The NHL season may only be barely underway, but it has already become apparent that certain teams will stop at nothing to be in a position to fight for the Stanley Cup. As squads try to figure out how to improve their defense and others try to clean up their offense, there are still more that are having to rewrite their playbook completely to compensate for injuries. Things are about to get interesting.
The Colorado Avalanche got off to a really good start this season, making it to first place in the Central Division of the Western Conference with an 8-2-1 record. An avalanche doesn’t become an avalanche until it starts moving downhill, and this could be where the Colorado squad finds itself now. It is down two-thirds of its top line and it’s uncertain if its bottom six will be able to carry the team back uphill.
Mikko Rantanen has been a wait-and-see player after he suffered an injury in the second period against the St. Louis Blues on October 21. The right winger found an edge on the ice that the Zamboni had missed and twisted his skate, sending him out for what may end up being a four-week absence, which could be damaging to the team. He’s been its lead scorer, tied with Nathan MacKinnon, with five goals and seven assists.
Making things worth, team captain Gabriel Landeskog is now out and his return may not come at all this season. The Avalanche had been counting on him to give a repeat performance from last year, which saw him score a personal best 75 points and make it to the All-Star game. Adding to the problems, Colin Wilson is also out with lower-body injuries.
The Avalanche isn’t the only team dealing with injuries. Vladimir Tarasenko of the Blues is going to have to have surgery on his shoulder and will be out for five months, if not longer. The St. Louis was hoping to give a good showing this year as it comes off a Stanley Cup win from last year, and his absence is going to make that more difficult.
The Nashville Predators just made a monster purchase that has many hockey fans scratching their heads. They signed a deal with Roman Josi that will guarantee he stay with the team for eight years. That’s not necessarily a bad thing on the surface, but the fact that they’ll pay him more than $9 million a year to do it is puzzling. He’s going to turn 30 before he finishes the first year of his contract. When the Predators figure out in five years that he isn’t able to keep up, they’re going to have to pull out the wallets and the credit cards to settle their debt with him.
Bobby Ryan could soon be out of the Ottawa Senators lineup permanently. The team is reportedly considering a trade that would see him released and his performance lately is the key reason. Commanding a massive paycheck, he hasn’t backed up that value with his performance on the ice.
Breaking a bone can actually be a good thing – sometimes. There are reports that the Columbus Blue Jackets were interested in shipping off Ryan Murray to another team that would have him, but he has now broken his hand. That means he will stay where he is – for now.
On a sad note, the NHL has lost one of its greatest representatives. Jim Gregory, who served as the GM for the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1969-1979 and who was responsible for raising teams that captured playoff spots eight ties, has passed away. After his tenure, he went on to hold various positions in the league and was the chair of the Hockey Hall of Fame’s selection committee from 1998-2014. The 83-year-old was even one of the Hall’s inductees.
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement on Gregory’s passing, “It is impossible to express the extent to which the National Hockey League family adored Jim Gregory and the loss we feel as a result of his passing. Jim Gregory wasn’t just a great ‘hockey man,’ though he certainly was that. He was a great man — a devoted husband to Rosalie, his wife of 60 years; father to Andrea, Valerie, Maureen and David; grandfather of 13; and mentor and friend to too many to number.”