What I have to say might sound crazy to some. But I'm going to pick my top nine teams in each conference to make the play offs. Top nine you say? Well considering that each season one of the divisions always appears a bit weaker than the others and nearly or completely blocks out a team with a better record.
Detriot- Though I think the road for them will be tougher they are still managing to bring in more talent and the addition of Hossa is proof of this. Why I'd be concerned if I were Red Wings fan: Some of the stalwarts of the team having chaulked up yet another year, another long season. Chris Osgood, Chelios and Lindstrom have to be major concerns on the injury front as well as production front. Lindstrom has tremendous brain power on the ice and manages to play smarter not harder but surely as he gets older and takes more jarring hits he becomes susceptible to injury. Osgood has always been towards the solid end of goaltending but if teams can break up the Red Wings puck possesion, hit hard and generate shots Osgood becomes the team's weakness.
Phoenix-Solid goaltending, the right mix of veterans and upcoming talented youth combined with the hockey sense of the Great One. It's a no brainer.
Edmonton-As long as this team skates hard they are dangerous. The biggest question they have really is in net. After that there's a lot to like here.
Anaheim-A solid team. Great defensive depth. Great scoring depth and they play hard.
Dallas-Great goaltending, solid scoring depth and solid depth at the blue line. They also added Sean Avery. Sean can piss you off and then make it feel all the more worse when he nets a goal throwing you completely off your game. Wish the Blues would have made an offer here.
Calgary- Since both Minnesota and Colorado are in decline and the Flames play them alot I like there chances mathmatically. After that, not so much. There's aspects of this team you like but I don;t feel like there is enough scoring depth. I would also fear the consistency issue Kipper had last season. If that's a fluke then they make it. If not, it's tough to out score other teams on a consistent basis with this mix of players.
San Jose- The worst part of being in their division is that there are some good teams in it they have to face more often. Then again they get to face LA more often. They are solid. I think it was a blessing for them to lose Campbell but pick up Boyle. I think Boyle is better offensive threat and just slightly better in the defensive zone which isn't saying much.
Chicago-This if I were ranking teams would be my ninth pick. There are a lot of questions to be asked and a lot of weight on some kids shoulders and the constantly lame Havlat's to boot. With Columbus in the picture and the Blues they have a good shot.
Nashville-Since there are issues with the Russian jumper one wonders what the chemistry might be like in the locker room. Also didn't we see something similiar last season when Mason was supposed to be the starter after they traded the awesome Tommie V.? So now Ellis must break the cycle coming into a season as the number one for the first time in his life. Does it work? Can the young defensmen stay healthy all season?
Dark Horse: My Blues. After losing EJ many have been down on this club. I remember reading the same thing about the Cardinals in the spring. The Cardinals were picked to finish last in the NL by many pundits. And here is a team with a solid core of young players coming in not only with talent but character as well. There are a lot of hungry players on thsi team. There were also a lot of players last season who had down years. Perron is ready to break and I predict he'll at least be a point per game player(barring any injuries). The goaltending situation has been solidified. This team has more talent than it did a year ago meaning the goal scoring will be more spread out which was a major issue last season. A major issue that has not definitively changed is the scoring from the defensive side of the puck and that is a major issue. But they may surprise.
For so long the West has been the dominant conference. This changes this season.
Your new power houses are on the East coast now...sadly.
New York Rangers-one word depth-- at all positions.
Montreal Canadiens-This team loses some players but their farm is made of fertile soil and up pops another replacement.
Washington-The biggest concern in Capital city might not be the bailout but the goaltending situation(okay I only said that to be cute).
Pittsburgh Penguins-the kids are becoming men.
Tampa Bay--the big question here is goaltending again and how long it will take to find chemistry.
Philadelphia-Again goaltending is the concern here as well. Also the defense is another concern and where they will find the offense from it. It's time for Jame Van to come play in the NHL where he belongs.
Buffalo--Scoring on defense is the big question here. After that add Gerbe and man this team is back at it again piling up the goals.
Boston--If you can;t score against them then the handful of goals they get are enough for them to earn another W.
New Jersey--I don't like them but they always find a way in the end. The big thing is they get to play the Islanders a lot.
Dark Horse: Ottawa--They have lost a lot of talent. Goaltending has been erratic. But they still boast some great players. Enough that they can lead the charge and make the difference. The great ones must stay healthy or Ottawa will end up having a shot in the John Taveres swep stakes.