NHL Countdown: Meet My Teams & Players

Teams:

Pittsburgh Penguins

I grew up a Penguins fan but didn’t start to seriously follow them until I was around 13 years old.  Since then they have won 3 Stanley Cups, made many playoff runs, and drafted/traded for some big names, a few that are still in Pittsburgh.  No matter what happens, I will die a Penguins fan (unless they ever hire John Tortorella as a coach then I’m jumping ship and losing all respect for the organization).

Calgary Flames

I didn’t start following the Calgary Flames until Johnny Gaudreau joined them after his time at Boston College.  It also worked in their favor that they had Deryk Engelland at the time.  Since then, the organization has grown on me and I have liked the majority of their players, trades, and acquisitions.  My favorite that occurred over this past summer was trade that brought Noah Hanifin to Calgary.

Carolina Hurricanes

Jordan Staal being a Pittsburgh Penguins was ultimately what starting my being a fan of the Canes.  Through Jordan, I started to follow Eric and in turn the Hurricanes.  Jeff Skinner kept me a fan of the Hurricanes along with Jordan being traded to them for Sutter and the youngest Staal, Jared, playing for their AHL affiliate, the Charlotte Checkers.  I have not been a fan of their trades recently as I don’t believe they are smart moves for the organization.  I would hate to be Sebastien Aho, playing on a team with high expectations for you that isn’t trying to put together a winning team around you.

Boston College Golden Eagles

While not an NHL team, the BC Eagles are why I’m a fan of many NHL players.  I started following BC when they played in Robert Morris University’s 1st annual Three Rivers Classic.  Johnny Gaudreau, Patrick Brown, and Kevin Hayes impressed me with their on-ice presence and skill and I’ve been following them and the Eagles ever since.

 

Players:

Olli Maatta:  He is the epitome of Finland’s development program, has overcome so much in his young career, and continues to improve his game.

Jordan Staal:  J. Staal was an easy Penguin to like.  He was always a dependable third-line center that produced and could kill a penalty.

Sergei Gonchar:  Gonchar was my very first “favorite player” and Penguin.  I don’t know why I initially started to like him but his well-rounded game play is why I continued to follow him even after he left the ‘Burgh.  He wasn’t gone for too long though and very few people were happier than I was to see him hired on as a defensive coach.

Johnny (Hockey) Gaudreau:  Johnny Hockey loves the game and plays it well.  His work ethic is what made me notice him at the Three Rivers Classic.  He was all over the ice while still complementing his teammates and setting them up for opportunities.  Despite his accomplishments and phenomenal collegiate turned NHL career, he remains humble.

Marc Andre Fleury:  I have never, nor will ever, understand how any fan of hockey can hate on Fleury.  The guy is a magician on the ice, a trickster with his teammates, and the ultimate family man.  I will forever be thankful for all Fleury and his family have for the city of Pittsburgh both on and off the ice.

Beau Bennett:  Beau Bennett had such promise, but his injuries definitely had a significant impact on his career.  I liked his game play with the Penguins, now I admire how he has acclimated to his changed career path and his sense of humor/personality through it all.

Noah Hanifin:  Hanifin is a BC alum and an up-and-coming defenseman in the league.  I enjoyed watching him on the ice for BC and the Canes and I can’t wait to see what he will bring to Calgary this year.

Conor Sheary:  aka Lil’ Conor worked hard every second he was on the ice and rarely lost a battle in the corner boards despite being quite smaller than some of his opponents.  I’ll miss seeing #43 in a Penguins jersey.

Honorable Mentions: Jeff Skinner, Matt Cooke, Deryk Engelland, Brian Gibbons, Matt Niskanen as a Penguin, Jayson Megna, Cam Atkinson, Eric Staal, Brandon Sutter, William Nylander, Kevin Hayes, Bobby Farnham, Dustin Jeffrey, Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis, Alex Tuch.

 

Flames on Fire

The Calgary Flames have been putting in the work this off-season and it just might pay off.  Over the last few seasons the Flames have been “that close” to a phenomenal team that can compete in the post season.   They’ve struggled to maintain an offensive force and were in need of consistent defensemen in front of their netminders.  With the additions of Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm from the Carolina Huricanes and some veterans in the league, they have taken a major step in filling the holes throughout the lineup.

Noah Hanifin was drafted in 2015 by the Hurricanes after completing only one season at Boston College under the best coach in collegiate ice hockey, Jerry York.  At BC he played in 37 of 38 games with 5 goals, 18 assists, and a +12 rating.  The Golden Eagles finished second in the Hockey East that year.  Following his collegiate success, Hanifin was the only defensemen in his draft class to start the season that same year in the NHL.  This past season was, offensively, his best yet with 10 goals and 22 assists.  He definitely needs to improve on his +/- rating this year with Calgary in order to make a difference.  However, giving him the benefit of the doubt as I did with Skinner in a prior post, the entire Hurricanes lineup struggles to keep the puck out of the net and Hanifin’s rating at least shows he received a lot of ice time.

Elias Lindholm has 188 points in 374 career games.  He’s a young, strong center with a lot of potential.  It might have been a risky move for the Flames to sign him to such a big deal, but I believe it will pay off for them.  The other big addition the Flames have made this summer is signing James Neal.  The Hurricanes are the fifth organization he will be a part of in the league.  Neal is a dependent, passionate winger with a lot of playoff experience.  He just might be the perfect line mate for Lindholm or is he going to be the third with Monahan and Gaudreau?

A re-signing that the Flames hope will pay off for them in the long run is their goaltender Mike Smith.  He won 25 of his 55 starts this past season with a .916 save percentage.  Goaltending has been an issue for the Flames over the last few years, hopefully Smith can change that this upcoming season.

 

References:

https://www.nhl.com/player/noah-hanifin-8478396

https://www.nhl.com/player/elias-lindholm-8477496

https://www.nhl.com/player/james-neal-8471707

https://www.hockey-reference.com/players/s/smithmi01.html