Now that the NHL All-Star weekend has arrived, we will look again and mirror upon the season up to now. While some groups and gamers have carried out proper according to expectations, others have been main surprises for one purpose or one other.
Let’s check out a number of the greatest shockers the NHL has give us within the 2022-23 season.
Entering the 2021-22 season, expectations had been excessive for the Seattle Kraken. How may they not be? Just take a look at what the Vegas Golden Knights did of their inaugural season. Surely, the Kraken may do the identical factor. Well, Seattle wound up ending fifteenth within the Western Conference with 60 factors and a minus-69 objective differential. It appeared like it will take some time for the Kraken to be aggressive.
Instead, it took only one offseason. At the 2023 NHL All-Star break, the Kraken are within the Pacific Division’s prime spot with 63 factors, three greater than they earned all of final season. Even although the goaltending state of affairs remains to be on shaky floor, the Kraken are taking part in higher defensively, and a few new faces have bolstered the offense in a significant means.
Matty Beniers is main the Calder Trophy race with 17 objectives and 19 assists, and it appears like he can be a foundational piece for this fledgling franchise.Andre Burakovsky, the workforce’s massive free agent acquisition, has lived as much as his payday with 13 objectives and 39 factors in 48 video games performed.Those two have performed a giant function within the Kraken scoring 177 objectives, which is fifth within the NHL.
There Kraken do have some potential crimson flags, like their abnormally excessive taking pictures share and untrustworthy goaltending, however they’ve purchased themselves fairly a little bit of wiggle room. It has been nice to see Climate Pledge Arena rocking, and it seems as if the Seattle fan base will get to take pleasure in some playoff hockey this spring. — Austin Nivison
After going 27-46-9 a season in the past, few exterior of the Devils’ locker room believed that this workforce was able to the primary half that they put collectively. The Devils are in second place within the Metropolitan Division with a 32-13-4 file (68 factors) and have been one of many NHL’s greatest success tales up to now.
Despite being simply 21, Jack Hughes has developed right into a famous person. He recorded 33 objectives in 49 video games and is on his technique to his second consecutive All-Star Game. Hughes is pacing a Devils offensive unit that ranks sixth within the league with 3.47 goals-per-game.
The Devils are additionally seeing an upswing between the pipes. Since Martin Brodeur left New Jersey, the Devils have completed within the prime 10 in objectives towards simply as soon as after ending within the prime 10 in 19 of the 20 seasons Brodeur spent with the franchise. Vitek Vanecek is altering the narrative for the Devils, who hit the All-Star break third within the NHL in objectives towards.
In 32 video games this season, Vanecek ranks fourth in goals-against-average (2.29) and fifth in wins (21) amongst NHL goalies and has been victorious in his final 9 begins relationship again to Dec. 28. During the month of January, Vanecek posted a 2.07 goals-against-average and a .932 save share for a Devils workforce that hopes to catch the Carolina Hurricanes atop the Metropolitan Division.
After profitable a franchise file 13 consecutive video games early on this season, the query was whether or not or not the Devils had been simply off to a scorching begin. That query has been answered. — Chris Bengel
I predicted that the Flames would win the Stanley Cup earlier than the season, so you can say that them being exterior the playoffs on the All-Star break is a little bit of a shock. Even although Calgary misplaced Johnny Gaudreau and Matthew Tkachuk in the identical offseason, it managed to reload with some massive acquisitions of its personal, a minimum of on paper.
In sending Tkachuk to the Florida Panthers, the Flames acquired star winger Jonathan Huberdeau and top-pairing defenseman MacKenzie Weegar. Calgary additionally made a splash in free company by signing Nazem Kadri, who performed a giant function in delivering a Stanley Cup to Colorado final season. Add these gamers to an already gifted roster, and it appeared like a coup for the Flames.
Unfortunately, it simply hasn’t labored out that means. Neither Huberdeau nor Weegar have panned out so far. We’ll discuss extra about Huberdeau in a minute, however Weegar has been equally disappointing. He is on tempo for simply two objectives and 25 factors on the 12 months, however a minimum of his on-ice impacts have been robust. The Flames management 57.24% of the anticipated objectives with Weegar on the ice at five-on-five, so a turnaround may very well be on the way in which.
The possibilities that issues lastly click on for the Flames are nonetheless fairly excessive. There is a ton of expertise on this roster, and Darryl Sutter is a confirmed head coach. Having stated that, the Western Conference playoff race can be very aggressive, and Calgary cannot afford many extra missteps. — Nivison
After profitable the Presidents’ Trophy final season, expectations remained excessive for the Panthers. The workforce noticed commerce deadline addition Claude Giroux go away to signal together with his hometown Ottawa Senators, however the Panthers did not sit on their arms. Florida’s entrance workplace made an enormous splash with that aforementioned cope with Calgary.
However, on the All-Star break, Florida has only a 24-22-6 file (54 factors) and sits in fifth place within the Atlantic Division. To make issues worse, they’re presently on the surface trying in with regards to the playoff image, three factors behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the second Wild Card spot within the East. This is a workforce that scores the seventh-most objectives (3.40) within the league on the season, so it isn’t like they’re failing to place the puck within the internet.
The goaltending division is the place Florida is struggling, as they’re surrendering 3.50 goals-per-game. It’s been a timeshare within the crease between veteran Sergei Bobrovsky (12-13-2, 3.24 GAA) and teenager Spencer Knight (9-7-3, 3.05 GAA). If the Panthers hope to make a playoff push, they will want one among their netminders to be much more constant. — Bengel
Karlsson had been in decline since he joined the Sharks forward of the 2018-19 season. He’s turned again the clock and is likely one of the frontrunners to win the Norris Trophy now. On an in any other case dangerous workforce, Karlsson has excelled, and he’s most likely stopping the Sharks from being even greater within the draft lottery.
Through 51 video games performed, Karlsson has 16 objectives and 66 factors. He hasn’t posted numbers like these since 2016-17, when he did it in a full season. Now, Karlson is on tempo for 106 factors, which might be an incomprehensible quantity for a defenseman. It can be truthful to wonder if Karlsson is simply piling up empty-calorie factors on the ability play, however that’s simply not the case. San Jose has been good with Karlsson within the recreation at five-on-five. In these conditions, the Sharks personal 56.41% of the anticipated objectives and have outscored opponents 69-54.
For some time, it appeared like Karlsson’s $11.5 million wage cap hit can be an anchor across the workforce’s neck by means of the 2026-27 marketing campaign. Now, Karlsson is taking part in as much as that contract after which some. In reality, San Jose would possibly even be capable to deal Karlsson for some premium belongings to bolster the rebuilding course of. — Nivison
For the primary time because the 2010-11 season, the playoffs are an attainable objective for the Sabres. The star of energy of Tage Thompson is a central storyline surrounding their success.
During the 2021-22 season, Thompson confirmed why he was part of the 2018 commerce that despatched veteran ahead Ryan O’Reilly to the St. Louis Blues in a transfer that benefitted each franchises. Thompson recorded 68 factors (38 objectives and 30 assists) in 78 video games a season in the past. While he proved to be a powerful contributor, Thompson wasn’t fairly anticipated to grow to be one of many prime stars within the sport this rapidly.
Yet in simply 50 video games through the 2022-23 marketing campaign, Thompson has already equaled his level complete from final season with 34 objectives and 34 assists. The 25-year-old stud has six multi-goal video games on the 12 months, together with a five-goal efficiency in December. Simply put, Thompson has grow to be one of many sport’s most electrifying gamers.
Thompson was chosen to his first NHL All-Star Game earlier this month, however had get replaced by teammate Rasmus Dahlin after struggling an upper-body damage towards the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday. While the workforce remains to be awaiting additional testing, early stories are suggesting that it isn’t an damage that ought to maintain Thompson on the shelf very lengthy.
Thompson set the bar excessive a season in the past, however has actually taken his recreation to the following stage thus far this season. Considering that he has an opportunity to blow final season’s level complete out of the water, that actually comes off as a tad alarming. — Bengel
Jonathan Huberdeau | LW | Calgary Flames
Huberdeau completed the 2021-22 season with 30 objectives and 115 factors, and he was fifth in Hart Trophy voting on the finish of season. When he went to Calgary as a part of the Matthew Tkachuk commerce final July, it appeared like an incredible piece of labor by Flames common supervisor Brad Treliving.
For no matter purpose, Huberdeau simply hasn’t been in a position to hit his stride in a Flames uniform, although. At the All-Star break, Huberdeau has simply 10 objectives and 33 factors, which places him on tempo to complete woefully wanting his totals from final 12 months. What is likely to be much more regarding is that Huberdeau’s lack of manufacturing does not appear to be primarily based fully on dangerous luck.
Huberdeau’s taking pictures share is correct according to his profession common, and he’s solely barely under his anticipated objective complete of 11.07, per Natural Stat Trick. When it involves his help complete, 9 of his 23 are secondary assists. That does not bode nicely for future success both.
Whether it is so simple as Huberdeau struggling to regulate to a brand new system in Calgary or a step again for Huberdeau himself, the Flames need to get him going after the All-Star break. –– Nivision
When Johnny Gaudreau knowledgeable the Calgary Flames that he would not be re-signing with the workforce previous to the 2022 offseason, it was clear that the star winger can be the crown jewel of that class. He was, and he signed a seven-year, $68.25 million ($9.75 million AAV) cope with the Columbus Blue Jackets in a transfer that got here out of left discipline.
It was a transfer that shocked many, and halfway by means of Year 1, it could not have been essentially the most sound one.
Gaudreau has simply 49 factors (14 objectives & 35 assists) in 51 video games, which places him on tempo for 79 factors (23 objectives & 56 assists) on the season. His 49 factors are tied for thirty sixth throughout the league and that last projection it is a far cry from the career-high 115-point season that Gaudreau put collectively in his last marketing campaign in Calgary.
It’s clearly means too early to say that Gaudreau signing with the Blue Jackets was the improper transfer. However, taking part in with a deadly objective scorer like Patrik Laine ought to’ve most likely led to somewhat bit extra success by means of the primary half of the 12 months. This a franchise that presently sits in final place within the East with simply 34 factors, so it is arduous to categorize Gaudreau’s early tenure as something apart from a nasty shock. –Bengel
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