Over the next few days, I will be looking at each team n the NHL and identifying a couple of players in particular that fit into one of two categories based on the once popular kids game, Chutes and Ladders. The players in the “chutes” category will be players who exceeded expectations last season, and will have a difficult time avoiding a slide in the coming season. The “ladder” category will consist of players who are ready to climb a level in their play and step up a notch.
Chutes: Alexander Semin – The enigmatic Russian had a fantastic first season in Carolina, setting a point per game pace on a line with Eric Staal and Jiri Tlusty. With the security of a 5 year, $35M contract in his pocket, it will be interesting to see if he carries the same type of motivation as he did in a contract year last season. He continued the pace after signing the deal, so it is possible, but if Staal misses much time in the regular season with his knee injury, it could affect Semin’s production.
Ladders: Cam Ward – Snubbed by Team Canada and the orientation camp for the Canadian Olympic team, Ward will have a huge chip on his shoulder, and after missing most of 2013 with a knee injury he really has nowhere to go but up. Look for him to have a great start to make decisions difficult for the Team Canada brass.