For the last couple of days, and continuing for the next few days, I have been and will be looking at each team in 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. Feel free to brows back to see previous teams, and look for more teams in the coming days.
Chutes: Dany Heatley – Although the slide has already begun, Dany Heatley has slipped of the radar completely. From his meesy exit from the Senators to his ineffectiveness in San Jose to his disappearing act in Minnesota, Heatley has been sliding for years. Now, in the final year of his contract, he must return to some semblance of scoring ability if he wants to earn another decent contract. There will be takers for the former 50 goal scorer, but he can’t expect anywhere near the $7.5M cap hit that he commanded from the Senators in his last contract.
Ladders: Nino Niederreiter – A change of scenery could be just what the doctor ordered for the former 5th overall pick who people outside of Long Island would argue was badly mishandled by the Islanders. A chance to play a top 6 role with some veteran talent will ease his transition to the NHL on a full time basis and I would expect a breakout year for the talented forward on a team that can use the offense.