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With the Stanley Cup Finals well underway and the offseason right around the corner, we’re in the midst of one of hockey’s busiest times of year. I was fortunate to touch base with Mike Straw, one of my oldest friends and managing editor who writes for the Hockey Writers. I’ve worked with Mike countless times over the years on collaborative pieces, podcasts, and have done a few internet radio shows together for past gigs. A native of Cheektowaga, New York, Mike provides some of the best coverage and insights on the Buffalo Sabres and any other hockey-related matters the blogosphere has to offer. He offered me some outside perspective on a few Devils-related issues, amongst other topics we were able to discuss.
If you want to help Mike raise money for his father, any donation helps by visiting his Go Fund Me page.
On the Devils…
Like the Devils, your hometown Buffalo Sabres are going through a drastic rebuild. One overlapping circumstance amongst both team’s situations has been committing to the same veteran core for too long. What’s one course of action the Sabres have taken with their rebuild you’d like to see the Devils take, in the future that could aid their situation?
If they are really going to rebuild, the Ray Shero simply needs to blow it up. Dump off the players that won’t be vital parts of the build, and look towards the younger generation to lead you into the future. There will be plenty of tough times, but it’s been than hanging on to the last bit of hope that an aging roster brings.
The Devils will probably enter the offseason with a vacant captaincy. Given the personnel at their disposal and the Devils’ current rebuilding state, how much of a priority (if at all) is finding someone within the organization that can serve as a long term captain?
I may be in the minority, but I don’t really see the captaincy as a vital part of a team. To me, a captain is nothing more than the guy who has to talk to the officials. I know plenty will disagree, but I don’t view not having one as a negative. If need be, John Hynes can do what the Sabres did a decade ago and have a monthly captain.
With over $20 million in cap space this summer, the Devils have a weak free agent crop to spend it on. Nonetheless, who are some likely targets you can see the Devils pursuing?
There are a couple players that come to mind: Antoine Vermette and Drew Stafford. Both could add a nice veteran offensive presence to the team. However, with the Devils not looking like a group poised to compete for a playoff spot, I don’t see it very likely that either player would join New Jersey, unless the money is really high. A more realistic option for Shero could be a Joel Ward or Michael Frolik. They would add some depth scoring, and would likely be cheaper to acquire than the aforementioned Vermette or Stafford.
On the Sabres…
Although second overall in this year’s draft ultimately made it worthwhile, the Sabres had an aggressive shopping spree in last summer. Although nobody the Sabres acquired had better than a subpar season, a lot of their newer players have multiple years left on their contracts. Which 2014 offseason acquisition currently slated to return next season do you expect to have the biggest turnaround year?
Matt Moulson. He scored 41 points (13 goals, 28 assists) on the worst team in hockey. Playing on a much improved team, as well as not having to face a team’s top defensive pairing, should only benefit Moulson. It wouldn’t surprise if he gets back to the 30-goal mark and hits 60 points for the season, at least.
Around the league…
Anze Kopitar, Eric Staal, and Ryan O’reilly are three noteworthy centers set to become unrestricted free agents in 2016. Given their individual situations, it’s possible that neither of these players will be with their current teams beyond next season. Which of these three centers do you think are most likely…
Staying where they are
Getting moved this offseason
Determine what happens to them next season
Of the three, the only player I see not being on his current team is O’Reilly. O’Reilly I really see gone by the start of the season because Colorado likely knows he won’t re-sign there. Kopitar is a perfect fit in Los Angeles, and there’s no doubt in my mind a contract gets done there. Staal may not want to pay cut, but it’s going to happen no matter where he signs. If his brother is still there, I don’t think he’s gone.
Currently vying for their third Stanley Cup since 2010, the Chicago Blackhawks have played a lot of hockey over that stretch. They made the playoffs in each of those seasons, and got as far as the Western Conference Finals four of those years. After watching the Los Angeles Kings succumb to a brutal cup hangover (brought about by fatigue from playing so much hockey in recent years), in which they missed the postseason, how much at risk are the Blackhawks at experiencing the same circumstances next year?
Slim to none. When you have players like Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith under contract, there is no worry in my mind about a hangover for the Blackhawks. They only way I think they even come close to falling off and missing the playoffs is if all three of those players get hurt.