GM: Terry Moutafis (only GM in team’s history)
Coach John Tortorella
Last season: 4th overall
Ins and Outs (Season 4 to Season 5)
Out: Brooks Orpik (trade), Bryan Bickell (trade), Gregory Campbell (free agent)
In: Alex Goligoski (trade), Boyd Gordon (free agent), Miks Indrasis (draft), Brenden Lemieux (draft), Georgios Kouleles (draft)
In Place (Key players signed past Season 5)
Ryan O’Reilly, C; T.J. Oshie, RW; Staffan Kronwall, D, Vadim Shipachyov, C; Scott Hartnell, LW
1. What does one off-season move mean? After the heart-breaking loss in the finals to Belfast, General Manager Terry Moutafis traded a first-round pick, Brooks Opik and Bryan Bickell to Copenhagen for defenseman Alex Goligoski. That was basically the extent of the wheeling and dealing Moutafis did in preparation for Season 5. That could be an indication he felt a slick-skating defenseman was the last piece of the Athens puzzle. The Greeks have brought good, exciting hockey to a non-traditional market. The fact that they thrive in a nation that was on economic life support when the league started is a huge victory in itself but the GM and fans want more. Goligoski is now the fastest thing on two blades in all of Greece. He is definitely an upgrade on the ice over Chris Phillips, the guy he bumped out of the lineup. Goligoski isn’t as big and strong as Phillips, nor is he the sage leader Phillips is, but Goligoski is much quicker and better with the puck. Phillips couldn’t contribute to the offense; Goligoski will. Coach John Tortorella has the new defenseman paired with Staffan Kronwall, which means he’s separating the Brothers Kronwall. We’ll see how that goes.
2. Is Backes on his way to becoming a Greek god? Aeolus is the god of the winds; Dionysus the god of wine. Backes is quickly becoming the god of scoring and hitting. In his four seasons as the premier member of the Athens Greeks, captain David Backes has never been hurt – well, never enough to keep him out of a game – and he has scored 30 goals or more every season. He has topped 90 points three times, topped 300 shots on goal three times, and registered 200 hits or more three times. He has had at least 148 takeaways every season and he’s never had more giveaways than takeaways. He is intimidating and his teammates love him. The fans also love him. The owner and GM love him. Even Styx, the Greek goddess of hatred has a little thing for him. It is very, very weird that he has never had a positive plus-minus rating, but Backes takes his familiar spot on the top line as the season is about to start, and Coach Tortorella has him lined up with 40-goal scorer Scott Hartnell and T.J. Oshie. The second line has Jason Pominville and Vadim Shipachyov flanking Ryan O’Reilly. That gives Athens two outstanding lines – again.
3. Will the Butler do it? The most intriguing story as Athens’ season starts is Bobby Butler. After three seasons as a fourth-line center in Zurich and Athens, Butler has been promoted to the third line with Dimitrios Kalyvas and Kyle Palmieri. Moutafis and Tortorella noticed something about the 28-year-old’s play, especially in the playoffs, and were willing to give him a chance to glisten like a diamond in the rough. Boyd Gordon was added as a free agent, placed on the fourth line, and Butler went up a line. He might end up being the best face-off center in the league; he’s that good at it. He plays responsible defense and skates well. Last season he scored 26 points and was plus 16, which are impressive numbers for someone on the fourth line. He probably deserves the chance he’s been given. Kalyvas scored 70 points one year and Palmieri scored 58 points last season, so the question is will they help Butler score more, or will he stifle their production? Gordon, 32, has third-line experience and is a perfect fall-back plan if the Butler experiment doesn’t work.
Season Place PTS PP % PK % SPG SAPG GPG GAPG PIM
Season 4 4 107 21.4 85.3 31.91 29.00 3.62 2.72 11.50
Season 3 6 100 20.7 85.4 33.82 27.72 3.72 3.00 13.16
Season 2 9 97 20.5 82.2 30.07 29.89 3.52 3.17 12.48
Season 1 20 63 16.4 76.7 28.20 31.60 2.54 3.61 9.77
Top Draft picks
Season 1: Ryan O’Reilly, C, current age 24. Games played: 300; points: 216; +63
Season 2: Staffan Kronwall, D, age 21. GP 244, Pts 95, +44
Season 3: Samuel Morin, D, age 20
Season 4: Artturi Lehkonen, LW, age 20
Season 5: Miks Indrasis, LW, age 19.
Season 1 (picks without years listed are from initial draft)
Traded Round 9 pick (used to draft Nick Foligno) to Geneva for Round 13 pick (Marcus Kruger) and Round 14 pick (Mark Scheifele)
Traded Round 15 pick (Stefan Elliott) to Minsk for Matt Cullen
Traded Evander Kane and Alexander Sulzer to Dublin for Scott Hartnell, Tim Gleason, 2013 Round 1 pick (traded later) (Nail Yakupov), Round 2015 Round 1 pick (traded later) (Matt Nieto) and $5 million
Traded Tomas Vokoun to Madrid for Michal Neuvirth, Nick Johnson and 2013 Round 1 pick (traded later) (Martin Ruzicka)
Traded 2013 Round 3 pick (Magnus Johansson) to Milan for Brad Boyes
Traded Michal Rozsival and 2014 Round 1 pick (Justin Schultz) to Prague for Nick Kronwall
Traded Nazem Kadri and Round 2 pick (lost track of this one; might have been Brendan Pirlini in 2014) to Belfast for 2013 Round 1 pick (Vadim Shipachyov)
Traded Nathan Horton and 2014 Round 2 pick (Brian Flynn) to Berlin for Miikka Kiprusoff
Traded Miikka Kiprusoff and Michal Neuvirth to Stockholm for Cam Ward
Traded Marcel Hossa to Prague for Michael Ryder
Traded Jared Spurgeon and Nick Johnson to Prague for Michal Rozsival and Kyle Palmeiri
* seem to missing 3 trades that occurred in this general period.
Traded Mark Scheifele to Prague for Joel Armia
Traded Johnny Boychuk to Milan for Dimitrios Kalyvas
Traded Brooks Orpik, Bryan Bickell and 2017 Round 1 pick to Copenhagen for Alex Goligoski