Today we close my 5 part epic that has focused on trying to find teams that will finish below the Senators in the East. Today we finish the tour by looking at the Captials and the Jets.
The Caps were the Eastern Conference champions in the regular season last season, 33 points clear of the Senators. The Capitals will be even better this season as they have brought in Troy Brouwer and Jeff Halpern to add depth up front, and veteran Roman Hamrlik on the back end. The biggest impact will likely be the addition of Tomas Vokoun, who signed a bargain $1.5M, 1 year contract to win with the Capitals. If that isn’t enough, top blueline prospects John Carlson and Karl Alzner will be one year better as they become accustomed to the rigors of the NHL. And we haven’t even mentioned one of the top duos in the league, Alex Ovechkin and Nick Backstrom, who will be looking to bounce back after a sub-par (for them) season.
CAN OTTAWA FINISH HIGHER THAN THE CAPITALS? Maybe in a dream world, but not in this year’s NHL.
The franchise formerly known as the Atlanta Thrashers finished 6 points up on the Sens, but is still lacking in depth up front, which is something that will be a work in progress. Dustin Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom provided much of the offense from the blue line. This will still be a lunchbucket squad that relies a lot on the goaltending of Ondrej Pavelec for most of their victories. Plus, the travel for this season is unlike any Eastern Conference team will endure, which will add to the difficulty even more.
CAN OTTAWA FINISH HIGHER THAN THE JETS? Without a doubt, they can.
WILL THEY? Yep
So I have looked at 14 clubs over the past week, and it comes down to putting the teams in 3 basic groupings: The Elite, the Mid-pack and the Pretenders.
ELITE: Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Washington
These teams are definite playoff teams, and it would take something extraordinary for them to miss the playoffs.
MID PACK – Buffalo, Carolina, Montreal, New Jersey, New York Rangers and Toronto
These teams that will be fighting amongst themselves for the three playoff spots remaining after the Elite clubs.
PRETENDERS – Florida, New York Islanders and Winnipeg
These teams still have some work to do in order to move up and increase their chances of making the playoffs.
WHERE DOES OTTAWA FIT IN THE PICTURE? The Senators with Craig Anderson for a whole season would be 15 points better on that alone. Elliott was that bad. Add in a healthy Daniel Alfredsson and Jason Spezza and a more even temperment behind the bench and the Senators should be at least 25 points improved. This would put them right in the mix for a playoff spot and firmly entrench them in the MID-PACK segment. They could finish as high as 6th, or as low as 12th in the Conference, depending on health of the star players. They are deeper 1-13 up front than they were last season and the defense, which looked terrible in front of Elliott, was much better for Anderson (or maybe it was the goaltending that made the defense look so bad).
I don’t buy the “doom and gloom” naysayers that think the Senators will not rebound and expect another lottery pick. I just don’t see it happening.
Thanks for reading and as always, comments are welcomed.
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