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Draft Guide

Surprises & Disappointments

by Michael Finewax
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:09 pm ET

This week’s Roundtable question is:

 

Who is your most surprising and disappointing team this season in the NHL?

 

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Corey Abbott: I've been impressed and surprised by the play of the Islanders so far.  They've had some inconsistent goaltending, but newcomers Johnny Boychuk and Mikhail Grabovski as well as the emergence of Brock Nelson have provided solid support for John Tavares and Kyle Okposo.  The team was desperate to be successful after giving up their first-round pick to Buffalo in the Thomas Vanek trade and the moves they've made during the off-season have yielded positive results in the early going.  

 

Brian Rosenbaum: I am somewhat surprised how well the Flames have done. I didn't expect them to be so prolific offensively. Mark Giordano and T.J. Brodie have been off the charts good. Sean Monahan is blossoming before our eyes and even ex-Maple Leaf Joe Colborne was very effective before he got injured. Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo have given the Flames solid goaltending as well. It will be interesting to see if they can keep it up. 

 

Ryan Dadoun: The Flames and Islanders are good picks, but the biggest surprise for me is Nashville leading the Central Division.  I figured getting back Pekka Rinne would help, but not to this extent.  He's not only been an early contender for the Vezina, but maybe even the Hart as well.  The additions of James Neal and Mike Ribeiro as well as the rise of Filip Forsberg has certainly helped a lot, but this is a team that's been winning primarily thanks to its strong defensive play and goaltending.

 

Michael Finewax: I am more surprised with Calgary than I am with the Predators as Nashville has always been a good defensive team and now that Pekka Rinne is back, he is shutting the door, but I am surprised by the Winnipeg Jets. I was not a fan of Ondrej Pavelec at all heading into the season but he is carrying the team as the Jets are sixth best in goals-against-average heading into Sunday's action. Bryan Little, Blake Wheeler and Andrew Ladd are leading them offensively and if Jacob Trouba, Dustin Byfuglien and Mark Scheifele could ever get things going, the Jets could make the playoffs. Having Evander Kane back in the lineup certainly doesn't hurt as well.

 

Corey Abbott: I've been pleasantly surprised with the Flames as well.  This was a club that was pegged as a potential lottery pick candidate entering the season.  They have received great goaltending, especially from Jonas Hiller, who was cast aside by Anaheim.  I like the way Jets are playing, but their rocky start and overall lack of goals has made me skeptical about their recent success.  I'm also not sure what to make of the Ottawa Senators yet.  Here's another team that went into the 2014-15 campaign with low expectations, but they've been riding strong goaltending and a fairly balanced offensive attack. 

 

Brian Rosenbaum: I may be alone on this, but is anyone surprised that the Canadiens are doing as well they have (10-4-1 record) given that they have scored a mere 37 goals and allowed 42 in 15 games? I think most experts believe the Habs will be a playoff team but the fact that no player has registered more than 10 points and that the Habs are tied for first in the Eastern conference with a minus five goal differential is very surprising indeed. 

 

Ryan Dadoun: I definitely didn't think Winnipeg would be 8-5-2 through 15 games, but I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop with them.  They might prove me wrong, but I just can't buy into the idea that Pavelec is a top tier goaltender, which he'll have to be for Winnipeg to keep winning the way they have been.  Craig Anderson has been, at times, the kind of goaltender who can carry a team though, so I'm less dismissive of Ottawa's solid start.  Of all the team's mentioned so far though, I think the Islanders' decent start is the most sustainable.  They made significant upgrades before the 2014-15 campaign started and have been developing some talented prospects that are slowly becoming bigger contributors, so I have no problem buying into the idea that they're simply a better team than they were in 2013-14.

 

Michael Finewax: Brian, I think amongst the four of us you are alone in your thinking about the Montreal Canadiens. There are the teams that have been mentioned like the Islanders, Flames and Jets who are much bigger surprises. The Islanders have been picking so high in the last 10 years, while I am surprised at what they have done, it's about time.  

 
Now let's look at the biggest disappointments.

 

Ryan Dadoun: For me, the biggest disappointment is Edmonton.  Did I expect them to be good?  No, but they have to be better than this.  The franchise of Wayne GretzkyMark Messier, Jari Kurri, and Paul Coffey has turned into an embarrassment.  They're the poster child for the dangers of trying to build almost exclusively through the draft.  Because at the end of the day, it's not just that they're on their way to missing the playoffs for a ninth straight season, it's that they might end up in or near the Western Conference basement yet again.

 

Brian Rosenbaum: I agree with Ryan, the Oilers continue to disappoint. However, expectations were not that high in Edmonton to begin with. Not so in Dallas. The Stars were supposed to be a burgeoning powerhouse with the additions of Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky, the maturing of Valeri Nichushkin and Jordie Benn and the star power of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Instead, they are last in the Central Divison with a 4-6-4 record and look anything but dominant. They can't hold a lead and despite the fact Spezza has been quite good, Hemsky has registered only one point in 14 games. Certainly not what I was expecting.

 

Michael Finewax: And I agree with Brian.  I looked at some of the pre-season predictions and enough people were picking the Stars to win it all. While they are getting nice production from Benn, Seguin and Spezza, that's really been it. Colorado has also been a huge disappointment but I thought that they could fall back after such a big leap last season. The Avs do not play defense very well at this time and that is not a recipe for success. 

 

Corey Abbott: What's been most surprising to me from Colorado's perspective is the struggles they have had offensively.  Matt Duchene and Nathan MacKinnon are starting to show spurts, but Ryan O'Reilly and Gabriel Landeskog haven't been themselves.  I've been disappointed with the play of Columbus to this point.  They were expected to take significant steps forward this season, but injuries to key players have just devastated them.  

Michael Finewax

Michael Finewax is entering his 16th season as the Senior Hockey Writer and Editor for NBC Sports Edge. You can follow him on Twitter @mfinewaxhockey.