October, to most people, means changing leaves, reasonable, non-face melting temperatures, and pumpkin spiced everything.
To hockey fans, though, October is the month when hockey begins and the world rights itself again. Since there's less than a week left until the start of the regular season, I will be doing a two-part preview.
Today's part is “Same Faces, New Places.” Many players have been around the league for years and are still searching for their first Cup. They have All-Star resumes, with trophies galore, but they've yet to drink from the Holy Grail of sports. Here are five Stanley Cup-less stars who switched teams this off-season:
Thomas Vanek, Left Wing, Old Team: Montreal Canadiens, New Team: Minnesota Wild
After starting last season with the Buffalo Sabres, Vanek was traded to the New York Islanders and again traded to the Canadiens at the trade deadline. Despite playing for three different teams last year, the 30-year-old Vanek was able to put together a solid, All-Star level season (27 goals, 41 assists, 68 points) thanks to his superior goal scoring ability and ability to destroy the Boston Bruins both during the regular season and playoffs (5 goals, 6 assists, 11 points). In Minnesota this season, on a three-year, $19.5 million he joins fellow All-Stars Zach Parise and Ryan Suter on one the most top-heavy teams in the league. While he's not expected to be the sole offensive producer (that's Zach Parise's job), he is expected to stabilize and strengthen the second line of a team that lacks depth.
Jarome Iginla, Right Wing, Old Team: Boston Bruins, New Team: Colorado Avalanche
As a 37-year-old veteran, Iginla had a remarkable season last year scoring 30 goals (his 12th 30 goal season) and notching 31 assists. He was a natural fit with the Bruins while playing alongside strongman winger Milan Lucic and playmaker David Krejci. If not for severe cap constraints, he would have stayed with Boston another year. Instead, he signed a three-year $16 million deal with the Colorado Avalanche, a team looking to build on last year's unexpected playoff success. He's currently projected to be on the first line with 23-year-old center Matt Duchene and 21-year-old Gabriel Landeskog, two guys he's old enough to have fathered. He will definitely be expected to bring a veteran, future Hall of Famer presence to the team as they progress this season and beyond.
Jason Spezza, Center, Old Team: Ottawa Senators, New Team: Dallas Stars
31-year-old playmaker, Jason Spezza has been a metronome in Ottawa for the past 11 seasons. He has posted nine 50 plus point seasons, made four All-Star teams, and guided the Senators to eight playoff appearances. So, it was somewhat of a surprise when Spezza told the Ottawa Senators he wanted to be traded to the Dallas Stars this off-season. Now that Spezza is in Dallas, he hopes to be a strong, second-line centerman where he can show off his offensive skills and great passing ability with his former Senator teammate, winger Ales Hemsky. However, his biggest impact will be on the powerplay, where he will be playing on the top unit with fellow playmakers Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn.
Ryan Miller, Goaltender, Old Team: St. Louis Blues, New Team: Vancouver Canucks
The 34-year-old Ryan Miller is a Vezina award winning goaltender. That being said, last season could not have been what he expected. After ten seasons with the Buffalo Sabres, he was traded to the St. Louis Blues, who were hoping that they acquired a game changing goaltender. Unfortunately for them, Miller posted just average numbers with the Blues (.903 SV % and a 2.47 GAA) which led to a first round loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. After signing a three-year $18 million contract with the Vancouver Canucks, he hopes that this season will be different. And after the Roberto Loungo catastrophe in Vancouver last season, the Canucks are this season will be different as well. Miller is anticipated to be the franchise goaltender in Vancouver for this season and the future as the Canucks are rebuilding around an already capable core.
Ryan Kesler, Center, Old Team: Vancouver Canucks, New Team: Anaheim Ducks
Known for his ability as a two-way forward, Kesler's move to Anaheim from Vancouver was my favorite off-season decision. After a somewhat disappointing season with the Canucks (25 goals, 18 assists, 43 points), Kesler was traded to the Anaheim Ducks. With this move, the Ducks added a Selke award-winning center to an already stacked position group allowing them to compete with Los Angeles, Chicago and St. Louis. For Kesler, playing with the Ducks gives him a chance to play with two physical, young wingers, Jakob Silfverberg and Matt Beleskey, who complement his playing style, on a team that is competing for a Stanley Cup right now.