THN recently came out with theirs , so I thought I would do my own as well . Except that sinne I lack telepathic ability , I will give a range as to where I think a team can land. From their highest to their lowest.
So lets' get the ball rolling.
The Thrashers seem to be rallying a bit. Bringing in support for lone super star Ilya Kovalchuk . With the additions of Antropov and Kubina via trade and free agency . As well as the drafting of Kane, to go with ; Little , Kozlov , Reasoner , Enstrom , Hainsey , Armstrong and Bogosian . Atalanta might have a shot at a return to the post-season with the makings of a soon to be solid core. Of course that is if everyone gels together , and goaltending remains solid. But , I see Atlanta shooting as high as 6th if all works out well , and if not , well they can drop as low as 13th , and have another shot at the draft.
After a disapointing end to their playoff run , the Bruins are going to look make another go at it this season . Much of the team is returning , and undoubtedly will be hungry to pick up where they left off last season. Boston has an overall well built team that can play with the best of them . If Chara can continue his dominance of the blue line , and Thomas remain in vezina form , then first place in the east is not out of the question . On the flip side, the soon to be sure loss of kessel and his goal scoring abilities , might affect the team . As well , question marks surround Thomas if he can continue his dominance in the crease. At the worst though , if all fails to click initially, the Bruins drop as low as 5th in the conference. Their overall toughness and skill will be to much to keep at bay .
Buffalo has just not been the same since their 06-07 run . The team has not come clsoe to reaching the high plateau of that season . Most of the time struggling to remain in playoff contention through out the year . The 2008-09 season saw the Sabres miss the playoffs yet again, as well as the loss of key free agents on the blueline and up front . That being said , the Sabres often batteld injuries to key players last year . Most notably being All-star goalie Ryan Miller who went down at a crucial point in the season . The Sabres as well suffered from an overall alck of grit , that seemed to be partially remedied with the bringing in of Cody McCormick and Miek Grier. Each known for their tough and gritty play . That in conjuntion with the continued development of Vanek and Roy might be enough to slip in as high as 7th . Though the hope remains slim , Buffalo will need to stay healthy and build on the great chemistry they developed from within the franchise to return to the post-season . They are to streaky to be a lock in , but to good to fall down below 11th. Interestign to see how sharp the Sabres are this year.
The Hurricanes shocked the hockey world last year , with their re-emergence after deadline . Much can be attributed to head coah Paul Maurice and the re-uniting of Eric Cole with his linemates . They carried their spectacular play into the post-season knocking off the Devils in a spectacular goalie showdown in 7 games . As well as knocked out the Bruins in the enxt round . the canes were halted by the steamrolling Penguins who would eventually go on to win the cup . Carolina would have a quiet off-season , with the most notable action being the signing of Tom Koustopolous, the acquisition of Andrew Alberts, the re-signing of Tomou Rutuu , and the buying out of Frantisek Kaberle . Much of the Hurricane team remains intact though , and the core of Staal , Whitney , Rutuu , Cole , Samsonov , Brindamour , Jokinien will be looked at to carry the load. As well as the continued stellar play of Cam Ward to bail them out of tough spots. The Canes if the forwards come through and Ward stands on his head again , will be able to push as high as 5th with their energetic play and well proportioned team . But if they should struggle , or Ward goes down with injury . Look for the canes to plummet as low as a possible 11th. Like the Sabres , bad enough to miss the playoffs , but to good to lock in a spot.
Not much to say about the Panthers, except that expect them to be impossible to judge until the season is over. The Panthers have repeatedly shown they have the ability to put everythig together on any random ngiht , and take on the best of the teams in the lague. Unfortunately , they fail to do that every night , which has resluted in quite a few years of playoff drought. The loss of Bouwmeester will hurt them undoubtedly , btu a hoopefully healthy Bryan McCabe , along with Leopold and Kostinen will be able to help out and shoulder the load of offence from the blueline. As for the forwards, expect them to give their team a shot at winning , possessing players such as Horton and Booth to attempt to lead by example. If young players such as Shawn mattias can make a permenant jump to the big league , and contribute , the Panthers might have enough to push for as high as 6th seed in the standings. That being said, if goaltenders Thomas Voukon and Scott Clemmensen are not capable of building a strong tandem and wall behinf the team , Florida will suffer , and drop to its all to familiar place. Outside the playoffs.
A very wide spectrum for this new look team . The Canadiens made a disatser out of their centennial season . Letting locker room issues and poor play let them be humilated through out the season and swept by Boston in the playoffs. Change was needed , and that is what the team got . Core veterans of koivu , Tanguay , Kovalev , Lang , komisarek , Higgins, Schneider and a few others were shipepd out to be replaced with Gomez, Cammellari , Gionta, Gill , Mara and Moen . The team has a totally new look , and will be watched intently as soon as the puck is dropped. If the team can build up a quick chemistry and make use of the 2 scoring line - 2 bruiser line combo , then the team can perhaps challenge Boston for a division title. Much will also rely on the reemergence of Carey Price who had a disatrous sophmore season . He and Halak will be looked at to keep the team winning , while the team finds it stride. If the team fails to find chemistry , and old locker room problesm emerge , then lok for the Candiens to follow one disastrous season with another, and most likely fall down to the 8th spot or lower . The Canadiens will be one team that is heavily scrutinized this year .
New Jersey Devils
This is a team that always remains in the post-season , despite what ever off-season moves are made, or not made to be more specific. This off-season the Devils have lost ; John Madden , Brian Gionta, and Scott Clemmensen . The most significant being that of John Madden , who will be missed for his two way play . They managed to add veteran journeyman Yann Danis at least to their squad to back up Brodeur . That all being said, this is still the New Jersey Devils. With the emergence of Zach Parise as a dominant player in the Nhl , the contributions of Langenbrunner, Elias, Rolston , Zajac, Zubrus and Shanahan . This team still has what it takes to push opponents and contend. The source of their success will of course fall upon Brodeur maintaining his incredible play , and bouncing back from a mediocre playoff outing. Worse case scenario is a shaky Brodeur , and injury to a few key players ; the Devils don’t particularly have that much depth . If these do occur the devils could sldie out of post-season contention , unlikely.. but it could happen .
New York Islanders
Sorry Islander fans , I know you have Taveras , and I would love to see a return to the post-season by the Isles , but there is just not enough there . The Islanders , are one of the few teams who can say clearly “We are rebuilding” ., and they are doing a bang up job of it. With a young core at the moment consisting of Taveras , Bailey , Okposo , Gervais , Comeau , Di Petro , and support in journeyman Mark Streit , veteran Weight, and a goaltending tandem of Biron and Roloson , the Isles have the making of something good. True , that something good might not come this season , or even the next. But the path is laid before them , and they are defiantly walking it to its end . The Isles can finish as high as 10th , if Taveras shows he can live up to his name , but any higher then that and it is being unrealistic . Even Crosby didn’t go to the playoffs his first year . On the other hand the Islanders can collapse as far as last again , depending on how well other teams perform , and if their own stays healthy . Might not have a post-season to look forward to , but at least they have Taveras and a future.
New York Rangers
If Gaborik stays healthy , if Higgins and Drury find their game , if Dubinsky takes it up a notch , if Redden and Rosival play defence , and shoot a puck occasionally, if Lundqvist plays like the king he is , if Torts doesn’t strangle anyway on the ice , if Avery agitates and doesn’t have Torts trying to strangle him . Needless to say , the Rangers have a lot of question marks over them this season ( do they ever not?) . If all goes well , and the Rangers stay healthy and play up to their lofty standards , then the Rags can shoot as high as 4th in the conference , good enough for a home stand in the playoffs.On the other hand , this is a very fragile team . If any one or two of the above mentioned go wrong , then this team can collapse in a mighty hurry , and find themselves looking outside the playoffs . Not something , any ranger fan wants to see. In my eyes , it will be either spectacular success , or crushing defeat . Will be interesting to watch .
The Senators just might have as many question marks as the Rangers . This is a team that was rife with dissension last year , some of which has carried over into the off-season ,(ahem Heatley …) . This is a team that when playing their type of game , can be as deadly as any other in the conference. They may end up moving Heatley out for some secondary scoring , but even if they keep him or don’t , the same problem still remains . The Senators need to get their act together and just focus on hockey . Clouston towards the end of last season showed that this team still has what it takes to move to the finals . Secondary scoring may be a bit of an issue , but a turn around by Fisher , and the continued development of Foligno and Bass might provide some help . As well if Heatley ends up being moved for some secondary scoring then this team can get it done. On the flip side, their still remains a question mark over goaltending , if Pascal LeClaire can regain form , as well as the defence buying into a more offensive mentality to aid the forwards . If all goes well , look for a return of the Sens , if things begin to deteriorate and the team morale still remains low , then look for a fire sale and the Senators remaining outside the playoffs or in position much like the Montreal Canadiens this year . Make the playoffs , only to be embarrassed in them .
This is one nasty team ; hell even their goalie can fight . With the addition of Pronger onto the blue line and the general overall toughness of the team (Minus Briere) , this is a team that can grind with the best of them , and score as well . The Flyers boast a high octane offence that will be difficult to stop because of their depth , especially on the PP . The only question that remains for this team , is not how many goals they will score , but rather how many they will let in . With a tandem of Emery and Boucher , nothing is for certain . Each goalie is capable of winning in this league , but each as well has shown flashes of inconsistency . With a strong net stopper , there is nothing stopping the Flyers from fighting with the Penguins over first place for their division and the conference lead. But should goaltending fail; then we will still see the Flyers make the post-season with ease , not saying they will go far in it , but they will land no lower then 5th in the conference .
Coming off a Stanley Cup win in the 08-09 season , I see Pittsburgh being able to shoot as high as 1st place in their division and conference . Building on the success of last season , and the mantra that their coach had introduced. With much of the core still intact , it is quite possible for a repeat . On the flip side they very well could slide a bit down the ladder, as they have lost a few role players such as Gill and Scuderi who were integral to their cup run . With that said , I with out doubt would look to see the Pens at the worst in the top 6 in the conference. Anything lower and it would be shocking.
Tampa bay Lightning
What a turn around . Last year it seemed that they would sign anyone for anything . Mostly offensive like players , who in the end got them no where. I don’t know what was worse , the signings , or the trading of Dan Boyle for what seems like nothing … Oh wait it was nothing . But that’s the past , this year the Lightning have been working hard on getting players who will come to play , buying out slackers like Prospal . They have improved their defence exponentially and are looking to playa more energetic and hard working game then last year . LeCavalier can finally play with out constant trade rumors , Stamkos has got over his stage fright , and St. Louis is merely St. Louis , ageless. These along with the new additions and the gritty and hard working 3rd and 4th lines might be enough to carry them into the off-season for the first time in a few years . With a young Smith being mentored by Nittymaki , it seems there is stability in the nets as well . That is all good and well , but unfortunately for the Lightning though , much remains on them remaining healthy . If one injury were to occur to one of their top six players, we could see a collapse out of the playoffs. They are well balanced , but not particularly deep anywhere . Injuries could ruin this teams return to the post-season , but then again it could do the same for any other team as well . Competition will be fierce with the bottom teams , but if everything goes well , and players perform as they should , then the Lightning should have their shot at the playoffs again.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto GM Brian Burke has been a busy little beaver this off season. Toughening up his team to the point where some will think he is trying to win a cage match , and not a hockey game. But that toughness might be what is keeping the Leafs in consideration for the post-season . Lets face it , the Leafs don’t have a particularly talented group of forwards. The most notable on the team being maverick Mikhael Grabovsky and the jigsaw that is Jason Blake . These two , will be relied upon heavily to provide scoring while the younger buds find their stride. They may even be able to do it, as they will have quit e a few bruisers prowling around to make sure they have clean shots. If they are able to score , and some of the youngsters follow suit , as well as goaltending proves to be a postive for the team rather then negative , then the Leafs could squeak into the playoffs and end their longest drought . On the flip side, Grabovsky and Blake can just as easily struggle , and all that new muscle can just as easily take to many penalties limiting their offensive chances . Which could lead to another potential ousting from the playoff picture from the Leafs . The key for the Leafs will be to balance themselves out , knowing when to take penalties and when not to . Hopefully coach Ron Wilson will keep a firm hand on the reign with this young team . Otherwise , things can get out of hand very quickly.
Washington Capitals .
Ovechkin , Semin , Nylander, Clark , Backstrom , Knuble , Laich , Green , and Poti . All players who have or have the ability to score 20 or more goals. This is a team that can wreak havoc amongst goalies and defenseman alike . They are the definition of a high scoring team , all very capable and very talented. Take them and the gritty players of the 3rd and 4th line , and you have very much a contender . Their offence can carry them all the way to the top of the conference. Unfortunately though , offence as we have seen isn’t everything . They also have to play defence and their goalies need to stay alert . The defence of this team is known for its’ rather offensive minded mentality . Leading to chances on the goalies that should not of ever been their initially . As well as the goaltending of the team is still in the air. Washington has the veteran Jose Theodore and rookie Simeon Varlamov . Theodore’s time is near an end , but he still possess’ the ability to shine every now and then , though he can not be relied on anymore to be the starter. While Varlamov who was for the most part was exceptional in the playoffs , still needs to prove his worth in a full season . He was shown to get a bit tired into the later stages of the playoffs , and his glove hand is now known as a definite weakness . The Capitals can score as many goals as they want , but if they cant stop them , then they can see a decline in their wins , and the standings. If goaltending holds , expect Washington to be at the top of their division , if not conference. If goaltending and defence falter , expect them still to be in the playoffs , but not as unstoppable as they would like to be .
Well that’s it for the East for me . What do you think ?