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Sabres, Jets, Coyotes: Going from bad to good

.... just a little bit of spice can turn a losing team into a contender....three teams likely to go from "bad" to "good".


Sabres, Jets, Coyotes

The Chicago Blackhawks have won three Stanley Cups in the last decade, however, failed miserably in the first round of the 2017 playoffs.

On the other hand, The Nashville Predators, who had never seen a Stanley Cup Final, were closer than ever but were edged out in Game 6 against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

As players shuffle throughout the off-season, just a little bit of spice can turn a losing team into a contender.

Here are three teams likely to go from “bad” to “good.” (Bad as is the conventional non-playoff contending team; good as in likely to make the playoffs).

Buffalo Sabres

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Why? Progressive management. Improved offense. Improved defense.

The third most likely team to go from bad to good is the Buffalo Sabres. Add in management changes, young up and coming players, and a stable but progressive off-season, things are looking swell for the City of Good Neighbors.

At the top end of the offense, things look great. Ryan O’Reilly (20g, 35a; 55pts) is one of the NHL’s premier 200-foot players. Evander Kane (28g, 15a; 43pts) has matured in stature both on-ice and off-ice and is a positive factor for Buffalo. And, then there’s Jack Eichel with 57 points, and 24 goals last season, even after missing 21 games.

Also, their bottom two offensive lines are looking like heat with Matt Moulson, Zemgus Girgensons, and Jason Pominville ready to burst for a high output third line. At the bottom-four, the offensive scoring quality may be questionable but prevail as grinders who will work to keep pucks out of the friendly zone long enough to give the top end their rest.

The liability exists in their starless defensive core, albeit suggesting there is a core which could harm the league’s chances of ironing out the woeful roster-wide plus/minus in the long run. The addition of Marco Scandella could overturn a terrible defensive team.

The 6’4″ Rasmus Ristolainen did great on the blue line last season, adding 39 assists for 45 points, but still looks to improve his stay-at-home honorariums.

Perhaps the biggest off-season coup is the addition of Nathan Beaulieu, who earned 44 points last season with the Montreal Canadiens. However, the bottom-six defensemen need to prove that their age and lack of essential post-season veteran experience will not be an issue, but until then, it may remain the only setback for a playoff push.

Will Viktor Antipin (24-years-old), without an NHL game, become the dark horse they need?

Assuming goaltender, Robin Lehner, can keep his emotions in check, expect more pucks to stay out of the net as well. Last year, he had a save percentage of .920. Backup Chad Johnson’s return to the organization is also a positive.

Things will look good for the progressive 2017/18 Buffalo Sabres, who have not been in the playoffs for six seasons.

Winnipeg Jets

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Why? Offensive punch power. Strong defensive core. Return of missing key players.

Nikolaj Ehlers (64pts). Mark Scheifele (82pts). Patrik Laine (36g). The projected first line of the Winnipeg Jets looks to project a power-packed and high output of power, skill, and finesse.

This is not to say a first line offensive power pack will not be their only branch of success. On the second line, Kyle Connor, Bryan Little, and, of course, Blake Wheeler is formidable. Kyle Connor put up decent numbers (25 goals) in the AHL and worked to earn his spot in the rapid formation.

2013 first round pick (27th overall), Marko Dano will engage in improved play alongside developing Nic Petan and the vital Mathieu Perreault, making for an above average fast third line. And, perhaps more impressive, the fourth line has big boys who can find the back of the net.

Together, Shawn Matthias, Adam Lowry, and Joel Armia put up 60 points at the bottom six, making them of stellar importance in Winnipeg’s ability to win games.

What little holes found with the Jets cannot be seen in its defensive core. Josh Morrissey (20pts) and Jacob Trouba (33pts), in their respectful young age, are a great two-way, defensive impact line. Dmitri Kulikov is a solid stay-at-home player acquired in the off-season from the Sabres.

He can make up for Dustin Byfuglien’s offensive eagerness that at times leaves Winnipeg vulnerable at the back. That said, with 52 points and beast-like qualities, Byfuglien’s presence is unmatched in the league.

At the bottom, Jets’ fans are pleased to hear that 6’8″ defensive grinder Tyler Myers is back alongside the reliable Toby Enstrom.

Perhaps the biggest addition to the team is Steve Mason, although the consistency factor remains in question for the Jets’ previous goaltender concerns.

The second most likely team to go from bad to good, would be Winnipeg who look to surprise in a positive manner.

Arizona Coyotes

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Why? Out with the old, in with the new. Waning opposition. Speed.

Through the past few years, Arizona witnessed the rise of young stars, filling the void of old stars that have fallen.

For NHL fans it was disheartening. For Arizona fans, it was pure melancholic. However, the departure and retirement of Shane Doan leaves room for the impressive young players that are set to become the core of the Yotes.

While Wayne Gretzky may have made hockey fly in the desert, Max Domi (38pts) and Anthony Duclair (15pts) are keeping it fresh. Arguably, they have not made an impact compared to the likes of McDavid or Matthews, but in their respects, they have shown glints of magnificence that has not gone unnoticed.

Now management is giving them the chance to increase their play time and their numbers on the first line. Knowing this and with the addition of former Ranger, Derek Stepan (55pts), expect the boys to make noise.

Also making a top line, Dylan Strome, former McDavid line-mate, is set to tally the points onto his stark seven game NHL credits. He plays alongside Clayton Keller, another freshly promoted youngster aiming to make an impact. At their side, Tobias Rieder who added a healthy 34 points last year.

On the third line, expect Christian Dvorak (33pts) to pass expectations for the second year in a row alongside bottom-row vet Jamie McGinn (17pts), and fellow youngster Brendan Perlini (21pts). 

Perhaps the thirstiest Coyote in the desert is 2015’s 11th pick overall, Lawson Crouse, who spent much of the year on the fourth line. Looking for a promotion, Crouse plays next to Nick Cousins (acquired from Philadelphia; 16pts) and grinder Jordan Martinook (25pts).

In the defensive argument of the Yotes, there are holes. However, the trade for Niklas Hjalmarsson (18pts; +4 rating) is perhaps one of the off-season’s biggest victories throughout the league. He’ll play with All-Star Oliver Ekman-Larsson (39pts), who needs and will improve his plus/minus.

Jakob Chychrun (20pts) is yet another star on the rise, and in development. He will help make the Yotes contenders after his recovery from a leg injury, which will sideline him indefinitely. Add in consistent two-way defenseman Alex Goligoski (36pts), and Luke Schenn (27 years old), and things appear to improve with the young formation.

Antti Rantta, another former Ranger, has a huge role to play in Arizona’s pending success in net. From backup role to mainstay will put pressure on the 28-year-old who played 29 games last season owning a .922 save percentage. Unfortunately, to get more wins to push for the playoffs, Louis Domingue cannot share the main goalie role.

The Arizona Coyotes are the most likely “bad” team to find success. A huge part of the reason is management entrusting the young players but also because their opposition is weakening, such as the Kings, and they need to take advantage of the situation.

Expect them to do much better than 28th overall in the league.

My bold predictions? A spot in the playoffs, via a wild card position.

What’s your opinion of what these three teams will do this upcoming season? Let us know in the comments sections below.

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Blayke Clarke

A Canadian sports fan. I live up in the harsh and untamed climates of Northern Saskatchewan, where the winters are colder than polar bear's arse, and the summers are filled with pterodactyl-sized mosquitoes.

Hockey, combat sports, and lifting weights are life's greatest gifts.

Sabres, Jets, Coyotes: Going from bad to good

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