The Blades remain the lone CWHL team in the US, and the struggles they have had in the last couple of years aren't going to go away any time soon. But with some teams losing Olympic talent and other top-tier players to other leagues, could the Blades have a shot at moving up the standings this year? Only time will tell.
Look Back At Last Season
Last season was at least better than the season before...? It was hard for it not to be honestly. They won two games and lost one in overtime, which is pretty much a win for the Blades. They had 31 goals on the season, as a team, which isn’t great.
Standout seasons from rookies Lauren Dahm, Kate Leary, and Meghan Grieves were the bright spots. All three will be back. Upwards and onwards though.
It’s not hard to predict where the Blades will finish, even with it being an Olympic year and other teams losing a lot of top talent. You may see a bit more parity among the other teams but the Blades will still struggle to get out of the basement. It's possible they finish sixth this season if other teams struggle too.
Look for second-year goaltender Dahm to stand out again. In her rookie season, the Clarkson alum was a bright spot for the struggling team. Compared to the rest of the league, her stat line is rough. She had 98 goals against but made 830 saves for a GAA of 5.34; honestly, it could have been a lot worse. She faced basically double the amount of shots of the next highest shot facer (Furies Christina Kessler, 460). Not a single Blade had a positive +/- rating.
Leary will also be one to watch. She lead the team in goals last season with 10. The Boston College-alum should hopefully settle into CWHL play in her second season in the league. While the direct relation between NCAA and CWHL play is still up in the air, Leary improved greatly between her first and second season with the Eagles. The young Blades team would benefit from her having another strong season to keep them afloat.
Of all of the CWHL teams, the Blades probably had the most amount of turnover.
Let’s start in the front office. The general manager for the last two seasons Krista Patronik left for a job at Colgate University. The new GM, Jessica Martino, was announced just a day before the CWHL Draft.
In terms of players, the list of offseason moves is so great that I’ll just leave you with this chart.
|Chelsey Goldberg (F)||Ashley Ryan (F) (reserve) (draft pick)||Casey Pickett|
|Dru Burns (D)||Casey Stathopoulos (F) (draft pick)||Cassandra Opela|
|Erin Kickahm (F)||Cassandra Sherman (F) (draft pick)||Clara St. Germain|
|Jacqueline Perez (F) (reserve)||Courtney Turner (F) (first draft pick)||Dakota Woodworth|
|Jetta Rackleff (G)||Elizabeth Aveson (F) (draft pick)||Jenny Currie|
|Kate Leary (F)||Erin Hall (D)||Kayla Tutino (traded to MTL)|
|Kristina Brown (D)||Jordan Hampton (D)||Kristen Levesque|
|Lauren Dahm (G)||Kaitlin Spurling (F) (draft pick)||Maggie DiMasi (traded to MTL)|
|Megan Myers (F)||Kelley Kittredge (D)||Margaret Zimmer|
|Meghan Grieves (F)||Megan Servaea (D) (reserve) (draft pick)||Nachi Fujimoto (traded to MTL)|
|Melissa Bizzari (F)||Meghan Spurling (D) (draft pick)||Sadie St. Germain|
|Nicole Giannio (F)||Melissa Mansfield (G) (reserve)||Shelley Payne|
|Sato Kikuchi (D)||Michelle Ng (F) (draft pick)||Tara Watchorn (retired)|
|Robyn Chemago (G) (draft pick)||Taylor McGee|
|Taryn Harris (D) (draft pick)|
|Taylor Wasylk (F/D)|
Including three reserve players, the Blades will have 16 new players on their roster this season. That’s a lot of players to get used to each other in a short amount of time.
They lost a fair amount of major talent too. Kayla Tutino and Nachi Fujimoto both were traded to the Les Canadiennes. Tutino had two goals on the season, but seemed to always be on the ice. With no time on ice stats, its hard to quantify, but she was everywhere. Even as a rookie Tutino seemed to command the ice as a team leader.
Tara Watchorn retired. There’s no denying the veteran presence the team lost there.
Missing from their roster is the much talked about draft pick of Bulbul Kartanvayeva. Her tweets about wanting to play in either North American league were widely shared just ahead of the CWHL Draft registration deadline. She registered and was drafted in the third round by the Blades. However, on October 5, she tweeted that visa problems have kept her from joining the league.
Three Four Must-Watch Games
October 21 v. Calgary - This is their home opener. It should be interesting to see the new Blades and the new Inferno, as they also had a large amount of turnover due to centralization.
November 5 v. Vanke - This is the second game of the weekend and the second time both teams have an afternoon game after a late night game the night before. The CWHL has always played a demanding scheduled with two games a weekends but this is a tight turnaround. It’s also this writer’s birthday so if you see me there...
December 16 @ Kunlun - This is the start of the Blades China trip. They’ll have four games in four days with only Dec. 18 off. Depending on their travel schedule, the jet lag could be rough here. They’ll also be coming off a road trip to Markham the weekend prior.
December 20 @ Vanke - This is the last game of the Blades China trip. As I said before, four games, four days, China, ouch. At least the players will head right into a long home stretch without an away game until the end of February.
Hopefully they’ll win more than two games? But the young team will have a lot of catching up to do.