GM: Austin Dwyer (3rd GM in team’s history)
Coach: Randy Carlyle (replaced Guy Boucher before Season 6)
Last season: 7th overall; In playoffs, defeated Stockholm and then lost to Minsk
Ins and Outs (Season 6 to Season 7)
Out: Chris Kelly (free agent)
In: Kieffer Bellows (draft)
In Place (Key players signed past Season 7)
Pekka Rinne, G; Jordan Eberle, RW; Adam Henrique, C; Marc-Eduoard Vlasic, D, John Carlson, D; Carl Hagelin, LW
1. What’s with the Dwyer-Carlyle bromance? One of Austin Dwyer’s first acts as general manager of the Gothenburg franchise was to kick Coach Guy Boucher in the derriere and then grab the hand of Randy Carlyle to be his bench boss. The two have proven to be a match made in heaven … er, technically in Sweden. Frolunda improved 10 places in the standings with Carlyle at the helm and they finished higher in the overall standings than they ever had before. Dwyer seemed to embrace (sorry about all this romantic terminology) Carlyle’s no-nonsense approach to coaching, especially with a young group of professionals who the GM felt needed less coddling. Petr Vrana definitely responded to Carlyle the way Dwyer had hoped. The Czech speed demon played just as Carlyle wanted and he was subsequently granted prime ice time. The result was that Vrana nearly doubled his previous best season total, scoring 21 goals and 60 points. (Update: Vrana also scored a hat trick on day one of this season.) The fans’ favorite forward, Swede Carl Hagelin, also improved, hitting his career high point total (69) at age 29. In fact, almost all of Gothenburg’s forwards improved their point total from the previous season and they should be able to keep it going, seeing as only two of last season’s 12 top forwards are over 30. Mikko Koivu, 34, showed signs of wear, but he is the team’s captain and remains an important part of the team. It will be Carlyle’s job to coax $4 million worth of play out of Koivu to justify his contract.
2. How is Frolunda’s goaltending? Last season, Gothenburg gave up the 11th fewest shots per game (29.02) but the seventh lowest number of goals per game (2.91). That tells you the goalies did a good job. Pekka Rinne gets paid a lot ($9 million per) and he has proven to be one of the league’s stingiest netminders. Only Joanthan Quick and Henrik Lundquist have better lifetime save percentages among goalies with at least 250 games played. Last season, Rinne’s save percentage was 90.3 and in six EURO seasons, his average has never dipped below 90 percent. And he is a “money goalie.” That is, in four of the five seasons Gothenburg has made the playoffs, Rinne’s save percentage was better in post season play that it was in the regular season. But the Finnish star is 35 years old and likely to start a downward slide sometime soon. Anders Lindback has been Rinne’s backup every season and at 29, his numbers are better than they have ever been, earning a 90.4 save percentage in 19 games last year.
3. How can they move up the standings? If Pekka Rinne can maintain his form, Fronlunda looks like they could move up the overall standings this season. Almost the whole team is hovering around that prime performance age of 30 and if Carlyle and the team leadership group of Mikko Koivu, Dan Girardi and Rinne can keep the boys from playing stale hockey, this team can challenge for the Cup. Aside from St. Petersburg’s shopping spree, there wasn’t much improvement among Northern Conference teams during free agency and that’s good for a team like Gburg that has a lot of 29- and 30-year-olds in the lineup. Gothenburg’s defense corps is led by John Carlson and is strong 1 through 5, with the always-interesting Mark Fraser buttoning down the sixth Dman spot at the moment. Fraser is the league’s baddest bad boy but his resume isn’t limited to intimidation roles. He can play the game and in fact was the team leader in plus-minus last season at plus 19. In four years, his plus-minus has been +22, +19, 0 and +19. Cal Clutterbuck might be the biggest question mark – and most pivotal player behind Rinne – on the team. Gothenburg will be able to send five highly skilled forwards out there on lines 1 and 2 in Koivu, Hagelin, Eberle, Henrique and Vrana. Clutterbuck, currently second on the depth chart on the right wing, is speedy and intense, but he doesn’t seem to fit into that group. If he keeps his second-line job and can contribute a little more offense, Frolunda will be chugging along on all cylinders.
Season Place PTS PP % PK % SPG SAPG GPG GAPG PIM
Season 6 7 96 18.2 83.8 29.55 29.02 3.12 2.91 10.63
Season 5 17 80 16.50 82.20 28.93 31.80 2.84 3.16 10.73
Season 4 8 104 18.6 79.4 29.73 29.84 3.56 2.87 8.06
Season 3 11 91 18.9 83.4 28.96 30.91 3.41 3.46 10.98
Season 2 15 86 17.4 84.6 30.12 30.93 3.44 3.50 11.02
Season 1 14 88 17.4 86.6 30.74 28.65 3.26 3.13 7.95
Top Draft picks
Season 1: Adam Henrique, C, current age 27. Games played: 479; points: 467; -32
Season 2: Petr Vrana, LW, age 26. GP 382, Pts 185; +26
Season 3: Beau Bennett, RW, age 25. GP 272, Pts 72; -2
Season 4: none
Season 5: Linus Klasen, LW, age 23. GP 11; Pts 3; +2
Season 6: Oliver Kylington, D, 19.
Season 7: Kieffer Bellows, LW/C, age 18.
Traded Sam Gagner, 2014 Round 1 pick (traded later) (used to draft Jonathan Drouin) and 2015 Round 2 pick (David Savard) to Stockholm for Eric Staal
* missing one trade, probably in this period.
Traded Milan Lucic, 2016 Round 1 pick and 2017 Round 1 pick to Minsk for Zach Parise
Traded Devante Smith-Pelly, Ales Hemsky and 2016 Round 2 pick to St. Petersburg for Martin St. Louis
Traded 2015 Round 1 pick (Dan Dekeyser) and 2015 Round 3 pick (Alex Tuch) to Milan for Antti Niemi
Traded Morgan Rielly, Eric Gelinas and 2017 Round 2 pick to Oslo for Ryan Suter
Traded Martin St. Louis, Antti Niemi, Erik Johnson, Scott Harrington, Zack Phillips, 2016 Round 3 pick (Andreas Englund), 2017 Round 3 pick and 2018 Round 1 pick to St. Petersburg for Pekka Rinne, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Blake Wheeler
Traded Zach Parise to Lisbon for 2016 Round 1 pick (Linus Klasen)
Traded Ryan Suter and Blake Wheeler to Moscow for Kevin Dallman and 2016 Round 1 pick (Olli Palola)
Traded 2018 Round 3 pick to Moscow for Aleksey Morozov
After Season 5 started
Signed Frazer McLaren (free agent)
Traded 2019 RD 3 pick to Copenhagen for Anthony Nigro (formerly named Chris Legge)
Claimed Louis Leblanc (waivers)
Traded Patrick Marleau to Munich for Braydon Coburn and 2017 Round 3 pick (Oliver Kylington)
Traded Eric Staal to Stockholm for Mikko Koivu
After season started: signed Mike Cammalleri (free agent), signed Pascal Dupuis (free agent)