NHL Tales of Halloween Horror 2016
Several NHL teams and stars are experiencing a scary start to the 2016-17 season.
When the Nashville Predators shipped former captain Shea Weber to the Montreal Canadiens in June for P.K. Subban, it was expected the latter would bring them significant change. Many observers believed the Preds got the better of the deal, predicting Subban would provide a substantial boost for their offense. While Subban’s among the Predators’ scoring leaders, they lurched from the gate with a 2-5-1 record, sitting second-last in the Western Conference. Adding early insult to injury is Weber leads the Habs in scoring and was a key factor in their 8-0-1 start.
Led by promising young forwards Max Domi and Anthony Duclair, the Arizona Coyotes were hoping for significant improvement this season. As of Oct. 30, however, they were mired in the bottom of the Western Conference. With only two wins and four points in eight games, they had the NHL’s worst record (2-6-0). Domi had six assists, but Duclair managed only one point during that stretch. Worst, starting goalie Mike Smith remains sidelined by a lower-body injury. Backup Louis Domingue and call-up Justin Peters struggled to replace him.
The Chicago Blackhawks entered this campaign once again considered among the Stanley Cup contenders. However, the steady depletion of talent over the last two years due to salary-cap constraints could be catching up with them. With nine points in eight games, the ‘Hawks also have the league’s worst penalty kill. Team captain Jonathan Toews is having difficulty finding the back of the net, with only three assists in those eight games.
As the Toronto Maple Leafs approached their Oct. 30 game against the New York Islanders, starting goalie Frederik Andersen had a bloated 3.67 goals-against average and an weak save percentage of .876. That’s hardly the type of netminding they expected from Andersen when they acquired him this summer from the Anaheim Ducks. His poor play is among the reasons the rebuilding Leafs struggled to maintain leads in October.
Speaking of the Islanders, after winning their first playoff round for the first time since 1993 in the 2016 postseason,they had high hopes for better things this season. October, however, was a nightmare. With only three victories in their first eight games, the Isles found themselves at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings. Free-agent acquisition Andrew Ladd, acquired to skate alongside superstar center John Tavares on their top line, managed only one assist in that stretch.
Injuries took a big bite out of the Dallas Stars roster in October. Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza, Patrick Sharp, Jiri Hudler, Ales Hemsky, Cody Eakin and Mattias Janmark felt its sting. As a result, they managed only seven points in their first eight games. The Stars must get healthier if they hope to build upon last season’s promise.
The Los Angeles Kings suffered a serious loss when starting goalie Jonathan Quick was sidelined up to three months by a groin injury. While backup Peter Budaj has filled the void admirably, losing Quick is a Sword of Damacles scenario for the Kings. It’s probably only a matter of time until his absence becomes a serious issue.
Speaking of sidelined netminders, the Boston Bruins definitely suffered when former Vezina Trophy winner Tuukka Rask missed several games in October. Prior to his lower-body injury, Rask won three games for the Bruins. Unfortunately, Anton Khudobin (also sidelined), Malcom Subban and Zane McIntyre failed to offset his absence, losing all of their starts. Fortunately for the Bruins, he returned to action in grand style on Oct. 29 with a 1-0 shutout of the Detroit Red Wings. Still, the Bruins must do something to address their dreadful goaltending depth in case Rask is sidelined again.
The Anaheim Ducks played through October without defenseman Hampus Lindholm and forward Rickard Rakell. The duo withheld their services until re-signed to new contracts. While both are now re-signed, work visa issues delayed their return. Their absences contributed to the Ducks 3-4-2 record through their first nine games.