Owner: Jim Balsillie, Canadian businessman
Farm Club: Monaco Gamblers
GM: Justin Haines (3rd GM in team’s history)
Coach John Tortorella
Last season: 6th overall, (In playoffs, defeated Paris, then lost to Lisbon)
Ins and Outs (Season 6 to Season 7)
Out: Andrew Ladd (waivers), Patrick Marleau (retired), Roman Horak (free agent), Dennis Seidenberg (waivers), Erik Condra (waivers), Boyd Gordon (free agent), Ben Smith (free agent), Bobby Sanguinetti (free agent),
In: Jimmy Howard (free agent), Erik Johnson (free agent), Tomas Fleischmann (free agent), Marian Gaborik (free agent), Garret Sparks (free agent), Brad Richardson (free agent), Derek Ryan (free agent), Esa Lindell (draft), Nick Hague (draft)
In Place (Key players signed past Season 7)
Anze Kopitar, C; Logan Couture, C; Brandon Sutter, C; Alex Edler, D; Erik Johnson, D; Jimmy Howard, G
1. What is the Gods’ chief strength? The center position. Athens has not one, but two world class centers in Logan Couture and Anze Kopitar and its third-line center is Brandon Sutter, who is one of the very best defensive forwards in the EURO. Couture skates like a madman and shoots the puck like a genius. His best goal output so far was 47 two seasons ago, just before Athens acquired him in a trade with Berlin. In four different seasons, Couture got off more than 300 shots on goal and he holds the league record of 372 shots in Season 6. Big Kopitar has done Couture one better: five seasons of 300-plus shots and he’s the league’s all-time leader in shots on goal. Kopitar has scored 90 points or more four times and he’s coming off an 86-point season last year. Couture and Kopitar are just 29 and 31, respectively and they are just as good defensively as Sutter is. In fact, if you look at the trio’s DEF ratings, two of them are 100s and one is a 95. Loui Eriksson came to Athens with Couture in the Berlin trade and he exploded for 50 goals last season at age 32. His name is written in ink – not pencil – as the right wing on the top line. Finding wings as good as the three centers are at playing two-way hockey is next to impossible, but General Manager Justin Haines added help for them by acquiring Colin Wilson from Minsk. Haines would have kept Andrew Ladd, but something had to go and Ladd was a casualty of the economic crisis. John Tortorella will ask a lot of the remaining wingers for the middle lines like veterans Jason Pominville, Marian Gaborik, Tomas Fleischmann and Michal Frolik. Their play might very well hold the key for Athens and be the difference between a good season and a championship season.
2. How is their defense? The Gods’ offense is better than their defense. They were 7th in the league in goals per game last season and 12th out of 24 in goals against. A new goalie with a sterling resume is between the pipes this season, raising optimism throughout Greece. Season 5 Best Goalie Trophy winner Jimmy Howard followed Couture’s and Eriksson’s tracks from Berlin and found his way to Athens in the off season as a free agent. Howard was stuck in a backup role in Berlin when the team decided a youth movement was in order, and Howard was an angry Smurf. He believes he can still offer a lot to any team and he says he doesn’t feel the least bit old at 34. The last three seasons, Howard’s save percentage was over 91 and it was over 90 the three seasons before those years. Alexander Edler, another component in the Couture trade with Berlin, is on the top defense pair with Erik Johnson, a free agent signing from St. Petersburg. Athens is set at defense spots 1 and 2. The third-best blueliner is Alex Goligoski and its good for the team that Johnson was added because Goligoski might be better suited for second-pair work at this point in his career. Rookie Esa Lindell will join vets Nicklas Kronwall and Mark Giordano to round out the defense corps. Like the middle six wingers on the team, these three will play critical roles in the team’s success or failure this season.
3. What’s the team’s long-term future like? Athens has most of its future draft picks and six prospects in place, but their long-term future is bleak. GM Justin Haines will have to make adjustments to the team in the next two years because the roster includes four wingers who are getting up there in years. The adjusting might have to start a year from now if these three players decline player options after this season: Alex Goligoski, Nicklas Kronwall and Loui Eriksson. Free agents will be a possible savior to fill any gaping holes, but Athens seems close to being in an all-or-nothing situation these days. The team is woefully short of young talent. The Gods have 22-year-old future stars Esa Lindell and Artturi Lehkonen, but that’s really about it. It seems Haines will have to make good use of free agent signing periods in order to keep this club competitive, or else choose to go into an Oslo-type rebuild.
Season Place PTS PP % PK % SPG SAPG GPG GAPG PIM
Season 7 6 102 23.1 83.5 32.24 28.63 3.60 3.26 7.28
Season 6 12 89 20.2 81.6 32.46 28.78 3.18 3.24 8.22
Season 5 7 102 21.8 83.2 32.76 28.89 3.74 3.15 9.74
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 27. Games played: 544; points: 469; +65
Season 2: Staffan Kronwall, D, age 24. GP 478, Pts 201, +86
Season 3: Samuel Morin, D, age 23.
Season 4: Artturi Lehkonen, LW, age 22.
Season 5: Miks Indrasis, LW, age 22. GP 18, Pts 8, +6
Season 6: Tanner Pearson, LW, age 24. GP 16, Pts 2, plus/minus 0
Season 7: Noah Juulsen, D, age 20.
Season 8: Esa Lindell, D, age 22.
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 Palmieri
* 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 (Ivan Provorov) to Copenhagen for Alex Goligoski
Traded David Backes, Kyle Palmieri and a 2018 Round 1 pick (Olli Juolevi) to Moscow for Andrew Ladd, Jaroslav Halak, Brandon Sutter and a 2018 Round 2 pick (Noah Juulsen)
After Season 6 started:
Traded Ryan O’Reilly to Moscow for Anze Kopitar
Signed Christian Folin (free agent), Jack Hillen (free agent)
Lost Mike Indrasis (waivers)
Traded Vadim Shipachyov, Staffan Kronwall and Tomas Vincour to Berlin for Logan Couture, Alexander Edler, Loui Eriksson and 2021 Round 2 pick
Lost Trevor Daley (waivers)
Traded 2019 Round 2 pick (Denis Malgin) and 2020 Round 3 pick to Minsk for Colin Wilson