As the days towards the regular season draw closer and closer (three months away I know, I'm just comforting myself) the final rosters of many teams are set to go. When the off-season began, GM's around the league were busy re-shaping their rosters, and with that many teams will impose a bigger threat than last season.
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I will begin with the Eastern Conference:
Tampa Bay Lightning:
Added: Mark Recchi, Ryan Malone, Gary Roberts, Radim Vrbata, Evgeny Artyukin, Vaclav Prospal, Matt Carle, Ty Wishart, Olaf Kolzig
Gone: Dan Boyle, Brad Lukowich
The Lightning made a huge splash this summer, bolstering their club in every department. Although Dan Boyle will be missed on the PP, the additions of Steven Stamkos, Vaclav Prospal, Matt Carle and Ryan Malone will all help out. They've also added some much needed experience in Mark Recchi and Gary Roberts to mentor their youth. Don't look now, but the Lightning may be jumping from 15th place in the Eastern Conference to a playoff berth.
Added: Alex Tanguay, Georges Laraque
Gone: Micheal Ryder, Mark Streit
The Canadiens were fairly conservative this summer, keeping their youth intact and adding little outside help to their core. This is a good move though, as the Habs have one of the brightest futures in the NHL, so while strengthening their club was a priority, Bob Gainey couldn’t go overboard. Also, the acquisition of Alex Tanguay won't go among deaf ears for Saku Koivu, who will finally have a star line-mate at his side (with Christopher Higgins serving as the finisher perhaps?) With a strong defense corps, one of the deadliest PP's in the league, two lethal scoring lines and a goaltender with something to prove, the Habs may very well take the Eastern Conference once again.
Added: Jose Theodore
Gone: Olaf Kolzig, Matt Cooke, Cristobal Huet
While the Caps lost their two goaltenders in Huet and Kolzig, they've acquired a rejuvenated Theodore from the Avalanche. While Theodore is a risky acquisition, it's a high risk, high reward situation. If he doesn't pan out, expect the Capitals to most likely miss out on the playoffs with no back-up who is capable of being a #1 goaltender. Of course, the Caps also own one of the best stars in the game in Alexander Ovechkin. With another year under his belt, he’ll only get better from here, taking the future of Washington with him. They also own a strong nucleus in Mike Green, Alexander Semin, Micheal Nylander and Niklas Backstrom.
Added: Miroslav Satan, Ruslan Fedetenko, Matt Cooke
Gone: Ryan Malone, Gary Roberts, Marian Hossa
After reaching the Stanley Cup Finals and losing to the hands of the Detroit Red Wings, the Pens have lost one of their better players in Marian Hossa to that same team. But considering Hossa joined the Pens at the NHL Trade Deadline, his services won’t be overly missed. Also, it must be noted that Crosby was MIA for 29 games last season, and that is a huge amount considering how important he is to Pittsburgh. If Sidney Crosby can stay healthy this season, the Pens will reach new heights, and Crosby will once again be on top of the NHL.
San Jose Sharks:
Added: Rob Blake, Dan Boyle, Brad Lukowich
Gone: Matt Carle, Ty Wishart, Craig Rivet, Brian Campbell, Patrick Rissmiller
While the Sharks enjoyed a tremendous regular season, they struggled in the playoffs yet again. Doug Wilson, realizing the team's defensive shortcomings, began his off-season with the acquisition of Rob Blake, who also adds some much needed leadership to the mix. And after losing Brian Campbell to free agency, the Sharks traded for a great offensive defenseman in Dan Boyle. Going into next season, the Sharks have a strong offense, a stingy defense and spectacular goaltending. If the Sharks can turn around their playoffs fortunes, San Jose may finally have something to celebrate about post-April.
Added: Lubomir Visnovsky, Erik Cole, Gilbert Brule
Gone: Joni Pitkanen, Jaret Stoll, Marty Reasoner, Geoff Sanderson
After missing the playoffs by just a few points, GM Kevin Lowe went straight to work this summer, acquiring Lubomir Visnovsky, Erik Cole and Gilbert Brule to his line-up. If Souray can remain relatively healthy next season, he and Visnovsky will form a deadly PP unit with Erik Cole now buzzing in front of the net. With Brule the Oilers add more youth to an already talented group, and he'll fit in perfectly with the likes of Sam Gagner, Andrew Cogliano, Marc Pouliot and Dustin Penner. With Mathieu Garon now earning the starting goaltender position for next season, the Oilers have strengthened in every department, and if I was a betting man I’d say they’re on their way to the playoffs.
Detroit Red Wings:
Added: Marian Hossa
Gone: Chris Chelios
This is a no-brainer. After winning the Stanley Cup last season, the Wings have managed to keep the same core intact while adding one major addition in Marian Hossa. Owning an already lethal offense, the Wings will most likely be on top of the NHL both in the standings and in goals for. The only other difference going into next season is that Chris Osgood will begin as the starting goaltender, rather than Dominik Hasek. It's a sure bet that the Wings will be playoff favorite.
Added: Brian Campbell, Cristobal Huet
Gone: Jason Williams, Yanic Perreault, Patrick Lalime
After displaying their youth last season, the Hawks finished the season as expected - out of the playoffs. But going into next season, the Hawks' young guns have more experience under their belt and appear to be ready for a break-out performance. With Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Brent Seabrook, Cam Barker and Duncan Keith representing the Hawks' core of youth, Chicago may find themselves in the playoffs if these players can raise their games to new heights. A key acquisition will be Brian Campbell, who will serve as the teams' PP specialist -- he can also show Seabrook a thing or two on the PP. And with Cristobal Huet and Nikolai Khabibulin standing as the goaltenders, the Hawks should see more consistency than last season.
With plenty of teams re-shaping their rosters for next season, not all of them can enjoy the success they want to attain. But I believe the teams mentioned above will enjoy successful campaigns and get that much closer to their ultimate goal - the Stanley Cup.
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