Sep 282007
 

New Jersey Devils
Strengths:
-Martin Brodeur
Weaknesses:
-No longer have that anchor on defense.
Question Marks:
-Can the Devils defensive system work without a stud defenseman?
-Can Elias and Gionta regain the chemistry of the past couple years without Gomez?
-Can Parise improve on last years break out season.
Outlook:
The Devils success over the past decade has largely been due to having stellar goaltending and a nearly as stellar defense. But over the past 3 or 4 years they have lost Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer and Brian Rafalski off their defence and the question is, can they be just as successful without that stud defenseman? Making matters worse is defenseman Colin White has suffered a significant eye injury and when he will return is still uncertain. That is going to put a lot of pressure on an unspectacular crew of Paul Martin, Karel Rachunek, Vitaly Vishnevski, Richard Matvichuk, Johnny Oduya and Andy Greene. To make maters worse the Devils lost on of their top offensive players in Scott Gomez this summer. The Devils anchored by Martin Brodeur still should make the playoffs this year but it is far from certain and a key injury or two could see them fall out of the top eight in the eastern conference.

New York Islanders
Strengths:
-Rick DiPietro is an emerging star goalie
Weaknesses:
-No top end talent anywhere in front of DiPietro
-Lost a lot of key players to free agency.
Question Marks:
-Can the hodge podge of second tier free agents come together quickly as a cohesive unit?
-Can Rick DiPietro take his game up another notch.
Outlook:
The Islanders have lost Alexei Yashin, Ryan Smyth, Jason Blake, Viktor Kozlov, Tom Poti and Sean Hill from the team that finished last year. That is a lot of holes to fill for a team that just barely made the playoffs. They did make some decent acquisitions in Fedotenko, Guerin, Comrie, Vasicek and Sutton but it is hard to say there is a quality first line player among them. Can Bill Guerin score 36 goals with Mike Comrie as his center like he did last year when he played mostly with Doug Weight, a true playmaking center? I don’t think so. The only saving grace for this team is goalie Rick DiPietro. DiPietro is a good enough goalie that he may be able to keep the Islanders within shooting distance of the playoffs though in the end they will probably end up closer to the basement than a playoff spot.

New York Rangers
Strengths:
-Deep and talented group of forwards.
-Lundqvist is an elite level goalie.
Weaknesses:
-A serviceable but unspectacular group of defense.
Question Marks:
-How will the new lineup come together?
-Will Jagr form the same chemistry with Gomez that he had with Nylander?
-Will Sean Avery wear out his welcome and become a disturbance in the dressing room?
Outlook:
With all the big roster moves the Rangers made in the off season they sure would like to see them as prime Stanley Cup contenders this season. That should be the case, but many people thought that should be the case last year too, but instead they floundered at times, finished only 6th in the eastern conference and were ousted from the playoffs in the second round. If they have learned their lesson and can learn to play a bit more consistent and reliable hockey they should be a contender this year. Chris Drury’s experience and leadership should definitely help them out in this area. In the end the Rangers will compete with Pittsburgh, Ottawa and Buffalo for top spot in the eastern conference and likely for the chance to represent the east in the Stanley Cup finals.

Philadelphia Flyers
Strengths:
-Added a lot of talent in the off season.
-Briere and Gagne should form a potent duo
-Depth of forwards
Weaknesses:
-Questionable defence
-I am not yet sold on Biron as a starting goalie.
Question Marks:
-Can Biron be a quality starting goalie?
-How quickly can this completely revamped lineup come together as a team.
Outlook:
There is no doubt that the Flyers will be one of the most improved teams in the NHL. You can’t add Briere, Hartnell, Lupul, Timonen, and Jason Smith without improving your team. The Flyers now have a lot of depth at the forward position and are capable of putting out 3 lines which can score and Timonen should do wonders in the transition game and helping the power play. Whether they can make the playoffs or not will depend in large part on Biron playing like a quality starting goalie for 55+ games and young defensemen like Braydon Coburn, Lasse Kukkonen, Alex Picard, and Randy Jones becoming reliable defensemen. A playoff spot is not a sure thing with this newly formed team but they should be good enough to be in the hunt which is a dramatic improvement over last season.

Pittsburgh Penguins
Strengths:
-Incredible young talent
-Maybe the best offence in the league
Weaknesses:
-Defensive ability and play – lack a true shut down defenseman
-Average goaltending.
Question Marks:
-Can Marc-Andre Fleury become a consistent reliable #1 goalie?
-Can Jordan Staal and Evgeni Malkin repeat stellar rookie seasons?
-How much is left in the tanks of veterans Mark Recchi, Gary Roberts and Darryl Sydor?
Outlook:
The Penguins are arguable the most talented team in the NHL as Crosby and Malkin are two superstar talents and Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney probably form the best pair of offensive defenseman in the NHL. The Penguins are going to score goals and score a lot of them. The big question is, can they reduce their goals against. Former first overall pick Marc-Andre Fleury showed some improvements in goal last year but the Penguins were still only an average team in terms of goals against. If they can improve on that a bit (and that is partly why they brought in Darryl Sydor) then the Penguins have to be considered a top contender for the Stanley Cup.

Sep 272007
 

Atlanta Thrashers
Strengths:
-Top end talent in Kovalchuk and Hossa
-Excellent young goalie in Kari Lehtonen
Weaknesses:
-Lack depth and secondary scoring
-Just an OK defence and not deep.
Question Marks:
-Is Lehtonen ready to take his game to the elite level?
-Will Atlanta re-sign Hossa or be forced to trade him before he becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer?
-Is Steve Rucchin’s career done?
Outlook:
A few of the bodies changed but I the outlook for the Thrashers is pretty much the same as last year. They will compete for the division title once again but only because they play in a weak division and are otherwise a borderline playoff team whose success or failure is pretty much dependent on the performance of Kovalchuk, Hossa and Lehtonen.

Carolina Hurricanes
Strengths:
-Strong down the middle with Staal, Brind’amour, Cullen and Jeff Hamilton.
-Pretty good set of wingers too.
Weaknesses:
-They have 7 NHL calibre defensemen but none of them are really top pairing defensemen on most good teams in the NHL.
-Despite winning the Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy goalie Cam Ward has still not yet established himself as a good consistent dependable goalie in the NHL.
Question Marks:
-Will goalie Cam Ward take his game up a notch?
-Can Eric Staal return to the level of play he showed in 2005-06?
Outlook:
-Like most teams in this division they are a decent team but not a great one. They have a chance to compete for the division title but may also miss the playoffs like they did last season. Which outcome they obtain will depend on the play of Cam Ward and the Hurricanes weak defence group.

Florida Panthers
Strengths:
-Finally have a proven star goalie.
-Lots of good young talent.
Weaknesses:
-Not a lot of depth up front which means staying healthy will be critical.
-Not a lot of experienced talent.
Question Marks:
-Can Vokoun stay healthy enough to play 65+ games?
-Can Olesz, Horton, Weiss and the other young players take their games up a notch.
Outlook:
-There is no doubt that adding Tomas Vokoun is going to have a major impact on this team. With a lot of young players on the roster, having a proven star goalie back that can help make up for a lot of ‘rookie’ mistakes. If Vokoun can play 65+ games and they get some improvement out of their young forwards there is no reason why Florida can’t compete for a playoff spot or even the division title in this weak southeast division. If neither of those happen it will likely be another playoff miss for the Panthers. I am optimistic about their playoff chances though.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Strengths:
-The big 3 forwards in Lecavalier, St. Louis and Richards are among the best in the league.
-Boyle and Kuba are two solid offensive defensemen to compliment the big three forwards.
Weaknesses:
-Goaltending.
-Defensive play.
-Goaltending again.
Question Marks:
-Can Dan Boyle make a quick recovery from his freak accident and return to being a star offensive defensemen?
-Can they finally get some consistent, solid goaltending?
Outlook:
-The story in Tampa since they won their Stanley Cup just prior to the lock out has been all about goaltending. They have squeaked into the playoffs two years in a row now despite having horrible goaltending, in part because of a weak division and in part because they have been stellar in shootouts (combined 16-6 the past 2 years). In fact, last year Tampa’s goalies had a better save percentage in the shootout (.887) than they did during the rest of the game (.884). That is unlikely to happen again and with the potential improvement of Florida and Washington it makes Tampa’s playoff spot seriously up for grabs. Best case scenario for the Lightning is they squeak into the playoffs again.

Washington Capitals
Strengths:
-Next to Pittsburgh might have the best set of young forwards in the NHL with Ovechkin, Semin and rookie Nicklas Backstrom.
-Added some nice complementary forwards in Nylander and Viktor Kozlov.
Weaknesses:
-Below average defence
Question Marks:
-Can Nicklas Backstrom have a solid rookie season?
-Does 37 year old goalie Kolzig have another good year in him?
Outlook:
-The Washington Capitals are one of the interesting teams to watch this year. They finished 14th in the eastern conference last season with 70 points but have added Michael Nylander, Viktor Kozlov, Tom Poti and rookie of the year candidate Nicklas Backstom to their roster. They have the makings of two very good offensive lines, one anchored by a Nylander-Ovechkin duo and the other by a Backstrom-Semin duo with 30 goal scorer Chris Clark and 25 goal scorer Viktor Kozlov added to the mix as well. They have the potential to have a better forward group (top to bottom) than either Tampa or Atlanta and that is saying a lot. Like Tampa and Atlanta though, their defence is suspect though it could be serviceable if everyone plays to their potential. The question is if and when will this offensive talent come together and play like a cohesive unit (much like what happened in Pittsburgh last year). If it happens by the mid-point in the season the Capitals could challenge for a playoff spot but I suspect they are still a year or two and a quality defenseman or two away.

Sep 262007
 

I just wanted to make a quick post to remind everyone of my other blog/website PredictHockey.com. Over there you will find my computer/algorithm generated game predictions (once the season is a few weeks old) as well as compete with other readers to see who is the best predictor of the outcomes of NHL games. It’s all good fun so head over there any enjoy.

Sep 262007
 

Calgary Flames
Strengths:
-Excellent depth at forward and defense
-Top tier goaltending with Kipprusoff
-Excellent size and physical play
Weaknesses:
-No true #1 center
-No proven backup goalie if anything happens to Kipprusoff
Question Marks:
-How will the players get along with new hard-nosed coach Mike Keenan
-Can Huselius repeat his stellar season last year which was well beyond the typical Huselius season.
Outlook:
-The Flames have an excellent mix of skill and toughness, forwards and defense, experience and youth and in my mind should be one of the best teams in the NHL. That didn’t quite work out last year but one has to believe things might be different under a new and extremely experienced head coach in Mike Keenan. The key will be weather the players buy into Keenan’s antics. I suspect they will because they Keenan isn’t likely to be all that different than former coach and now GM Darryl Sutter. The Flames should make the playoffs and be a force in the hunt for the Stanley Cup.

Colorado Avalanche
Strengths:
-A lot of skill on their top 2 lines and should score a lot of goals.
-Leadership ability in Sakic and Smyth
-An underrated defence that is deep
Weaknesses:
-Budaj had a decent year last year but is still not proven as a top starter in the NHL.
Question Marks:
-Can Budaj take his game to the next level?
-Can last years rookies Stastny and Wolski repeat or improve on their seasons?
-Can Svatos return to his rookie year performance.
Outlook:
-The Avalanche made a great late season run at the playoffs last year and nearly made it but in the end just missed. This year should be different as they come back with pretty much the same team but have added 30+ goal scorer Ryan Smyth and defensive defenseman Scott Hannan. They should be a lock for a playoff spot this year and if Budaj pick up his game a little and last years rookies repeat the Avalanche should challenge for the Stanley Cup.

Edmonton Oilers
Strengths:
-Souray, Pitkanen and Tarnstrom give them some PP quarterbacks that they didn’t have last year.
-Dustin Penner should replace most of Smyth’s offensive production.
-Alex Cogliano and Sam Gagner could bring some youthful talent and enthusiasm into the lineup.
Weaknesses:
-With Ryan Smyth and Jason Smith gone they lost a lot of leadership for the young forwards and defensemen respectively.
-Lack a true offensive star up front.
-Questionable defensive defensively.
Question Marks:
-Can one of their forwards step up and take the team under his wings much like Smyth did for all those years.
-Will Pitkanen finally develop into a star defenseman like everyone has expected.
-Can Gagner and/or Cogliano make a big impact with the Oilers this year.
Outlook:
-The Oilers should be a much improved team this year with the additions of Pitkanen, Souray, Tarnstrom and Penner. The improvement will largely come in the areas of offence where the skilled defence trio of Pitkanen, Souray and Tarnstrom should help with the transition game and the power play. Also, Matheiu Garon gives the Oilers the best goalie tandem they have had in several years. If the Oilers were in the eastern conference I would suggest that they might contend for a playoff spot. Problem is, the Oilers play in the better/deeper western conference and more importantly the best division in the NHL. That is going to leave them on the outside come playoff time but I think Oilers fans are going to see some improvement and positive signs for the future of the franchise.

Minnesota Wild
Strengths:
-Excellent coaching and proven defensive system the players buy into.
-Gaborik and Koivu are just entering their prime
-Brian Rolston is one of the most underrated players in the NHL
-A deep defence with experience.
Weaknesses:
-Goalies Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding have combined for just 48 games experience.
-Not a lot of secondary scoring.
-Lack a true #1 defenseman
Question Marks:
-Can Nicklas Backstrom repeat last seasons success over 65 games this year?
-Can Marian Gaborik remain healthy?
-Can Kim Johnsson rebound after a weak season (especially offensively).
Outlook:
-If Nicklas Backstrom can repeat his excellent year last year over 65+ games this season the Minnesota Wild’s playoff chances look good. The Wild would definitely be a top 8 teams in terms of talent and ability but if their inexperienced goalies struggle at all then they may fall back into a tight playoff race with teams like Nashville and/or St. Louis who play in a much easier division. Unfortunately for the Wild there may not be a lot of room for error in such a tough division.

Vancouver Canucks
Strengths:
-They have the best goalie in the NHL
-When healthy they have a pretty good group of 6 defensemen
Weaknesses:
-They don’t have much offensive punch after the Sedin’s
-Sami Salo is starting the season injured with a fractured wrist.
Question Marks:
-Can the Sedin’s continue to improve or have the reached their career potential?
-Will the downward trend of Markus Naslund’s career continue or can he turn it around?
-Can Bieksa repeat what was a stellar season in 2006-07?
-Can Taylor Pyatt score 20+ goals again?
Outlook:
-Let’s be honest here. The Canucks are very similar to the Dallas Stars and depend significantly on defence and goaltending to win games. That isn’t necessarily a bad thin as New Jersey has had a lot of success doing that over the past dozen years but it does mean the margin for error is slim as the Canucks will probably win a ton of one goal games. If Luongo or either of the Sedin’s suffer a long term injury the Canucks playoffs hopes could fizzle away. But if their big guys stay healthy and perform as expected the Canucks should make the playoffs relatively easily and once there almost any team can ride a hot goalie to the Stanley Cup.

Sep 252007
 

Chicago Blackhawks
Strengths:
-Two prime young prospects in Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
-Good talent with Martin Havlat and Tuomo Ruutu
Weaknesses:
-They added Sergei Samsonov
-Lack a quality top pairing defenseman
-Lack depth up front
-Khabibulin makes way too much money.
Question Marks:
-Can Ruutu and Havlat stay healthy?
-Are Jonathan Toews and especially smallish Patrick Kane ready for the NHL
Outlook:
-With a couple of high draft picks the past two drafts the Blackhawks have added a couple of quality young prospects in Toews and Kane which gives Blackhawks fans something to be optimistic about down the road but they probably aren’t yet ready to star in the NHL. That means another subpar season and likely another quality draft pick in next seasons draft which is supposed to be a good one. If they can draft a top end defence or goalie prospect to go with the young forwards it wouldn’t be all bad.

Columbus Blue Jackets
Strengths:
-Doug MacLean is gone
-Sergei Fedorov and Adam Foote’s salaries come off the books after this season freeing up over $10.5 million for next summer’s free agent frenzy.
-Rick Nash
Weaknesses:
-Pretty much everything except maybe coaching with Ken Hitchcock.
Question Marks:
-Can Rick Nash take his game up another notch into 40 goal, 70 point territory.
-Can Gilbert Brule improve on a weak first season and establish himself at least as a second line center.
-Will either Fredrik Norrena or Pascal LeClaire establish themselves as a quality #1 goalie.
Outlook:
-It looks all but certain that the Blue Jackets will miss the playoffs once again but Blue Jacket fans should look for whether Ken Hitchcock can instil better consistency, work ethic and defensive system in the team. I think that should be the measure of success this season because in the standings we aren’t likely to see a lot of success.

Detroit Red Wings
Strengths:
-Experience and leadership.
-Solid core of top 6 defensemen (among the best in the league) led by star Nicklas Lidstrom and newcomer Brian Rafalski.
-Exellent top end forwards in Datsyuk, Zetterberg and Holmstrom.
-A decent complement of young forwards in Hudler, Franzen, Filppula, and Kopecky.
Weaknesses:
-Age of their goaltending tandem, particularly Hasek.
-The loss of Lang, Shanahan and others over the past couple seasons has cost them some of their quality experienced depth.
Question Marks:
-Does Hasek have another good, healthy season left in him?
-Will a couple of their young forwards have a break out season.
Outlook:
-The Red Wings arguably have the best mix of players in the NHL with some quality veterans, some players in their prime, and some younger players ready to take their game up a level. They also have a good mix of offence, defence and goaltending. All-round they are a very good team and once again should compete for top spot in the west as well as for the Stanley Cup. Possibly the best team in the NHL.

Nashville Predators
Strengths:
-Potential future star players in winger Alexander Radulov and defensemen Shea Weber and Ryan Suter.
-Despite losing Timonen they still have a pretty good group of 6 defensemen.
Weaknesses:
-Lost a lot of talent and depth up front with the losses of Forsberg, Kariya, Hartnell and with Steve Sullivan out with injury likely at least until January.
-The trading away of Tomas Vokoun puts a lot of pressure on new starting goalie Chris Mason.
Question Marks:
-Can Radulov replace Paul Kariya’s offence and then some?
-Can goalie Chris Mason handle playing 60+ games as a true #1 goalie with not a lot of support at backup.
Outlook:
-The Nashville Predators lost a lot in the off season, probably more than any other team, but despite that they still could compete for the final playoff spot if goalie Chris Mason take what he did in parts of the past two seasons and make it work for a full season and if Radulov can jump to 30 goal, 75 point territory this early in his career. They probably still won’t be as good as some other teams competing for playoff spots but they have the advantage of playing Columbus and Chicago 8 times each which should keep them in the race.

St. Louis Blues
Strengths:
-They have the makings of a pretty good defence group if rookie Erik Johnson can come close to matching his hype and Jay McKee and the others can remain healthy..
-A potential top line of Kariya, Tkachuk and Stempniak has the makings to be a very good line as all three players have 30 goal potential.
Weaknesses:
-Not a lot of depth up front after the first couple lines.
-None of Legace, Bacashihua or Toivonen have proven themselves to be top level starting goalies on a consistent basis.
Question Marks:
-How good will Erik Johnson be.
-Can their defence remain healthy, something they didn’t do last year.
-Will one of the goalies step on and be a true consistent #1 guy
Outlook:
-New president John Davidson has done an admiral job rebuilding the Blues. They took a small step forward last year and should take another one this year which if all things go well could put them in a battle for a playoff spot and compete with the Predators for second spot in the division.

Sep 242007
 

Over the next week I am going to be posting brief reviews of what we can expect from each team in the NHL for the upcoming season. Included will be some team strengths and weaknesses as well as some question marks for what to look for and a final outlook. The question marks will be an indication of what might occur and if it does they could finish better than I expect. Finally, once all the previews are complete I will post my final standings predictions. So, lets start off in the Pacific Division.

Anaheim Ducks
Strengths:
-One of the best goaltending tandems in the league.
-The experience of winning the Stanley Cup.
-Young talent in Getzlaf, Perry, Ryan.
-Chris Pronger (and Niedermayer if he returns)
Weaknesses:
-For whatever reason, recently teams that make the Stanley Cup finals have struggled the following season.
-The loss of Selanne, Niedermayer and Penner takes a lot away from last years cup wining team.
-Questionable health of newcomers Bertuzzi and Schneider
Question Marks:
-Will Niedermayer or Selanne return at some point?
-Can Bertuzzi become the 25 goal, 60+ point guy the Ducks need him to be?
-Will they eventually trade Bryzgalov for some help elsewhere.
Outlook:
-The Ducks should easily make the playoffs but defending the Stanley Cup is going to be difficult with the current lot of players as they likely haven’t adequately replaced the performances of Selanne, Niedermayer and Penner. Of course, that all changes should Niedermayer return because the Ducks would then have an insanely good defense that no team could come close to matching.

Dallas Stars
Strengths:
-Goaltending with Marty Turco and Mark Smith.
-One of the better defensive teams in the league.
Weaknesses:
-They will struggle to score goals.
Question Marks:
-Can Mike Modano, at age 37, return to a point per game player after a sub-par year in 2006-07.
-How much does 37 year old Sergei Zubov have left in the tank to anchor their power play.
Outlook:
-When you look at the Dallas roster you wonder how they managed to have back to back seasons of 112 and 107 points but you have to give them credit for getting them done. It is probably fair to expect more or less the same this season and a playoff spot but unless they can figure out how to score some goals they can’t be considered a true cup contender.

Los Angeles Kings
Strengths:
-Young talent in Frolov, Cammalleri, Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Patrick O’Sullivan, Jack Johnson and Jonathan Bernier.
-Added some good depth (for the short term) with the signings of Nagy, Handzus, Calder, Preissing and Stuart.
-Lots of salary cap space going forward to continue rebuilding process.
Weaknesses:
-To say goaltending is a weakness is an understatement. They were bad last year and probably their best goalie Mathieu Garon walked via free agency. That leaves Jason LaBarbera, who had a solid year in the AHL last year but isn’t generally highly regarded, a very weak backup in Aubin and a 19 year old prospect in Bernier.
Question Marks:
-Will they risk Bernier’s confidence/development and give him an opportunity to play or will the trade for a goalie (Martin Gerber??).
Outlook:
-This is no doubt going to be a transition year for the Kings. I can’t see them making the playoffs, or even being close, but as a franchise they are headed in the right direction. They have lots of young talent and I expect them to be big players in next years free agent market as they have a lot of cap room and the free agent market has the potential to bee better than this years (Dany Heatley and Marian Hossa being two potential prime targets).

Phoenix Coyotes
Strengths:
-Hmmm. Shane Doan maybe?
-They have some decent talent on defence with Jovanovski, Michalek, Ballard, Morris and Boynton.
Weaknesses:
-Pretty much everything but mostly they lack any top end forwards outside of Doan who is more of a second line player.
-Several backup goalies but no starters.
Question Marks:
-How bad will this team be?
Outlook:
-There isn’t much positive going to happen in Phoenix this season so the best Coyote fans can probably hope for is a last place finish and the first pick in next years draft.

San Jose Sharks
Strengths:
-Quality and depth of forward with Thornton and Marleau being one of the best one-two center tandems in the league and Cheechoo and Michalek providing some scoring from the wings.
-Excellent young talent in Michalek, Bernier, Carle, Pavelski, and Vlasic.
Weaknesses:
-The defense lacks a true #1 guy and the loss of Scott Hannan will be felt.
-Overall experience and/or depth at forward, on defence and in goal.
Question Marks:
-How quickly can San Jose’s young players really take their game to the next level.
-Can Nabokov stay healthy and/or will San Jose acquire a quality backup for him?
Outlook:
-The Sharks have the makings of a really good team but they are still missing some parts, particular a true #1 defenseman, and some experience this will hold them back from being true top tier Stanley Cup contenders. I think they need another year or two.

Sep 172007
 

There are a few people in the media that I really dislike and Pierre McGuire is one of them. It’s not that I don’t think he is knowledgable about the game of hockey (like Steve Simmons who I aslo dislike) but just that he often everexaggerates everything and/or he panders to his audience. For example, when he is on Ottawa radio he often puts down the Leafs because that plays well in Ottawa. He does that much less so on Toronto radio. But some things he has said in the past 2 days really has me wondering about his sanity.

1. On Friday he said he thought that the Chicago Blackhawks have a chance to be in the playoff race. That’s a pretty bold statement for a team that finished with 65 and 71 points the past two seasons and will likely need closer to 95 points to make the playoffs. It’s even more bold when you consider that the only moves of significance they made was signing Robert Lang and Yanick Perreault and trading Adrian Aucoin for Andrei Zyuzin and picking up Sergei Samsonov for a couple of fringe players. I am sorry Pierre but those moves plus the addition of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews is not going to be enough to turn the blackhawks around unless you think both Kane and Toews will be the next Sidney Crosby next season. But even Sidney Crosby didn’t turn the Penguins around in year one. The Blackhawks have next to zero chance of making the playoffs.

2. This morning he stated (in the context of how difficult it will be for the Leafs and Canadiens to make the playoffs) that Washington will also be in the playoff fight. Now I think this is a bit more viable than the Blackhawks prediction because I think the Capitals added more this off season (Nylander, Kozlov, Poti, and top rookie Backstrom) but I don’t think even that is enough to move them from 70 points to the 90+ points it will take to make the playoffs.

3. In the context of how tough it will be for Toskala to play for the Leafs he mentioned that he will be playing for a team with a weak defense and for a team that will struggle to score. Now, as you all might know, I don’t think the Leafs have a weak defense (and goaltending was their problem) but at least McGuire has the team goals against average to use to back up that statement. But a weak offense? This is a team that finished 8th and 7th in goals scored the past 2 seasons and just added a 40 goal scorer and should get more games played by Wellwood and Tucker this year. The Leafs are not an offensively challenged team.

I am going to be interested to see where he predicts the Blackhawks, Capitals and Leafs will be when TSN has their season preview show in a few weeks. Any bets that he says that Washington and Chicago have little chance at the playoffs and the Leafs have a chance?

Sep 132007
 

I don’t think it is a stretch to say that yesterday’s 15 game suspension of Mark Bell was a surprise to everyone because it seemed to come out of nowhere. There is no real precedent for the NHL to suspend players for their off-ice conduct and certainly not with a suspensionof the magnitude of 15 games. So my question is, why Mark Bell, why now?

To review, prior to last season Mark Bell was caused an accident while driving impaired and to make matters worse, he fled the scene of the accident. This past summer he plead guilty and will face up to 6 months in jail time which he will serve at the conclusion of this NHL season. It seemed that the Judge didn’t feel it was necessary to punish Bell more by forcing him to miss part or all of the NHL season. But apparently Gary Bettman didn’t see it the same way.

“Playing in the National Hockey League is a privilege, and with that privilege comes a corresponding responsibility for exemplary conduct off the ice as well as on it,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.

Gary Bettman’s reason for suspending Bell is because he didn’t conduct himself in an exemplary way off the ice. So the question I have is, what is exemplary conduct? Is drinking and driving but not causing an accident exemplary? If not, shouldn’t Jay Bouwmeester be facing a suspension in the very near future for pleading guilting to driving while impaired? Apparently this is not the case and driving while under the influence of alcohol does fall within Bettman’s view of ‘exemplary conduct’ since Ian White never received a suspension for his DUI charge or subsequent charge of driving with a suspended licence. Does driving recklessly and at high speeds causing an accident and killing someone fall within Bettman’s view of exemplary conduct? Apparently so as current Ottawa Senator Dany Heatley was never suspended when he plead guilty to vehicular homicide. And what about underage drinking? Is that exemplary conduct? Apparently so as Jordan Staal has yet to receive a suspension or any other punishment from the league.

One could easily argue that Bell’s suspension is warrented and that what Bell did is at least as bad or far worse than the other cases I described above, but if what Bell did is worth a 15 game suspension (and Bettman said it would ahve likely been more except Bell has shown good progress in turning his life and his alcohol dependency around), wouldn’t one or all of the other cases I described above be worthy of at least a game or two suspension? I would think so. To me this Bell suspension wreaks of piling on and probably a bit of not wanting the NHL to look soft on the conduct of its players in light of the Michael Vick situation and how the NFL handled that (indefinitely suspending Vick). I will try not to get into a debate as to whether Bell should be suspended but unless Bettman is going to follow through and suspend guys like Bouwmeester and Staal then I can only conclude that the idea of suspending players for off ice conduct is not a new policy and is at best inconsistent discipline or at worst piling on and in either case is just more evidence of Gary Bettman’s incompetence as a commissioner.

Sep 122007
 

Based on the same forumula as the western conference ratings, here are the eastern conference ratings. As usual, if you disagree feel free to post your thoughts and if you can back up your arguement, who knows, maybe you can get me to change my mind.

Forwards Defense Goaltending Total
Talent Depth Exp. Talent Depth Exp. #1 goalie Depth Exp. Score
Ottawa 10 6 7 8 7 7 8 7 6 53.2
Buffalo 8 8 6 7 8 7 8 7 6 52.8
Pittsburgh 10 8 6 8 7 6 7 6 6 52.5
NY Rangers 9 7 8 6 7 6 9 6 6 52.2
Toronto 7 8 7 8 9 7 6 6 6 50.7
Philadelphia 8 8 6 7 7 7 7 7 6 50.3
Florida 7 6 5 7 7 6 9 6 7 49.5
New Jersey 7 6 7 6 6 7 9 6 10 49.5
Montreal 7 6 6 7 7 7 8 7 6 48.8
Atlanta 9 6 7 7 5 6 8 6 5 48.0
Carolina 8 7 7 6 7 8 6 6 6 47.0
NY Islanders 6 7 7 6 7 6 8 5 6 46.8
Boston 7 6 6 7 7 6 7 6 6 46.5
Tampa 9 6 6 8 6 6 6 5 6 46.5
Washington 8 6 5 6 6 5 7 6 7 45.2
Sep 112007
 

I was going to write up team by team reports, and I may still do that for some teams, but I decided to first post some numerical evaluations of each team in nice and easily readable table format. I have divided each team up into Forwards, Defense and Goaltending and then divided each of those groups into Talent, Depth and Experience/Leadership and ranked each of those nine categories based on a score out of 10. I then summed up all 9 categories to get an overall team score. Below are my results for the western conference. Let me know what you all think. For the most part I am happy with them but if you can provide a good arguement I may consider making slight modifications.

Note: I made the assumption that Niedermayer will not play for the Ducks and I also factored in a few long term injuries (i.e. Steve Sullivan is expected to miss 3 months due to back surgery).

Update:While working on the eastern conference (and in conjunction with Triumph’s comment) I have decided to tweak the overall formula. The new forumula will weight experience significantly less and also give more weight to #1 goalie and less to depth (Vancouver, Calgary, New Jersey, etc. hardly need a backup goalie). This is the new updated table.

Forwards Defense Goaltending Total
Talent Depth Exp. Talent Depth Exp. #1 goalie Depth Exp. Score
Detroit 8 5 7 10 8 8 8 6 10 54.3
Vancouver 7 6 6 7 8 6 10 7 6 52.5
Anaheim 7 7 6 9 6 8 8 7 8 51.8
Dallas 6 7 7 7 7 8 8 8 7 50.3
Calgary 7 6 7 8 7 6 9 4 7 50.2
San Jose 9 7 7 6 7 5 8 5 7 49.8
Minnesota 8 6 7 6 8 7 7 6 4 47.5
Colorado 8 7 7 7 7 6 6 6 5 47.0
Edmonton 6 6 5 7 7 6 7 7 7 46.0
St. Louis 7 6 7 6 7 6 7 6 6 45.8
Nashville 6 7 6 7 7 6 7 4 5 45.2
Los Angeles 6 7 6 7 7 7 5 5 5 43.0
Chicago 7 5 5 5 5 4 7 6 7 40.8
Columbus 6 6 6 5 5 5 6 6 6 39.7
Phoenix 4 5 5 7 7 7 5 6 5 39.2