This is the Moose Review and I’m Buddy Brier
Now that it’s September, it’s about time we take a look at the upcoming 2010/11 NHL season
We’ll start with my predictions of the teams that make the playoffs for the end of the upcoming season.
In the west, I’m predicting the standings will look like this:
1st - Detroit
2nd - Vancouver
3rd - San Jose
4th - Los Angeles
5th - Chicago
6th - Phoenix
7th - Colorado
8th - St Louis
Detroit has made some positive moves in the off-season by picking up talented Mike Madano from Dallas for their third line along with Jiri Hudler returning to the lineup from the KHL. They have also signed hard hitting two-way forward Justin Abdelkader to a two year contract to add some depth to an already ultra deep team. If all things go as planned this season, Detroit may be unstoppable (unless the age of some of their players catches up to them).
Vancouver has improved their defensive and offensive depth and grittiness considerably in the off season. They have picked up some great new D to compensate for their injury woes and lack of solid consistent defence: including Dan Hamhuis ex line mate of Shea Weber from Nashville and Keith Ballard from Florida. They have improved their offensive depth by signing UFAs Manny Malholtra from San Jose and Raffi Torres from Buffalo. All of this at a cost of somewhat lacklustre players like Steve Bernier, Kyle Wellwood and Michael Grabner. I would have put Vancouver 1st in the conference but with rumors that goaltending will be shared 50-50, with Luongo only playing half the games, there may be a few more goals let in than the nucks would like this season.
3rd San Jose
San Jose may lose a little in net by saying good bye to Nabokov and hello to Nittymaki. They also lose their Captain via retiree Rob Blake. I honestly don't see either of things being insurmountable. The team really hasn't changed much from last season and I expect to see much of the same.
4th Los Angeles
LA has lost Alexander Frolov and gained Alexei Ponikarovsky - a pretty even switch if you ask me. They have a team on the rise with a lot of potential. If they make a big move to fill their top line winger gaps (i.e. sign a big name forward - since they have the cap space) and a few of their youngsters start to pan out, they will definitely be a force to reckon with in 2010.
I find it hard to believe that Chicago has successfully filled the gaps talent wise and team wise left from losing Byfuglien, Ladd, Versteeg, Madden, Eager, Sopel and Niemi. The loss on the blue line is not debilitating, but the lack of depth and gritty punch with their offence might lead them to a disappointing season. The loss of Niemi could be huge. I wouldn't be surprised if Chicago just barely breaks the playoff bubble this season.
Phoenix has lost some major players in Lombardi, Lang and Michalek. I'm not sure that signing aging LW Ray Whitney and some unproven prospects will make up for the losses. Unless Phoenix makes some more changes before and during the season, I wouldn't be surprised if they go from 107 points last season to less than 90 this season.
Not much has changed in Colorado. I think a few players have some room to improve and could up their game a bit this season. They will make the playoffs and depending on how much improvement we see (e.g. from Brandon Yip who just signed a new 2 year contract) they might surprise everyone with a top 4 position going into the playoffs.
8th St. Louis
St Louis is another team with a lot of players who have potential of coming out of their shell. They may have lost some leadership with Tkachuk retiring, but I think it may open the door for some more dependence on players that we all know can shine. If Halak has another great season with this new team, we might see St. Louis breaking 100 points this season.
I’ll let you speculate as to why the rest of the teams in the conference are in the bottom 7. I think it’s fairly obvious for many of them.
In the east, I’m predicting the standings will look like this:
1st – Buffalo
2nd - Washington
3rd - Philidelphia
4th - Atlanta
5th - New Jersey
6th - Pittsburgh
7th - Tampa Bay
8th - Boston
I can see improvement in both top end players and mid end players for Buffalo. They didn’t go crazy with moves in the off season, but the moves they did make will only make the team better. If Ryan Miller can remain hot this season, Buffalo will shine. I expect them to take 1st in the conference pretty easily, considering the teams in the rest of their division.
Washington will continue to be an extremely effective offensive team in the upcoming season. They are much the same team as last year with a few bottom line additions. However, without goaltender Jose Theodore in net and a without a suitable replacement for Joe Corvo on D, expect the Caps to lose a little of their dominance this year.
With the confidence gained from going almost all the way last season, I can see a lot of up and coming players hitting it big this season (watch Ville Leino and Claude Giroux). However, with Pronger recovering from surgery, some key offensive players being replaced in the line-up and a few other players recovering from injuries, it might take a while for the team to click (don't expect Phillie to really start producing until a couple months into the season at least).
4th New Jersey
With yet another head coach and some painful moves upcoming to keep Kovalchuk, I have a strong feeling the whole thing might blow up in their face. Interestingly, given the clubs talent depth, the opposite could be true and the risks could really pay off. I'm not banking on the latter of the two outcomes.
The moves made in the off-season by Atlanta could prove to improve the team significantly. They have picked up some excellent players including four players from a relatively one sided trade with the talent shedding Blackhawks. I know it seems like a high placement for this team but, considering the anticipated drop in dominance from Washington, I expect Atlanta to get a lot more W’s this season and make their second visit to the playoffs in their eleven year history.
Pittsburgh has a lot of work to do to make sure they’re an effective team this season. Right now (especially considering the off-season moves) they're depending heavily on their top three forwards Sid, Malkin and Staal to produce their offence (after losing Guerin, Ponikarovsky and offensive defenseman Gonchar). They seem content to rely on their farm system to fill the holes. With Staal recovering from injury I would expect to see Penguins slow to start (if starting at all) this season.
7th Tampa Bay
I have a strong feeling the big moves this organization made in the off-season is going to make a huge impact. The biggest reason for this is the signing of Stevey Y. The only thing that will hold this club back from really making a move this season is the lack of goaltending. If their farm system produces a match, this team could shoot to the top as fast as... well... ok.. lightning (especially if my prediction of Atlanta doing well this season is wrong – since they’re in the same division).
No Wideman and maybe no Savard with too many forwards to easily fit Tyler Seguin into the lineup makes me think Boston might have some troubles this season (especially considering their current injury woes with Lucic and Sturm). Expect Boston to run into some difficulty building W’s this season.
You’ll notice that I have Montreal and Ottawa missing the playoffs this season (they’re in the same division with Boston and Buffalo).
Montreal - No Moore, No Metropolit, No Halak, No Laraque, No Bergeron, No 100% Markov, No Chance.
Ottawa - Ottawa has some injury prone players coming into the next season (including aging - how long can he last –Alfredsson, Alexei Kovalev and recent pick up Sergei Gonchar). With Spezza on the fence about whether he wants to stay in Ottawa, this team has a strong chance of crashing and burning.
Wow! Only one Canadian team making the playoffs. Being a Canadian, I think that sucks. I really hope some of my predictions are wrong and the Canadian Teams can step it up this season.
That's my opinion. There's probably a couple things I could use some more insight on. You may think it's all a crock, but it's my opinion nonetheless.
Who do you think will make the playoffs this season?