After looking at the Bruins, Sabres and Hurricanes in Part 1 of my quest to find inferior teams to the Senators yesterday, I go down the list today and check out the Panthers, Canadiens and Devils.
Florida finished last season in the basement of the conference, two points behind the Senators. The Panthers went on a spending spree in the off-season, as they needed to add salary to reach the cap floor. Was it money well spent? That remains to be seen but they failed to add real top-end talent and their goaltending is suspect. Are the Panthers deeper? Yes, with the likes of Kopecky, Fleischmann and Jovanovski they are better, but without true top level players, it will be another long season in South Florida. New coach Kevin Dineen will have an impact, but it might take a while with this group and a lot of new faces. If rookie Jacob Markstrom isn’t ready to be a mainstay in net as a rookie, I don’t know about the ability of Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen to handle the goaltending duties
CAN OTTAWA FINISH HIGHER THAN FLORIDA? Both clubs are better, but Ottawa’s misery is a one-off, while Florida’s will continue.
WILL THEY? Yes, without a doubt in my mind.
There was a 22 point gap between the Habs and the Sens last season, and with the return of Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges will boost the defensive corps and add offense from the blue line. Carey Price removed any doubt that he is an elite goalie last season and will continue to lead the Habs from the crease.
CAN OTTAWA FINISH HIGHER THAN MONTREAL? The best case would be to give them a very outside shot. How much better Montreal will be this season is questionable, but getting back one of the league’s best d-men will help.
WILL THEY? Not this season.
NEW JERSEY DEVILS
The Devils are an interesting examination. They are coming off a similar season to Ottawa, except they got off to a horrible start before climbing back into respectability late in the season. The Devils ended up 7 points clear of the Senators, but that was after the return of Jacques Lemaire. Is there someone else who can coach this group? We will find out if Peter DeBoer can do what nobody other than Lemaire has been able to do lately – win in New Jersey. Zach Parise should be healthy and ready to return to the path that had him becoming one of the best forwards in the game, but it remains to be seen if he can co-exist with Ilya Kovalchuk. The relatively no-name defense in front of an aging Martin Brodeur worries me.
CAN OTTAWA FINISH HIGHER THAN THE DEVILS? It is possible. The Devils will be in the group of six or seven teams battling for the last couple playoff spots.
WILL THEY? It will be tight, depending on how consistent Broduer can play. Like Buffalo, this will be a coin flip.
So on day 2 I have found one, maybe two more teams that Ottawa could and in my mind should be better than during the upcoming season. Tomorrow we move down the list to see the Islanders, Rangers and Flyers
Thanks for reading and as always, comments are welcomed.
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