In a four-part series, I will examine the current state of the NHL and assess where each team will finish by season’s end. Do note, I am a suckish loser at predicting, so don’t give your hopes up if you’re a Panthers fan!
UPDATE: The Oilers have just signed Mike Comrie to a one-year deal. It’s becoming more and more likely Heatley stays this year and Murray signs Petr Sykora.
15. Florida Panthers
After missing out the big show last year to the Habs due to a tiebraker, the Panthers blew things up this off-season. Losing Jay Bouwmeester hurts for this weak Florida defense, even after adding Jordan Leopold. The goalie pipes are solid but the skill is lacking on this team.
14. Atlanta Thrashers
After a horrific first half, the Trash starting getting used to John Anderson’s system and played well. The truth is, after Kovalchuk and possibly Antropov, the rest are garbage. If Lehtonen’s knee holds up than that will help but this team will continue to go down.
13. New York Islanders
This team looks to be on the rebound after drafting Johnny Tavares and signing Dwayne Roloson and Martin Biron. The club will have to depend on young players a lot on offense but if they come through and the defense shows a speck of skill, this team will improve.
12. Tampa Bay Lightning
After drafting Victor Hedman, the Lightning made a brew of moves signing Mattias Ohlund, Matt Walker, Antero Nittymaki, Kurtis Foster, and Alex Tanguay. The offense has the tools to be one of the best in the East, while both the defense and goaltending will need to step up.
11. Toronto Maple Leafs
Burkie the big-headed GM made waves this off-season by shoring up Toronto’s defense. A hard-nosed, gritty team will be the identity for the Laffs unless they make a big move. There’s no one on offense and defense that has the skill to score at least 35 goals. Add in the tandem the unproven tandem of Toskala-Gustavsson.
10. Montreal Canadiens
After losing the heart and soul of the Habs, they came back and signed minature, but skill players in Gionta and Cammalleri. After trading for Scott Gomez and signing Spacek, Gill, and Moen, the Habs are amuch different team. I fear that what will happen with the Habs is what happened last year with the Sens. A one-line team and that’s it. Carey Price is still shaky and is falling to pressure.
9. Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres did squat during the off-season. After acquiring a couple of character guys and losing Jaroslav Spacek, the Sabres will stay the same but improve their standing with the health of Ryan Miller. Another season of excuses for the Sabres, and expect Lindry Ruff and Darcy Regier gone-o.
8. Ottawa Senators
Yes, your favorite team is in the last playoff spot. Thank you, thank you. While some are predicting better, this is the right spot for Ottawa. The acquisition of Alex Kovalev and the emergence of Nick Folgino will help the team’s secondary scoring by leaps and bounds. While Dany Heatley’s off-season will look bad for the club, Heatley will have to play well if he wants to make the Olympic team. The defense looks better and Pascal LeClaire will be a huge factor this season. If he’s healthy and good, the Sens are good. I still think the team is lacking a true No.1 Defenseman, but the team will improve and Clouston will take them to the playoffs.
7. New Jersey Devils
Lemaire comes back to haunt this team and his defense-first style will help and hurt this team. Don’t take Zach Parise or Travis Zajac on your fantasy roster. However, the underrated defense will grow and Marty Brodeur will have a great season. It’s the playoffs that count, and we’ll se how they do than.
6. New York Rangers
The Rags will surprise this season. I really think Brandon Dubinsky will step up and show he’s a team scorer and leader, while Marian Gaborik shows his world-class skill. The offense is good, the defense is solid. Henrik Lundqvist continues to shine, and the Rangers make it.
5. Carolina Hurricanes
Canetastic fans will be excited this season. Carolina will be fun to watch with their high-speed, octane offense and fantastic, clutch goaltending from Cam Ward. The defense continues to be udnerrated but will supply the goals and defend.
4. Philadelphia Flyers
Philly’s coming back this season with a new look. After trading to all-star Chris Pronger, the Flyers adding grit guys in Laperierre and Kaspar. The goaltending is different with former Sen reject Ray Emery and Brian Boucher. The question will be if they can translate it into the playoffs.
3. Boston Bruins
The Bruins didn’t change this season which is good for the B’s. They have the depth on offense and defense and a great goalie in Tim Thomas. The reaqson for the fall is the possible loss of Phil Kessel and a better Eastern Conference. Other than that, look for the Bruins to contend once again.
2. Washington Capitals
A hungry Capitals team lost key role players and still has shaky goaltending but with a world class offense and a stimulating defense, this team wins in all angles. Ovie will be gunning for his third-straight Hart Trophy, while Mike Green will try to avenge his Norris Trophy loss. This has the makings for a good year for the Caps.
AND FINALLY, GEAR UP FANS. HE FIRST PLACED TEAM IN THE EAST IS…
1. Pittsburgh Penguins
The defending Cup champions will find this season a breeze to them. On the shoulders of 2 3rds of the Big 3 in the NHL and role players such as Jordan Staal, added with a great defense and clutch goaltending, this will be another cup-winning season for Pittsburgh if the the players stat fit to Bylsmas system.