With the 2014/2015 season approaching quickly I wanted to put five people in the spotlight that you all should keep your eyes on over the course of the coming season. As I see it, the 2014-2015 season will define the five people below now and for seasons to come.
Ondřej Pavelec – Goaltender – Winnipeg Jets
Ondřej Pavelec is a player I’m trying to figure out why he’s still in the league with so many other better players available for the Jets to leverage. Without a doubt, he is the most overpaid goaltender in the league (three years left on his contract at $3.9 million per – figures via capgeek.com) with, at best, average stats. When I say Pavelec has ‘average stats’ I’m being really nice here.
Pavelec is to the Winnipeg Jets as Rick DiPietro was to the New York Islanders….without the injuries, of course. Last season, Pavelec played 57 games with a 22-26 win/loss record, a .901 save percentage, and a 3.01 Goals Against average. These are hardly acceptable stats for a #1 NHL netminder.
Pavelec has been given the nod for this season as the #1 netminder by the Jets. However, given his average stats throughout his career and the excellent chance that he will match last season’s output, it may be time for the Jets to start planning on jettisoning Pavelec for a better player.
I’ve always been of the opinion that one of the main problems with the Jets reaching the next level is that they need to upgrade many of their players across the board, including Pavelec. This season, we get to see if Pavelec is actually a #1 goaltender or if he’s just collecting paychecks until his contract year or if he just has a bad defensive corps in front of him.
What ‘cha got Ondřej? Are you really a #1 goaltender? Show us.
Dallas Eakins – Head Coach – Edmonton Oilers
Watching the Edmonton Oilers last season was a lesson in how not to coach an NHL team. From the start of the season the coaching staff could not stop or adjust to most if not all of the problems the Oilers faced night in and night out. An ineffective power play, an ineffective penalty kill, a Swiss cheese defense (full of holes), and so on.
When the 2013-2014 season was over we all got a good look at the bigger problems with the Oilers across the board. For one, Dallas Eakins was pretty much coach in name only in that he wasn’t able to choose his own coaching staff and truly make the team his own. We also got a first look at the steps that Oilers General Manager Craig MacTavish has been taking to gut the coaching staff/front office and right the proverbial ship.
This season Dallas Eakins finally gets to put his own stamp on the team. Eakins has more than enough support from his new coaching staff who have the experience and know how to help take this team from missing the playoffs for eight straight seasons to potentially punching their ticket to the postseason. The Edmonton Oilers are overdue to take their talented roster to the next level and we get to see if Dallas Eakins can actually do the job or not.
Eakins measure of success this season won’t be if he wins a cup or not, it’s if he can fix what’s wrong with the roster and leverage all the talent on his roster correctly.
Semyon Varlamov – Goaltender – Colorado Avalanche
In addition to the Colorado Avalanche’s amazing season last year, who thought that Semyon Varlamov would have been one of the main reasons for the Avalanche’s success? I sure didn’t see it coming. The big question for Varlamov this coming season is if he can still operate at the same high level that he did last season.
I’m expecting Varlamov to bring his ‘A’ game next season as he has the potential to have a Patrick Roy like season in leading the Avalanche straight to the Cup Final. Sure that’s pretty lofty expectations but in the very least he needs to take the Colorado Avalanche to the next level.
Doug Wilson – General Manager – San Jose Sharks
I’m going to start by saying that it’s a miracle that Doug Wilson still has a job. Wilson been overseeing a San Jose Sharks team that has been one of the most lethal and consistent regular season teams in NHL history. However, dating back to 2006 the Sharks overall performance in the playoffs have all had one consistent characteristic – they all lacked focus, determination, the will to win it all, and mostly a roster that is extremely fragile mentally.
The changes this off season for Wilson was one that should have taken place at least one year after they made it to the Western Conference Final versus Vancouver in 2011. The Sharks recent changes included stripping Joe Thornton of his Captaincy and jettisoning a lot of the dead weight that prevented the team from winning it all. Some people call this a rebuild but so far it’s been a re-tooling.
Let’s face it, this is Doug Wilson’s make or break year. Anything less than a deep run into the playoffs that ends with a Stanley Cup Championship or a series that ends with a battle that is not related to the team’s mental fragility won’t be accepted.
PK Subban – Defenseman – Montreal Canadiens
I’m not going to get deep into analyzing this contract. Subban is WAY overpaid for a player who is projected in the years to come to be an elite franchise defenseman….just not now. However, based on last season’s regular season performances, Subban was anything but consistently elite. Not $9 million dollars a year elite anyways.
This coming season PK is going to be under the most powerful microscope in recent memory by local and league media along with Canadiens fans. If he mails in performances like he did sometimes last season or anything that does not resembles his normal game, he’s going to hear it….from everyone. Subban has to take a huge next step to becoming an elite NHL Defenseman starting this season. With huge contracts comes huge responsibilities.