St. Louis Blues: They will certainly be singing the blues in St. Louis this year as no team has fallen further than the Blues. MacInnis has retired, Pronger was traded, and Demitra, Khavanov and Osgood were let leave for other teams. And to make matters worse, Keith Tkachuk is vastly out of shape. Lalime should be a decent replacement for Osgood but no one is going to adequately replace those other guys. Barring a miracle I can’t see the Blues being close to playoff contention.
Colorado Avalanche: They big loss was Peter Forsberg but they also lost Adam Foote, Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne. Those would make the core of a pretty good team. Although they have lost a lot the Avalanche still have some top talent in Sakic, Hejduk, Tanguay and Blake and adding Brisebois will help the loss of Foote. They will still compete for a playoff spot but they are in a tough division.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Gone from the Stanley Cup champs are talented forward Cory Stillman, defensive defenceman Brad Lukowich and of course star goalie Nikolai Khabibulin and they have only really added Vaclav Prospal and Sean Burke to replace them. I honestly don’t think Burke can be a #1 goalie anymore (just ask the Flyers) so that means Tampa is going to depend on John Grahame to step up and be the #1 guy. Although Grahame played great in stretches last year I am not convinced he can be a top goalie on a cup contending team and I think they will be seriously worried about Atlanta challenging them for the division lead. Also, one has to wonder if Martin St. Louis can repeat his stellar season.
Detroit Red Wings: They didn’t fall as far as some people think but their old players are one year older, and honestly, how much more can you expect from Yzerman and Chelios. Gone are Derian Hatcher, Darren McCarty, Mathieu Dandenault, Ray Whitney, Brett Hull, Hasek and Cujo. But I like their pickup of Andreas Lilja who will fill Dandenault’s role and Andy Delmore could be a solid PP quarterback. They will still have a good offence with Lang, Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Shanahan, Lidstrom and others but the big question mark for Detroit is in goal and can Osgood and Legace provide good enough goaltending. If they can Detroit should remain a playoff team in a weak division.
San Jose Sharks: San Jose is a team that few people seem to talk about but they did lose some quality players and didn’t replace them with anyone except rookies they hope will step up. Gone are Mike Ricci, Mike Rathje, Jason Marshall, Alexander Korolyuk and Curtis Brown. If the young players don’t step up, the Sharks will fall down.
Other teams who might fall: Vancouver Canucks have lost some valuable depth on defence with Sopel and Malik gone. Toronto Maple Leafs if *both* Lindros and Allison suffer serious injuries. New Jersey if Elias, Gomez and Mogilny can’t all come back from injury/health issues. I think they have done a decent job patching up their defense.