Well, i have been an avid reader of hockey buzz for many years now.. i finally decided to write a quick blog on how i think the Eastern conference 2012 season will play out:
Reason: I firmly believe that this is the team to beat in the east... having done what they did last season without crosby for the better part of the season and with Malkin and Staal missing half the year as well makes me realize what a powerhouse this team is. expect big things from them this year as i think they will be a favorite for the cup.
Reason: Theres always been something about washington that really got on my nerve. it was their goaltending. having gone from Huet to Theodore to Varlamov to Neuvirth then back to varlamov then back to neuvirth... they needed a solid goaltender to stabalize everything and they got just that in Vokoun. without the worry of a goaltender on his back, expect Mike Green to be back to form and notch 70 pts.
Reason:The NE is going to be a strong division this year, a close race for 1st in the NE will be between Buffalo, Boston, and Montreal. i feel as though buffalo will edge out the latter 2 because of a rebound season for Ryan Miller, and a revamped defense core that looks scarier than ever...
Reason: a team that should be top5 in the league in PP this season. Hedman is getting better and better each game he plays, and stamkos will challenge for the scoring lead. Team that with a rebound season from Vincent Lecavalier and youve got a solid contender here.
5. NY Rangers
Reason: Henrik Lundqvist. the most dominant goalie in the east, by far. he could be a vezina finalist this year. The addition of Brad richards is going to work wonders for Gaborik, and it lets Dubinski move down to the 2nd line where he excelled in the previous year. there are still a few question marks on defense but solid goaltending and lots of scoring will get this team to where it needs to be, the post season.
Reason: Return from injury of the teams top offensive defenseman, as well as top defensive defenseman. Carey Price is maturing in to an elite talent goaltender but still needs some work in some area's. Yemelin will be an X-Factor for this team providing them with a much needed physical presence on the blue line. The Habs still need some size upfront and have addressed it a little with the addition of cole. Expect a deep run, but 2012 is not their year.
Reason: Thomas is an aging vet, and although he put up career numbers in 2011, the 37 year old wont be able to match it. the team lost a solid vet in Recchi, and Michael Ryder showed just how good of a player he really is in the playoffs. The team did not really improve , and Thomas isnt getting any younger. Unless Rask is ready to take the reigns , expect a tough year for the B's
Reason: the 8th spot will be the most exciting race and i expect no more than 3 points to seperate 8th from 11th. the 'Canes nabbed kaberle off FA and gives them that PP QB they've been so longing for. they also added a bit of grit with the addition of Stewart and Brent. the canes have a deep pool of young talent including Skinner, Dalpe, Sutter, and Boychuck.
Reason: I actually like the new-look Flyers. however, the loss of carter and richards WILL be felt. even though they addressed the goaltender situation with the addition of Bryzgalov, i dont feel as though it'll be enough to keep them playing into the spring
Reason: Is Reimer the real deal? maybe, only time will tell. Many in toronto feel he is the answer to their never ending goaltending issues. I like what Burke has done on defense, as they have a nice mix of defensive D's and offensive D's. Its the scoring that will be the achillies heel for the Leafs. Tim Conolly is not the answer they are looking for. Kadri is. a year or so more of developpement or maybe 1 in the NHL on a 3rd line will let him hone his skills and get up to speed, gain the conditioning, and learn the strategies that will make him a #1 center for this team for many years to come. They could sneak in as the race for 8th will be a close one.
11. New Jersey
Reason: a true wildcard in the east. if Kovalchuk can regain his scoring form, and Parise plays to his true level, they can take the 8th spot. This may be the final year for brodeur, and if it is, expect him to go out with a bang. He will leave everything on the ice and give it his all. the future hall of fame-r could post some very nice numbers but the defense on this team is very weak.. they need larsson to come in and impact right away.
Reason: Welcome back to the NHL Winnipeg! a team chalk full of young talent. fun to watch. it will definately be the underdog story of the league if they manage to sneak in. its possible... Pavelec is a great goaltender, Kane is progressing nicely in his career. Burmistrov..bogosian... need i say more? this will be a really fun team to watch. they could be in playoff position come christmas time, but expect them to slip due to the inexperience of the younger players.
Reason: what an offseason it has been for the Florida Panthers. 11 new players? thats half the roster. they will need some time to mesh. The biggest lost is of course at the net. Vokoun was the only reason that the panthers were not 15th in the east every season. he put up outstanding numbers for a team that barely helped him at all. Theodore is an aged Vet who cant start more than 50 games, so unless clemenssen can handle the rest, florida is in for a long season. they could make a late push for 8th but i think they will be too far behind by that time to do it.
Reason: Actually, i dont have a reason for this one. they could go as high as 6th and as low as 14th, i just didnt have anywhere else to put them. Grabner is outstanding, i have no idea why the panthers put him on waivers... Tavares should score at least 30 goals this season if not more... they have a great group of guys and i wish them the best.
Reason: The Ottawa Rebuild has begun (well actually it begun last season around trade deadline). I like direction that ottawa seems to be taking for their rebuild, from the defense out. thats what LA did, and look at them now. thats what nashville did, and look at them now. as long as they stick to their plan, the rebuild wont take more than another 2 years. expect to see alot of young guys in the lineup throughout the year. and perhaps a trade involving a big name player (and no, im not talking about alfredsson, he is going to end his career in ottawa.. whenever that is)
Thanks for reading guys, i really enjoyed writting this. it made me think alot about the directions that teams have been going and continue to go. any comments would be greatly appreciated unless they are offensive.. please keep those ones to yourself :]
I will try to get western predictions as soon as possible.