Hockey fans are beginning to get excited again, it’s almost October, which means puck drop is not too far away. Many questions surround this season, and this season more than ever, due to the fact that in the recent years, many franchise players are feeling a huge amount of pressure heading into the game. This article will look at which players are dealing with the most pressure heading into this new 14-15 season, whether it is a franchise player or a player dealt to a new team, or even a player who signed a big new deal with a new team or current team, these 10 players all have something in common: massive pressure heading into this new upcoming season.
10) Mark Fayne
This summer, Mark Fayne was a massive deal for the Oilers, as much will be expected from the 27 year old in his first season as a player for the franchise. For a guy who usually plays a quiet, under the radar defensive game, this time around, much will be expected from him in order to stabilize the Oilers long-time defensive roles. The American defensive brings not only a great puck moving game from the back end, but can also be a tremendous shut down defensemen, as we saw in his previous seasons with the Devils and typically played against the opposition’s best. After signing a 4-year contract, worth 14 million dollars, the expectations for Fayne in Edmonton are huge, as they finally look to solidify a position in defense. Look for Fayne to log some huge minutes this season in Edmonton.
9) Matt Niskanen
After a couple of average seasons, the former 1st round pick had a tremendous season in Pittsburgh, gathering career highs in goals, assists, points and plus minus. Matt Niskanen’s timing couldn’t of been any better, his season the following summer, labelled him as one of the most sought after players in the entire free agency pool. More than 10 teams made serious offers to get the defensemen, finally Niskanen agreed on a huge money deal with the Capitals, worth over $40 million for a length of 7 years ($5.75 mil per). This is a huge price tag for the defensemen who will have loads of pressure after signing with the Penguins biggest rival, the Washington Capitals. Expectations will undoubtedly be huge for Niskanen this season with his new team.
8) Thomas Vanek
Thomas Vanek was high on the Minesota Wild radar for quite some time now, dating all the way back to the trade deadline. Vanek was huge bait as a rental for many teams, in which he ultimately landed in Montreal. Vanek’s stock took a big hit in the playoffs. Despite Montreal’s heroic run, Vanek was a major bust, scoring only 5 goals in his former team’s playoff run. Discussions of him not being able to play in the playoffs started making many teams wonder exactly how much the left winger is actually worth. The Wild disregarded his playoff performance and signed him to a hefty deal worth $19.5 million, in exchange for a 3-year term ($6.5 mil per). Vanek’s performance this season will be watched closely, particularly in late April, if the Wild are to make a run for the cup.
7) Jason Spezza
Jason Spezza is another player who will be watched very closely this season, as he makes his debut with fellow teammate, Ales Hemskey, wearing a Dallas Stars jersey. After more than a decade of wearing the Sens’ jersey, the former captain of the team decided it was finally time to move on. Jason reports that he is excited be a part of his new team, in which he will likely be the team’s second-liner center, leaving Spezza with more room to operate. The Stars have some high expectations for this upcoming season, meaning that Spezza’s play will be crucial in terms of the team finally having some much needed second line scoring, after Seguin and Benn carried the load for most of last season. Expectations are high for Spezza in his first year as a Star in Dallas.
6) Joe Thornton
This past off season was filled with Joe Thornton trade rumors, many believing his days as a member of the Sharks were finally done, and that the team was ready to move on, after yet another failed run at the cup. This was especially the case, considering that this time more painful than in the past, after blowing a 3-0 series lead against the champion LA Kings team. After that brutal and embarrassing defeat, once again, “Jumbo Joe” took most of the heat for what transpired. To make matters worse, Thornton was stripped of his captaincy during the summer. Expectations for Thornton to redeem himself this year are highly hoped for; if his play slips in the slightest, look for a potential deal to be in place, sending Joe elsewhere.
5) Paul Stastny
After almost a decade of wearing the Avalanche jersey, Paul Stastny finally decided, during his free agency period, to jump ship to rivals, the St.Louis Blues. Stastny will bring the Blues some much needed help and creativity down the middle. Expectations will be huge for the former first round pick, after signing a 4-year deal worth $28 million, making him amongst some of the highest paid centers in the league. This is a huge opportunity for Paul to finally burst out as one of the league’s most elite centers in the game. But as we might assume, along with massive contract, comes massive pressure.
4) David Krejci
David Krejci’s massive new 6-years – $43.25 million dollar deal, has turned a lot of heads in the National Hockey League. This new deal will make Krejci the highest paid Bruin on the team, making more than the team’s captain and former Norris Trophy winner, Zdeno Chara and star center and this year’s Selke trophy winner, Patrice Bergeron. Not to mention, the latter will be on the cover of NHL 15 as well. All this is putting a lot of hope into what many people believe to be Boston’s second-line center, David will surely need to bring his game to another level, after inking this huge deal.
3) Patrick Kane/ Jonathan Toews
One of the major storylines of this past off season was not about a new player changing destinations, but rather two franchise players, and arguably two of the NHL’s current best players, signing a combined $168 million dollar contract extension. The deal sees Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews making $84 million each, for the next 8 years, making the deals worth $10.5 million per season. These deals are surely revolutionary, as they look to cause massive inflation all around the entire Nation Hockey League. There is no doubt that expectations in Chicago will be massive this season.
2) P.K. Subban
P.K. Subban became a very rich man this summer, after what seemed like an eternity for Habs’ fans, P.K. was able to strike a deal, hours before his arbitration hearing. P.K. agreed on an 8-year – 72 million dollar deal, making Subban (per year) the highest paid defensemen in the entire league. Reactions were quite mixed on the deal, some believing the market has inflated and the deal was fair, and others believing the value of the contract was way too much for an offensive defensemen with weak defensive instincts. One thing we do know for certain is that P.K. certainly brings it every night, but this year will be the biggest amount of pressure he has every faced, after signing such a mega deal. The expectations are for Subban to play like the best defensemen in the league. The question is, can he pull this off? We will see this season.
1) Sidney Crosby/ Alex Ovechkin
Crazy to say, but these two franchise players face a pressure-filled season for different reasons. The reality for Sidney is, although he is arguably the league’s best player, the Penguins have not been able to put together a solid playoff run since they won the Stanley Cup 5 seasons ago. The Pens’ managed to make the conference finals once before being swept by the Bruins, two seasons ago. The pressure is on for Crosby to finally get his team back deep into the playoffs for the first time, in a very long time.
As for Ovie, despite winning the Rocket Richard Trophy, there was unfortunately more talk about his selfish one-way game, than his ability to score goals. This was certainly not helped by the fact that Ovechkin finished the season with a minus 35 rating, which was amongst one of the league’s worst. Being the leader of his team, the pressure for Ovie is mainly to clean up his game, and finally be that complete player that people have been waiting a long time to see him be.