The Blackhawks officially began defense of their first Stanley Cup in
49 years Sunday when they opened training camp. However, the team that
assembled at The Edge in Bensenville, Illinois was not the same team
that defeated the Flyers in last season's finals.
The Blackhawks needed to make plenty of changes to stay under the
salary cap, meaning such players as Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg,
Andrew Ladd, Brent Sopel, Colin Fraser, Ben Eager, Adam Burish and
John Madden are gone. While there figures to be an adjustment period
with so much roster turnover, there is also a sense of excitement with
so many players trying to prove they belong on a championship team.
"We just have to get everybody on board," Blackhawks captain Jonathan
Toews. "The culture of our team — the winning culture of the way we
work as a team — doesn't change. There are some new guys but we've got
the same leaders, the same core group. Whoever comes in and becomes a
part of it, we're going to make sure they know what it takes to be a
Viktor Stalberg, Jack Skille, Bryan Bickell, Jake Dowell and Fernando
Pisani are the new players expected to make the biggest impact.
Stalberg will add an element of speed while serving as Versteeg's
replacement while Pisani is expected to fill Madden's shoes on the
Skille, Bickell and Dowell are all products of the Blackhawks' system.
General manager Stan Bowman said all three played well enough to make
the team in previous training camps but wound up back in the AHL
because of the organization's depth. This time, though, all figure to
be on the season-opening roster as replacements for Ladd, Byfuglien
"They're going to play bigger roles going forward," Bowman said. "We
also got Stalberg from Toronto, and he's going to be a player that
surprises some people. When you add it all together, there are some
things to be excited about."
The Blackhawks, though, aren't without mainstays as Toews, Patrick
Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Dave Bolland, Troy Brouwer and
Tomas Kopecky all return up front. Furthermore, six of their seven
defensemen return in Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Brian Campbell,
Niklas Hjalmarsson, Jordan Hendry and Nick Boynton.
The Sabres have been waiting for Drew Stafford to become a star since
making him their first-round draft pick and 13th overall selection in
2004. He has just 63 goals and 144 points in 255 career games,
including 14 goals and 20 assists in 71 games.
"I wish the process was faster," Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. "I wish
it would go in a straight line, but like most players it's a little
bit of a roller coaster ride, and then they lock into, 'I think I've
got it. I think I've got it.'"
Ruff believes Stafford can start tapping more into his potential this
season by shooting more. The theory is that the more shots Stafford
takes, the better the chance more of them will reach the back of the
"It's probably as simple as this: He's going to have to shoot the puck
more," Ruff said. "There's too many times inside of a game where he's
looking for something better. If I wanted to use what (the Penguins'
Sidney) Crosby went into last year with, was trying to get 100 or 200
more shots, I think that if Drew uses that same analogy, it's more
north-south, it's get more pucks to the net and let's get this big
body around the net more, the success will come."
Stafford averaged 2.55 shots a game last season but he will have to
prove he deserves to be on the ice this season before he can try to
increase that total. He was a healthy scratch during the Sabres' final
playoff games last season, sitting in favor of three players who had
spent the regular season in the minor leagues.
"It was definitely tough, a tough year for me," Stafford said. "If you
dwell on it, it can be distracting. All that kind of negative attitude
can bring you down, can bring everyone else down. It's something
(where) you need to try to stay positive and just try to work through
it. That's all you can do."
Maple Leafs president and general manager Brian Burke, not
surprisingly, drew a lot of attention during the Molson Canadian World
Hockey Summit in Toronto. Everyone wanted to know Burke's views on
whether NHL players should participate in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi,
Burke is the GM of USA Hockey and believes the NHL needs to gain more
both from a financial and public relations standpoint in 2014 than it
did the last two times the games were held outside North America in
1998 and 2006.
"We had a perfect storm in Vancouver with the right teams and good TV
numbers," Burke said of this year's Olympics. "But we didn't get a
thing out of Torino and Nagano. So we've gone four times in all and
got benefit from two of them. The Leafs want to go and I want to go as
GM of USA Hockey. But we have teams losing a lot of money who shut
their doors at a critical part of the season. So it's not that simple.
(Europeans) don't have to deal with our problems."
Burke, though, seems to be in the minority in thinking that the NHL
should consider skipping Sochi. Among those who support the idea of
NHL players participating in a fifth straight Olympics are
International Ice Hockey Federation president Rene Fasel, Kontinental
Hockey League president Alexander Medvedev and even some Canadian
officials, who dismissed Burke's comments as fear-mongering.
Bill Guerin thinks the Flyers have what it takes to win a Stanley Cup
after losing in the finals last season. Now, the veteran right wing
hopes that the Flyers feel he can be a player who can help push them
over the top.
"This team has a shot," the 39-year-old Guerin said. "At my age, I'm
not looking to go somewhere just to play. If I wanted that, I could go
a lot of places. I want to win, and this is a great organization. Guys
know that even if they've never played one game for the Flyers.
They've always tried to win, and people have a lot of respect for
The Flyers are just $877,000 below the $59.4 million salary cap.
Still, Guerin hopes that Flyers GM Paul Holgren can find space for
"He's in a tough position right now, I understand that," Guerin said.
Guerin made $2 million last season when he had 21 goals and 24 assists
in 78 games for the Penguins. The Flyers could use another right
winger as veteran Ian Laperriere and newcomer Nikolai Zherdev are the
only regulars who naturally play the right side.
"I don't know what it's going to be but it's something I'm very
flexible on," Guerin said.
John Perrotto is an author of Puck Prospectus. You can contact John by clicking here or click here to see John's other articles.