague’s article. It wakes you up as a player. They cut his shoelaces at one point because he was always late. He learned his lesson. It shows that a young person must take their place and respect the regulations. His maturity has really taken a step forward. »