NHL Morning Coffee Headlines – September 16, 2011.

It’s the “top questions/storylines entering training camp” edition! Check ’em out for the Red Wings, Penguins, Blackhawks, Rangers, Predators, Maple Leafs, Devils, Hurricanes and Blues. 

CBC.CA: offers up ten NHL storylines to follow as teams begin training camp. Topping the list: Sidney Crosby’s health, and Drew Doughty’s contract status.

USA TODAY: Kevin Allen offers up “ten questions” heading into camp. Among them: who will be the Flyers leader? Will Alexander Ovechkin be the scorer he was two years ago.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My answers: Chris Pronger. Yes.

MLIVE.COM: Ansar Khan looks at roster questions facing the Detroit Red Wings. Among them: Will Ian White work well as Nicklas Lidstrom’s defense partner? Who will secure the number 6 spot on defense: Mike Commodore or Jakub Kindl?

SPECTOR’S NOTE: My answers: Yes, and Commodore.

PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE: looks at the five biggest questions facing the Penguins. Among them: Who’s healthy enough to do what? And will a new position restore James Neal’s old touch?

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal are healthy enough to lead, and I think Neal’s struggles last season was adjusting to a new team. He should be more comfortable this season, which should help him regain his scoring touch.

CHICAGO DAILY HERALD: Tim Sassone offers up ten questions facing the Blackhawks. Among them: How much will Brian Campbell be missed? Is Corey Crawford the real deal?

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Campbell will be missed more than Blackhawks fans realize, but they’ve still got enough depth to compensate, and yes.

NEW YORK POST: Larry Brooks offers up not five, but six questions facing the Rangers. Among them: will Wojtek Wolski make the most of his opportunity to play left wing on the Rangers first line? Is Mats Zuccarello more suited to the NHL grind than he was a year ago?

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Wolski had best seize that opportunity, or he’ll be trade bait again this season, and yes, I believe Zuccarello will be better suited to the NHL grind this season.

THE TENNESSEAN: Josh Cooper with five questions facing the Predators. Among them: what will GM David Poile do with his “big three” of Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and Pekka Rinne?

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Suter and Rinne are re-signed, Suter will be shopped at the entry draft weekend. I hope I’m wrong about the latter, but if the Predators stick to their cost-conscious ways, I don’t see how they can afford all three.

THE GLOBE AND MAIL: James Mirtle has five keys to the Maple Leafs training camp, and he ain’t talking about those to the arena doors. Among them: Jonas Gustavsson vs himself as the Leafs backup, and Matt Lombardi’s health.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Gustavsson needs to put it all together this season, or it’ll be his last with the Leafs, and if Lombardi makes a full recovery from post-concussion symptoms, he’ll provide invaluable depth at center for the Leafs.

NJ.COM: Rich Chere offers up what to look for in Devils training camp. One thing is who plays first line center while Travis Zajac is sidelined, while another is the search for a team captain.

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m guessing Patrik Elias as first line center, Zach Parise or Elias as captain.

NEWSOBSERVER.COM: Chip Alexander with five questions for the Hurricanes. Among them: Who plays with Eric Staal? Is there another Jeff Skinner in the works?

SPECTOR’S NOTE: Alexander suggests Alexei Ponikarovsky and perhaps Jussi Jokinen could be Staal’s new linemates. The club has a promising young blueliner in Ryan Murphy but I have my doubts he cracks the roster this season.

ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH: Jeremy Rutherford has “ten burning questions” for the Blues. Among them: Can Chris Stewart become a 40-goal scorer? Can goalie Jaroslav Halak show more consistency in year two?

SPECTOR’S NOTE: I’m expecting a bounce-back season for Halak, and while it remains to be seen if Stewart can reach 40-goals, I wouldn’t rule out a 30-goal season.




  1. Couldn’t agree more with Neal. The whole team was doing a slight transition since the attack wasn’t as strong having Malkin and Crosby off of it. Neal had a considerably tough time adjusting since he is an excellent complimentary player (exactly what is needed for Crosby) but not the type to make their own offence. Not a knock against him, he just fills a specific and desirable role. A lot of fans wanted him dumped after the season, but I strongly believe he’ll have a breakout campaign this year.
    As for Malkin and Staal leading the team, I totally agree. Malkin is going to be back, healthy and well rested, but more importantly hungry for action. With Crosby’s absence, he’ll have full reign to take advantage of all the top units and ice time. Staal was thrown to the wolves last year and I believe that while he is still incredibly young, has learned from that experience and will be a much better and complete player from it. The size and skills are there so as long as he builds on last season, he’ll have a great year.

  2. I agree with everything, but i would love to see Kindl finally crack the top six in Detroit. Do you think Smith will play a lot this year? or is he still a year or two away?

  3. As for the Preds big issues, I’m of the opinion that only Rinne will sign long term with them. Suter and Weber can both cash in bigtime with a team that is always a Cup contender. With GM Poile once again failing to upgrade the teams offense, he hasn’t given Weber or Suter much of a reason to want to stay in Nashville. That, more than money issues, is what will likely cost them the services of those two players, IMO.