With more than a half dozen teams falling further down the hole and a few others making marginal improvements this is what I see happening this year.
1. Washington is going to make a big push this year and become the dominant team of the East and NHL. They have the pieces in place and also have a couple of good runs and are prepared to make the push. In my opinion they are going to be the team to beat they have a lot of young talented players who are not burnt out and will make something special happen.
2. Ottawa, with the year that wasn't behind them are going back to where they have been over tha past few years. As in the second half of last year they were the second best team in hockey and they are going to continue at that pace and get out of the gate flying. The Heatly soap if not resolved may make them tank again but I dont think the management can be that stupid again?
3. Philadelphia have Pronger and a core of young powerful nasty forwards need I say more.
4. Pittsburgh is going to get beat up a lot in the conference and will be showing signs of burn out given the fact they have been to the finals twice.
5. Toronto with at least 9 new faces are going to really beat up the opposition. They will have an identity that will surpise a lot of teams in the first 20 games or so as their D is so big and punishing. No longer will their forwards be pushed around...Look for Hagman to get a career high in goals. Their shots against will drop, their save percentage will go up and their goaltending will be one of the top trios in the League. The pugnacious players acquried in Orr, Exelby, Komisarek, Beauchemin will punish the opposition like we haven't seen in 15 years. Yes I am a Leaf fan.
The core of the defense are shot blocking specialists second to no one in the east. This team will surpise many people but not their management it's been a deliberate nastiness rebuild that'll be fun to watch. Look for a significant improvement on GA, a continuation of the Goal out put and marked improvement in their special teams.
6.Boston with what was a great season have a veteran lineup starting with a goalie that is over 35 and will be exposed as the teams have a year under their belt figuring out his weeknesses and Thomas is another year older. Look for an increased GA this year.
7. New Jersey with more than 10 players over 35 and 1 over 40 despite having Martin I think will drop out of contention by mid season they're older injury prone and despite the coaching will finish in a low seed.
8. Carolina had a lot of good luck last year that I think will not transfer to this year they haven't done much to really upgrade their defence and I think they will be exposed a lot more than in the past.
9. Buffalo who have no core of players but outstanding coaching will make a valiant effort but fall short of making the play-offs
10. Montreal with all their changes and bad management will not be much of anything Gomez doesn't strike me as an impact player at all. He needs a Kovalev or a Mogilny to set him up and the reason he hasn't had much success is because he's not a real top 6 forward unless he has the support and Camilleri is not the answer. They will suck badly.
11. The Rangers will have an ongoin problem with identity despite getting Larogue. Avery will be a room killer again as I don't think that guy will ever learn unless he's old and grey. As tough as they think they are they are going to have a lot of holes on defense which Laroque won't be able to patch through his beligerant play.
12. The New York Islanders who tanked to get the first pick have not improved all that much but the NHL will give them the benefit of a few calls look for them to still be out of the play-offs.
13. Tampa with a lot of ownership issues will be so distracted that they'll be festering again somewhere in the cellar.
14.Florida haven't really filled the loss Bowmesiter have a lot of holes in their D and top 6.
15. Atlanta with the signing of Andropov and the Acquistion of Kubina will show that they have a lot more holes in their D than previously thought.
I can't wait to see the start of another season!
PS if you read Blogs for their literary worth then you are a pathetic soul --This is simply my stream of consciosness spelling mistakes and all sorry if I fall short in the literary worth frankly I don't care about that I care about the sporting worth and those of us who talk sport no matter how bad our grammer is are intelligent enough to understand without going into a diatribe of nothingness that simply shows one's insecurities in their own worth and wasted on a sports blog-we're talking sports we're not talking Shakespeare, Dante etc