Last year around this time, I published the following article “5 People Who Need To Have A Huge 2014-2015 Season” I think it’s about time for a follow up and see where things are at.
Ondřej Pavelec – Goaltender – Winnipeg Jets
Last season was a year that Pavelec needed to prove his worth not only in the regular season but in the playoffs as well. After an average 2013-2014 season Pavelec didn’t fair much better in the 2014-2015 campaign.
Pavelec ranked near the bottom of the league as a goaltender in the regular season and was unable to help the Jets in the post season getting swept by an extremely lazy Anaheim Ducks roster in the first round of the playoffs.
However, it should be noted that according to this article in the Winnipeg Sun, the Jets were not playing with as healthy of a team as possible.
After being swept by the Anaheim Ducks in the first round of the playoffs, head coach Paul Maurice said eight of his players were dealing with “significant” injuries.
Then add into the mix the inability for the Jets to improve their roster last season. It’s been clear after watching numerous Jets games over the course of last season, the Jets Front Office does not seem to understand that their current roster is pretty much performing at their maximum capabilities. This includes Pavelec who seemed to regress last season, statistically speaking.
It’s clear to me that Pavelec’s maximum potential is just a journeyman goaltender and doesn’t have the chops to be a #1 goaltender in this league. He can’t win games or steal games on his own…especially in the post season. Time for the Jets to trade him while they can.
Dallas Eakins – Head Coach – Edmonton Oilers
If ever there was a poster child for dysfunction in the NHL (since the Gretzky era Phoenix Coyotes) the Edmonton Oilers were it (see previous article linked above for more details). The Oilers hired Eakins into a situation where he didn’t have much say or room to hire his own staff. Then add into the mix the Oilers (Pre-Eakins) not knowing or teaching simple development fundamentals that prevented the players from knowing how to succeed in the NHL.
Eakins was surely over-matched in Edmonton. In his first season, he tried to introduce a more complex defensive system when his players still hadn’t mastered defensive fundamentals. The entire team went backwards in a major way. Almost every top player on the Oilers saw his development go sideways or backwards.
Eakins became the Oilers whipping boy for all their historical problems since their 2006 cup run but lets face it, this was the right coach in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Fortunately, the Anaheim Ducks named Eakins their new AHL coach (San Diego Gulls) and is in the right situation in the right organization to get another crack at succeeding as a head coach. I’ll be sneaking off to San Diego before too long to see how he’s progressed.
Semyon Varlamov – Goaltender – Colorado Avalanche
If there’s anyone who deserves a pass for their performance last season it’s Semyon Varlamov. After an incredible 2013-2014 season (41-14 W/L) he followed it up with an injury plagued season that sent him on multiple trips to the injured reserved list with groin problems.
The only real concerns here going into this season is the degree of the groin tear Varlamov healed from and staying healthy this season. In the NHL, there’s generally two types of groin tears – the small tears that can be easily healed or the deep tears that become a reoccurring issue down the road (See Marion Gaborik’s time in Minnesota for examples of the latter). If Varlamov’s tear falls into the small tear category, the Avs could see a career year from him. However, if Varlamov’s groin tear falls into the other category, it could be another long season for the Colorado Avalanche.
As of right now, Varlamov looks like he’s in for another great year:
Semyon Varlamov got his second start in the Colorado net in the three exhibitions so far, played the entire game this time and looked in prime midseason form.
Keep an eye on Varlamov this season folks. He’s due for another monster season as long as his groin holds.
Doug Wilson – General Manager – San Jose Sharks
For years I’ve been saying that Wilson isn’t the man for the job in San Jose. This is simply because of the fact that he can’t build a team that is mentally strong enough to withstand a deep playoff run. Sure he can build a regular season winner, he’s proved that for years. However, you don’t become and stay General Manager in the NHL (or any league for that matter) if you can’t win it all.
However, it seems that the Sharks aren’t going to blow it all up and start all over from scratch like the Arizona Coyotes are doing this season.
“We were crystal clear about what we were doing last summer. We used the exact same terminology that the Detroit Red Wings used. We expected to be able to rebuild and compete at the same time. We did the exact same thing after 2003,” Wilson said.
(So much for “a phase that this organization has never gone into in the past.”)
“Make no mistake about it: We expect to make the playoffs and compete every year,” he said. “Coming into this year, we had some cap space. We were looking at three important pieces for us. We wanted to secure a No. 1 goalie, who could fit for now and for the future, and that’s Martin Jones. He’s 25. We wanted to find a find a defenseman who could complement [the Sharks’ other D-men], and hopefully a left-shot guy who could play with Brent Burns.”
Plus Wilson has the blessing from ownership for this rebuild on the fly.
“We are in this rebuild process. Reset, rebuild. There’s no question. Everybody knows when you look at our players, two top stars are getting older. They are both fit. That’s the good news. They haven’t had any major injury like other players. We hope that they can continue to play at that level, or even beef it up a little bit and lead the young ones we have put in to become a strong team.”
Wilson gets a pass but he needs to show improvement on the roster that are beyond the X’s and O’s but in the playoffs as well.
PK Subban – Defenseman – Montreal Canadiens
I watched Subban’s progress this season on and off the ice and I’ll be honest here, I wasn’t expecting a superstar Duncan Keith-like season. The main thing I was looking for was how he conducted himself on and off the ice with the new pressures of his huge new contract.
But Subban surprised even me with a monster performance this past season that caught the eye of just about everyone in the league:
As one NHL executive told Sportnet’s Elliotte Friedman in March, “Subban is so much better a defenceman now than when he won the Norris Trophy. It’s not even close.”
Subban keeps turning in career best performances in the regular season but his game took a step back in the post season…just a tad. However, that still makes GM’s and coaches notice what he’s doing.
In a nutshell, Subban produced the type of season every GM lays awake at night hoping for; a strong presence in his own end, combined with great numbers on offence.
THEN you have his performance off the ice as with great contracts come even greater responsibilities in the public eye. Subban did not disappoint with even more career defining moments by pledging to donate $10 million to the Montreal Children’s Hospital, poking fun at ‘Hockey Night in Canada’s’ Don Cherry, and a light hearted bout with teammate Carey Price.
Subban silenced a lot of critics last season with his performance on and off the ice. The question now for this season is not how good Subban is but how much better can he get?