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.
-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)
-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
-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.
-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 havenâ€™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.
-Goaltending with Marty Turco and Mark Smith.
-One of the better defensive teams in the league.
-They will struggle to score goals.
-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.
-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 canâ€™t be considered a true cup contender.
Los Angeles Kings
-Young talent in Frolov, Cammalleri, Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Patrick Oâ€™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.
-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 isnâ€™t generally highly regarded, a very weak backup in Aubin and a 19 year old prospect in Bernier.
-Will they risk Bernierâ€™s confidence/development and give him an opportunity to play or will the trade for a goalie (Martin Gerber??).
-This is no doubt going to be a transition year for the Kings. I canâ€™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).
-Hmmm. Shane Doan maybe?
-They have some decent talent on defence with Jovanovski, Michalek, Ballard, Morris and Boynton.
-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.
-How bad will this team be?
-There isnâ€™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
-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.
-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.
-How quickly can San Joseâ€™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?
-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.