James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Dose: Atlantic Drift

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


The 2013-14 season is more than half over now, and the 2014 Winter Olympics aren’t that far ahead on the horizon. The year remains strange-to-write-it-on-checks new (or weird to write/scribble on the top of papers new, if you’re lucky enough to still be in school*). With this feeling of vast uncertainty ahead, it seems like a good time to take a step back from the frontlines of dump-and-chase drudgery and occasional, sudden brilliance and ponder the big picture.

 

So, with that, I thought I’d take a long-term view of all 30 NHL teams. To make it a bit more reasonable, I thought I’d break them up in four-division chunks. The ideal dispersal would be for the next four days of this week, but someone could get traded or fired (but not Jonas Hiller!) and preempt a division or two. So we’ll see, but they’ll eventually all be out there for your perusal.

 

I figure the fairest way to do it would be in alphabetical order, since it humorously gets me off the hook for East Coast Bias yet also means that we begin with the East’s Atlantic Division.

 

Let’s get rolling after this commercial break.

 

Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a $1,500 Fantasy Hockey league for Wednesday's NHL games. It's just $10 to join and first prize is $350. Starts Wednesday at 7:30pm ET. Here's the FanDuel link.

 

For everything NHL, check out Rotoworld's Player News and follow @Rotoworld_ HK+@cyclelikesedins on Twitter.

 

BOSTON BRUINS

 

Home games remaining: 16

 

Road games remaining: 20

 

Tough stretches: The Bruins play four of their next five games on the road, largely against teams that have been playing well.

 

Things finish pretty difficultly, too. Let me just list the stretches that began on March 18:

 

-- Three in a row on the road, then two at home.

 

-- Then four away games in a row and six of seven away.

 

-- So, from March 18 - April 10 they play nine of 12 games on the road. On the bright side, they only deal with one back-to-back in that span.

 

Lucrative stretches: It's mostly challenging for the B's, but late January to early March ranks as the closest to gravy days.

 

-- They play four games in a row at home, then they rotate away and home games before the Olympics kick in.

 

-- One road game, then three of four at home after the Olympics.

 

Olympic factor: Five players (numbers via Lyle Richardson’s handy guide)

 

The good news is that the Bruins don’t have a ton of guys going to Sochi. The bad is that many of their high-usage players will probably get the same roles for their countries; Zdeno Chara will be called upon often, Tuukka Rask might be the No. 1 guy for Finland and Patrice Bergeron could either get buried in the deep talent pool for Canada or doing the dirty word for the glamor guys.

 

BUFFALO SABRES

 

Home games remaining: 16

 

Road games remaining: 21

 

Tough stretches: The Sabres face four of five games on the road, but March is going to be slaughter. Here's how it plays out:

 

-- Three away games in a row, including back-to-backs in Florida. After that, they get a two game breather, though against Chicago and Nashville.

 

-- They play two away contests, one game at home and then five straight road games. Overall, that's nine out of 12 on the road in March. There are two back-to-backs during that stretch. So, basically ... run.

 

Lucrative stretches: Not too many, but they could play well right before the Olympic break, as Buffalo enjoys five of six games at home. They've been more competitive in Buffalo lately.

 

Olympic factor: Two players

 

Strange situation for the woeful Sabres: it's not inconceivable that both of their goalies could get injured, as far-fetched as it seems for Jhonas Enroth to play much for Sweden. Still, yikes.

 

DETROIT RED WINGS

 

Home games remaining: 18

 

Road games remaining: 18

 

Tough stretches: They're about to end a five-game road trip on Thursday, so that's nice. The bright side is that the Olympics break up what looks like a tough stretch: two road games before Sochi, three after. Hopefully they'll have a nice margin of error at the end of the season, as they end with three of four away games.

 

Nothing too tough, really, especially for a team that's been pretty strong on the road.

 

Lucrative stretches: It's a shame that the Red Wings are so beaten up right now, because they could really mop up points beginning this coming weekend. After Thursday's road game against the Rangers, they'll play five home games in a row. Yes, they've been weak in Detroit, but I think that's more of a fluke (and the sign of a team that just generally isn't elite any longer) than anything else.

 

Olympic factor: 10 players.

 

Not good. The Red Wings are basically team Sweden, and Jimmy Howard probably won't benefit much from getting jetlag and doubted as America's distant third goalie. It's not ideal that injury-ravaged Daniel Alfredsson is carting his old self overseas while heavy-burden players like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg will log even more mileage.

 

FLORIDA PANTHERS

 

Home games remaining: 18

 

Road games remaining: 18

 

Tough stretches: The Panthers play seven of eight on the road beginning on Jan. 20 (three road, one home, four away).

 

They should be able to improve their draft lottery odds (if applicable) in March, as they play four away in a row, three at home and then two more on the road.

 

So nothing monstrous, but maybe enough to kill their slim chances.

 

Lucrative stretches: The Panthers play five of six from March 7-16.

 

In the event that they actually are in the mix, they could finish strong. They play three in a row at home, then two on the road and then five more in Sunrise. Overall, they'll play eight out of 10 games in Florida.

 

Olympic factor: Two players.

 

Sure, it’s embarrassing that basically no Panthers are wanted. But hey, it’s good that people are getting breaks … though not as good if the team continues to finally play well.

 

MONTREAL CANADIENS

 

Home games remaining: 16

 

Road games remaining: 19

 

Tough stretches: The Habs play four straight road games beginning Thursday. There are four more in a row in early March, including a back-to-back in the middle.

 

The real challenge is late March. They play six of seven contests on the road from March 22 - April 4. Depending upon when your fantasy playoffs happen, that might get a little hairy.

 

Lucrative stretches: The Habs play six of seven games in Montreal from Jan. 25 - Feb. 6.

 

Montreal gets four of five at home in mid-March. But yeah, that late January run is the main money time.

 

Olympic factor: Eight players.

 

Carey Price has a great chance to be the No. 1 guy for Canada, although Roberto Luongo should get a great chance to defend the gold. And hey, look at that, both of their goalies are in the Olympics for Montreal, too. The bad news is there are a lot of Canadiens playing for Canadians and other nations. But at least most of them are pretty young.

 

OTTAWA SENATORS

 

Home games remaining: 16

 

Road games remaining: 19

 

Tough stretches: Get ready for wild mood swings among the Senators press and other Ottawa observers, they'll play four in a row and seven of eight from Jan. 21 to Feb. 4. They don't get much of a break, though, as they rotate before playing four away in a row and five of six away from Ottawa. So, overall, from Jan. 21 to March 15, the Senators will play 13 out of 17 games on the road. If they survive that stretch, they could be quite the grizzled bunch.

 

Lucrative stretches: It's not going to be too easy too often for the Sens, but they will play five home games in a row from March 28 to April 4 and seven of nine when you extend that to April 12. So maybe they'll squeeze right into the playoffs?

 

Olympic factor: Just two players made the Olympic team, so Ottawa can rest up for their tough finish. They're a young team, too, so it could be interesting.

 

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

 

Home games remaining: 20

 

Road games remaining: 16

 

Toughest stretches: The Lightning play four in a row on the road from Jan. 28 to Feb. 6 and then two home games before the Olympic break. After everyone returns, they play more four away contests in a row. So that's probably the biggest mountain.

 

The other challenging stretch could be five of seven on the road from March 19-30.

 

Lucrative stretches: Tampa Bay gets four of five games at home beginning on Thursday, but the home stretch might be pull away time for the Bolts (bonus points if Steve Stamkos is along for the ride).

 

They play six games in a row in the 'Bay** from March 6-17 and another six consecutive home games from April 1-11. So maybe trade for Lightning players late in the game?

 

Olympic factor: Six players

 

That number might seem a little imposing, but the Lightning have gotten kind of lucky (the Lightning, not Lightning players) beyond the obvious RG III-ish risks involved with Stamkos trying to rush back from his troubling injury to play in Sochi. (Look, they're saying all the right things ... but that's how I see it.)

 

Anyway, beyond that, some significant snubs could give Tampa Bay the kind of boost that could give them a great chance to take the Atlantic. Ben Bishop, Victor Hedman and Martin St. Louis all get lengthy breaks, which is nice because they are all go-to guys. So I'd say it's mostly a good thing beyond the obvious really big, flashing red button that says "Uh oh Stamkos."

 

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

 

Home games remaining: 16

 

Road games remaining: 19

 

Tough stretches: Really, it's one stretch, but it's a big ugly one. Let's roll it out to make it digestible:

 

-- They'll play four of five games away from Toronto. They then rotate home and away in between another tough run.

 

-- Which would be five more away contests.

 

-- Overall, they'll play 10 of 13 games on the road from Feb. 4 to March 18. Thankfully, the Olympic break obviously makes it a BIT less challenging, but it's still a run that could prove problematic for a team many don't believe in.

 

Lucrative stretches: There isn't anything outstanding, except maybe a run from mid-March to early April. The Maple Leafs play three of four games in Toronto and seven of nine at home overall from March 19 - April 5.

 

Olympic impact: Three players

 

Pretty amazing that the team that is obsessed over the most by Canadians (along with Montreal, maybe ... not trying to start a flamewar on this one) is only sending two 'Mericans and one Russian overseas. Of course, they depend heavily upon Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk's offense, so Leafs fans and their owners should root for safety in Sochi.

 

For a full list of injuries and suspensions, click here.

 

* - Seriously, don’t be one of those Doogie Howser-level overachievers unless you have some sweet gig lined up or are up to your teeth in loan debt. Stretch your legs. Smell the roses. If you can.

 

** - Do people call it that? Probably not.



James O'Brien is the Hockey Daily Dose's author and has been a contributor to NBC's Pro Hockey Talk for more than two years. Follow him on Twitter.
Email :James O'Brien


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