Nov 082008
 

Everyone knew that the Lightning’s defense would have a hard time keeping up with the rest of the league. After a poor offensive start, the Lightning did a little shake-up by swapping the tougher Shane O’Brien for Lukas Krajicek to get more mobile on defense. It was assumed that Andrej Meszaros, Paul Ranger, and Matt Carle, one of the key pieces in the Dan Boyle deal, would handle the puck-moving duties. However, the three of them have only combined for 9 points and a harmless -1 rating. Meszaros has yet to score this year, and Ranger and Carle both have one each. Tampa’s third-last 27 GF total is embarrassing, especially after the amount of offensive talent the Lightning horded this year – Boyle (9 points in 14 games) and the Sharks, on the other hand, have almost double that total with 50 GF.

While the problem on defense remains, it doesn’t help when your offense can’t get going either. Vinny Lecavalier has a pedestrian 10 points and Martin St. Louis has 9 – even if these two get going there’s still no indication of how well the rest of the team can do. Highly touted Steve Stamkos has started off slow, while Ryan Malone has only 3 points, all of them goals, in 12 games, and Gary Roberts has yet to register a point. Ironically, it’s Jussi Jokinen, who was planned to be dealt over the summer, and the forgotten acquisition Mark Recchi that are the ones chipping in offensively.

So, figuring that their offense requires an extra boost in (only) just 12 games, the Bolts decided to give up on the promising Carle in exchange for a chippy Steve Downie and less-mobile Steve Eminger. Eminger and Carle are both already on their second team this year. First, this is a great trade for the Flyers, because they got rid of a prospect they don’t need and who has a checkered history and a depth defenseman for a young player that could turn out to be really, really good. Carle will immediately take off some pressure off Kimmo Timonen (he’s averaging in the high-20s in ice-time) on the puck-handling duties, while I don’t really see how either Eminger or Downie are supposed to make the Lightning any better.

The Lightning are actually a modest 4-4-4 on the season, and there’s no indication that they’re in for a free fall either, considering the play of Mike Smith and how Stamkos is finally getting some quality ice-time to showcase his abilities. The only reason I can theorize is that Brian Lawton (probably under orders from Len Barrie and Oren Koules) pushed the “panic” button. There’s no upside in giving up on a young player just 12 games in to the season, especially if the players you get in return don’t have half the potential of Carle’s.

Considering how early this trade went down I would not be surprised if the Lightning made even more moves regarding their defense, but judging by their roster moves I can’t help but think the next one will be yet another sideways step. Already we’ve seen three new faces in twelve games which mathematically speaking means that we’ll be seeing 20 different defensemen to wear a Lightning jersey this year. This team needs more time to gel, and every time they acquire a new player it’ll set them back. The Lightning are becoming, if not are, the laughing stock of the league.

Congratulations to Mark Parrish, who successfully makes his comeback to the NHL with a hat trick in a 5-2 win over the Ducks. The former Minnesota forward is the second player this year (the other being, surprise, teammate Fabian Brunnstrom) to make his season debut with a hat trick. The Stars have been one of the worst teams thus far this year and scoring isn’t a problem, but if Marty Turco can’t pick up his play they’re not going anywhere fast, although it should help when Jere Lehtinen and Sergei Zubov come back later next week.

EDIT: Just giving both teams a quick cap space run through and it amazes me how Philly continues to pile on the salaries even they have less a million in cap space. How are they going to fit Carle in? Is Randy Jones headed toward the LTIR? With Carle it’d put the Flyers roughly $2m over the cap.

Nov 022008
 

- Add a new team into the Mats Sundin sweepstakes: the Ducks. That’s right, the perpetually financially strained team is reportedly making a pitch to Sundin, and with the Ducks so close to the cap they’re going to have to shed salary (again). This time, the casualty may be Chris Kunitz, the former Ducks alternate captain who hasn’t quite lived up to his $3.5m price-tag since signing it. No doubt that the Ducks would prefer to trade Kunitz to an Eastern Conference team, but Brian Burke continues to put himself in situations in which he has absolutely no leverage – Mathieu Schneider was dealt for close to nothing, Ken Klee and Ilya Bryzgalov were lost through waivers, but the Ducks continue to spend, most recently Bret Hedican. I think Sundin is a long shot to land on the Ducks, because the Ducks’ offer won’t come close to the Canucks’ offer in terms of money and length. However, should the Ducks find themselves atop the Pacific come Christmas time (unlikely considering the way the Sharks are playing), it is a very attractive option.

– After Brendan Shanahan gave up hopes in returning to the Rangers, especially after their hot start, he’s starting to look at other options, and those teams include Philadelphia, New Jersey, Washington, Montreal, and Boston, all of them east teams, but all of them close to the cap. Colorado has also figured into the mix, and I think that’s where we may see Shanahan end up. The Avs have always been an enticing franchise for veteran free agents to play for, and although that may not be the case these days, don’t forget that the Avs still have Joe Sakic, who still has a considerable amount of pull, and the two played together at Salt Lake.

– The Jackets have tried everything, including moving Rick Nash to centre during practise, but it still hasn’t ignited a potentially high-octane offense. Since the first days of the franchise the team has always lacked a playmaking centre for Nash to play with, even though RJ Umberger (I predicted he would be a bust alongside Nash) and Kristian Huselius were signed, it still didn’t work. Derick Brassard is playing well, but he’s not quite ready for number one centre duties yet. This has prompted the Jackets to revive their search for a number one centre… and I don’t think it’s going to happen this year.

Nikolai Khabibulin is making a strong case for himself to stay, and the Hawks must be giddy about his rising stock. The Hawks seem to be fairing well with both Khabibulin and Cristobal Huet, which means that another $6m on the Hawks’ roster, Martin Havlat, could be out the door instead. The injury-prone winger will be an UFA this summer, which makes him an attractive trade bait, especially if (a big one at that) he manages to stay healthy at least until the trade deadline.

Mathieu Garon is also playing fairly well, despite the Oilers’ recent cold streak. There haven’t been any public grumblings from Dwayne Roloson, but it’s common knowledge that the 39-year old veteran doesn’t like playing second fiddle. There have been, unsurprisingly, no takers so far, and it’ll be a long season for Roloson from the bench. The Oilers are eager to get Roloson’s $3.667m cap hit off their books, paving the way for Jeff Deslauriers to handle backup duties full-time.

Rumours courtesy of Bruce Garrioch from the Ottawa Sun.

Oct 042008
 

“Back With A Vengeance.” That’s what the Flyers’ official website promised and the Flyers certainly delivered. One year after finish in the league cellar the Flyers came back with a vengeance, advancing to the third round. The team made a complete turnaround from their god-awful season, and the Flyers are going to prove this season that it was no fluke.

The Flyers are big, mean, and talented. But their biggest strength? Balance. The Flyers boasted 7 20+ goal scorers last year, which lead the league. They had 3 players with at least 70 points, and 3 more with at least 50. And all that, doesn’t include the oft-injured Simon Gagne. The sniper missed almost all of last season with concussion-like symptoms, and should he return, he gives the Flyers an even more dynamic offense, especially if paired with slick centre Daniel Briere. Jeff Carter (29 goals), Mike Knuble (29 goals), and Joffrey Lupul (20 goals) provide some good scoring depth, but perhaps no other forward is as crucial to the Flyers’ success as future captain Mike Richards. The third year pro broke out last with 75 points, and led all Flyers forwards with 21:30 ATOI per game, also amongst one of the best in the league. His strong two-way player is unrivaled by any player at his age, and after signing a long extension with the Flyers he will be the centerpiece for future Flyers squads. Richards can play in all situations of the game, and excels in all aspects. The Flyers have loaded their offense with players who can play with a chip on their shoulder, and as a result it’s very reminiscent of the old Broad Street Bullies lore. While they’re not as intimidating as the legendary Bullies, the current squad had no less than 8 players with at least 60 PIMs, and that’s not including the recently acquired Arron Asham. This area is one of the Flyers’ greatest strengths, and may perhaps boast the best core offense in the league, as evidenced last year by their 2nd ranked powerplay and 6th ranked offense. Don’t expect those numbers to dip, and should Gagne return they could find themselves tops in both categories.

While the Flyers have also preferred their defensemen to be more the stay-at-home type, with Kimmo Timonen as their new top defenseman that will certainly change, and it showed last year with a dangerous powerplay. The new NHL has made former stalwarts like Derian Hatcher obsolete, due to their poor skating, which has really opened it up for players like Ryan Parent and Randy Jones to really showcase their skills. That’s also not to say that the Flyers are soft – Braydon Coburn, Ossi Vaananen, and Lasse Kukkonen can all step up their physical play if need be. Coburn, acquired in the Alexei Zhitnik trade from Atlanta, is really starting to develop into the defenseman many thought he would be, scoring 36 points and averaging over 21 minutes of ice-time per night. With no other all-star than Timonen, this may be the weakest part of the Flyers’ lineup, but Kukkonen and Coburn are two of the most underrated defensemen in the league, and may surprise a few. The defense was ranked 18th in the league last year, and the number may not improve much without another key addition, but with the type of scoring the Flyers boast it should be do just fine.

Martin Biron, a long-time backup, really got the opportunity to showcase his talents, and while he did battle some consistency issues during the season, he has really taken advantage of it and proven to management that their search for a number one goalie is over. Key wins in game 7 against Washington and game 5 against Montreal has him in the hearts of many a Flyers fans. Backed up by Antero Niittymaki, who is finally healthy, the Flyers have a good tandem – good enough to challenge for the division title.

The Flyers, after handing out rich contracts to Briere, Timonen, Richards, Carter, and Hartnell, will be tight against the cap this year and years to come. The Flyers don’t really have any glaring holes, which means they’ll once again be a Cup contender, and don’t expect Paul Holmgren to make any surprising moves.

Projected lineup:
Simon Gagne – Daniel Briere – Mike Knuble
Scott Hartnell – Mike Richards – Joffrey Lupul
Scottie Upshall – Jeff Carter – Arron Asham
Riley Cote – Glen Metropolit – Steve Downie

Kimmo Timonen – Braydon Coburn
Derian Hatcher – Randy Jones
Ossi Vaananen – Ryan Parent

Martin Biron – Antero Niittymaki

scratches: Jim Dowd, Steve Eminger, Dan Syvret

Coach: John Stevens
GM: Paul Holmgren

Predicted finish: 2nd Atlantic, 4th East

Oct 022008
 

Much ado has been made about the Canucks making Roberto Luongo their captain. The move was very surprising, considering goalies are not allowed to wear the traditional ‘C’ on their jersey and there hasn’t been a goalie captain since Bill Durnan in the 1940s. One of the reasons it became illegal was because of the inefficiency of being both a captain and a goalie. Captains are designated by their respective teams to provide an on-ice voice for the team with the refs, and because the game is so fluid and the refs are constantly moving, it made it very difficult for goalies to talk to them, in part because of the very small area on the ice the goalie patrols. They can’t wander the length of the ice as most players do, and if the referee was at the other end of the rink it would be impossible to talk to them, since goalies cannot cross the red line.

I can’t help but think this move by the Canucks is a ploy to show Luongo that this is his team. Willie Mitchell has been named as the guy who would talk to the refs on a nightly basis, but the Canucks still elected to give Mitchell an ‘A’, even though he would be fulfilling the traditional duties of a player wearing the ‘C’. It goes without question that this is Luongo’s team – no one else in the league is as crucial to their team’s success as Luongo. By officially naming him captain is a mere formality that really doesn’t carry much substance, other than re-affirm the fact that Vancouver wants Luongo to stay, and will do anything to please him and accomodate his needs. But it also means that no one in the Vancouver locker room has really stepped into the captain’s void left by Markus Naslund, which has led to a committee of three players wearing A’s on a nightly basis: Mitchell, Ryan Kesler, and Mattias Ohlund.

Perhaps at the end of the day the letters don’t quite mean anything – Mitchell will talk to the refs and Luongo continues to stop the pucks. The world keeps spinning.

EDIT: The Lightning have named Martin St. Louis and, surprisingly, Andrej Meszaros as their alternate captains for this year. The Rangers have yet to name a captain, although all signs point towards Chris Drury and Mike Richards is the front-runner in Philadelphia. The Wild and Sabres are expected to continue their rotating captaincy. The Panthers, Kings, Thrashers, and Leafs have yet to name their captains for the upcoming season.

EDIT #2: The Rangers have officially named Drury their captain, while Markus Naslund and Scott Gomez will serve as the alternates. May I also add that all three players may potentially play on the same line?

Sep 202008
 

The Thrashers were interested in Mathieu Schneider, but felt that given the veteran’s price tag and current skill set it was just too expensive. Don Waddell claims that Schneider’s age was not a factor in the decision.

Nikolai Khabibulin is looking forward to the start of the season, but admits he was surprised when the Hawks signed Cristobal Huet to a multi-year deal. He also admits that even though he hasn’t been at his best, he didn’t have a “championship calibre” team in front of him either. Not exactly the words management wants to hear, but Khabibulin has to make do with what he’s got in front of him (and it’s not bad) and hope to land another fat contract. Meanwhile, veteran Keith Carney has been invited to camp.

The Jackets are prepared to possibly enter the season with rookie Derick Brassard as their new number one centre. Ken Hitchcock reportedly liked Brassard and Kristian Huselius on the top line with Rick Nash, while the second line consisted of rookie Jakub Voracek, RJ Umberger, and Fredrik Modin.

The Stars have also tinkered with their lineup, with Mike Modano lining up to the left of Brad Richards and Sean Avery. It gives Modano some playing time in the top six and getting him away from the checking line role that’s better suited for someone else.

Marian Gaborik certainly isn’t helping his own case after being listed as day-to-day with a pulled right quad. The sniping winger is expected to land a lucrative contract this summer – whether it’s with the Wild or someone else remains to be seen. The injury-prone winger has to have another healthy season if he wants to cash in big time.

It’s obvious, so don’t expect Martin Brodeur to play 77 games like he did last year. Both Brodeur and Brent Sutter admitted that the games took a toll on the veteran goalie, and that Avery didn’t help in that department either. Look for Kevin Weekes to do a little more than usual last year to collect his six-figure paycheque.

Tom Renney and the Rangers remain mum on Brendan Shanahan, and says that his focus is now on training camp.

Derian Hatcher‘s career seems to be in jeopardy due to a bum knee, and Wayne Fish believes that it’ll really hurt the team’s chances this year (I beg to differ), but claims that with the addition of Ossi Vaananen and camp invite Bryan Berard it should lessen the pain (Fish is comparing the “irreplaceable” Hatcher to two journeymen? Okay.)

The Sharks are ready to open up their camp with the following lines:
Marleau – Thornton – Clowe
Michalek – Pavelski – Cheechoo
Goc – Mitchell – Grier
Plihal – Roenick – Setoguchi
Ron Wilson also had Patrick Marleau on Joe Thornton‘s wing in order to get his game going last year, but it didn’t last.

The Blues kicked off their training camp with a snooze, and I daresay that the rest of the season wouldn’t be too different. Coach Andy Murray suggested that the Blues could start the season with rookie Patrick Berglund on the top line with Paul Kariya. Murray also acknowledged that the losses of Ryan Johnson, Jamal Mayers, and Bryce Salvador, all three great locker room guys, means that veterans Kariya and Keith Tkachuk, neither been known as vocal captains, will need to step up.

Move aside “Seen Stamkos.” It’s time for “WWGRD?” in Tampa. Now that wunderkind Steve Stamkos is officially signed the focus moves to training camp. For the Lightning, who had a major overhaul in its front office staff and approach to the new season, it’s a chance to capitalize on a resurgence of interest in Lightning hockey. Just ask yourself, What Would Gary Roberts Do?

The Caps are excited and raring to go. So much so that they had to ask sophomore Nicklas Backstrom, who was early and the first on the ice, to get off after half an hour for precautionary reasons. When your rookies are that excited, you know your team is in good spirits, and for the Caps, why shouldn’t they?

Aug 222008
 

“Vicarious liability.” That’s the technical term for the liability that is imposed on the employer for the conduct of his/her employee, on the grounds that the employer should be held accountable for third party losses. Bruce Dowbiggin at the Calgary Herald argues that the recent turn of events in the Steve Moore case could set a precedent to the NHL’s policy of allowing “extreme violence” in the sport. This trial is extremely significant for the NHL because unlike the Marty McSorley or Dino Ciccarelli case, this is a civil case, not criminal.

Marc Crawofrd has vehemently denied any responsibility for Todd Bertuzzi‘s actions, and had argued that he was in fact trying to get Bertuzzi back to the bench moments before the sucker punch. Dowbiggin’s source claims that the trial will come down to Moore’s own decision to play that game. Should Moore have willingly dressed for that game, he will have to assume some responsibility, since it is assumed that there would be some concern for injury and high levels of risk.

However, Moore is arguing that the form of violence he was expecting was not “clean,” meaning it wasn’t a body check or a fight. He is further arguing that Bertuzzi had used unreasonable force, and if the judge sides with Moore there could potentially be a big payday for Moore. Should Moore win, the NHL head office may have to make drastic policies in allowing vigilante justice and violence, and perhaps change the overall face of the game. Intimidation tactics like the ones the Broad Street Bullies and the Ducks used may very well be a thing of the past.

Dowbiggin’s source also doesn’t think the blame should solely lie on the shoulders of Crawford, Canucks management, or Orca Bay, but the league as well:

“The NHL could have avoided this. Knowing the level of tension involved in Moore’s hit on Naslund, they could have simply suspended Moore for the two remaining games against Vancouver. That would have solved it. But the league was so arrogant it thought nothing would come of the situation. That let it happen. Now, they’re in a position where it may rebound on them big time.”

Apparently no one else in the world has 20/20 hindsight like Dowbiggin’s source. I would think that the league would’ve come under a lot of fire if they had to suspend Moore for “safety reasons.” Could you imagine to what lengths the league would take precautionary actions for a guy like Sidney Crosby? Would future Buffalo-Ottawa games not feature Ottawa’s entire top line? I’m sorry, but that’s just a bunk argument.

Aug 212008
 

Bryan McCabe‘s move to the sunshine state is generating a lot of buzz lately, and the Palm Beach Post has suggested that McCabe’s acquisition is Jacques Martin‘s way of saying “we’re serious about winning” in the hopes that Jay Bouwmeester would bite.

I say that’s wishful thinking, Jacques. I say the only way they can get Bouwmeester to stay is if they reach the playoffs and put up a fight in the first round, but the former seems unlikely already. While McCabe is a huge step up over Mike Van Ryn, who is rumoured to be going the other way, he’s not exactly a guy that can just turn around the fortunes of an underachieving team. The Panthers still have a shoddy offense and have yet to replace Olli Jokinen, and even with McCabe’s offensive abilities they’re still lacking bite.

On a semi-related topic, the Panthers are one of 8 teams who still have not named a captain, and James Mirtle has brought up some names.

For the record, I don’t think anyone on the Thrashers, Panthers, Kings, Leafs, or Canucks roster is captain material, but if I had to pick it’d be Ilya Kovalchuk, Nathan Horton, Dustin Brown, Tomas Kaberle, and Willie Mitchell, respectively. But my picks were Chris Drury for the Rangers, Mike Richards for Philadelphia, and Vincent Lecavalier for Tampa.

Aug 172008
 

1 Montreal Canadiens
2 Pittsburgh Penguins
3 Washington Capitals
4 Philadelphia Flyers
5 Ottawa Senators
6 NY Rangers
7 New Jersey Devils
8 Carolina Hurricanes
9 Tampa Bay Lightning
10 Boston Bruins
11 Buffalo Sabres
12 Florida Panthers
13 Atlanta Thrashers
14 Toronto Maple Leafs
15 NY Islanders

Again, I’m going to have to disagree with THN over this. If the Pens had managed to keep Ryan Malone and/or Marian Hossa I’d be inclined to agree that they would finish atop their division, but they won’t. When you potentially have Miroslav Satan as your top scoring winger you’re not going to go anywhere fast. The rest of the team remains largely the same.

I have a hard time believing the Sens will finish ahead of the Rangers and Devils. Despite the fact that Wade Redden‘s game is in decline, losing him will hurt because they didn’t replace him. The Sens are still looking for ways to fill out the rest of their roster, but like so many other teams in the East, goaltending is their primary concern. If Martin Gerber doesn’t hold up, they’re slightly above average at best by virtue of their incredible top line.

The Bruins are going to make some noise this year, especially with a completely healed Patrice Bergeron. Michael Ryder will head into camp as the favourite to land the first line right winger slot, and considering the success Claude Julien had with Ryder, along with an elite playmaking centre in Marc Savard, he could be a very nice surprise. Once again, however, they head into training camp with a 1A-1B tandem of fan favourite Tim Thomas and the disgruntled Manny Fernandez.

The East is much more clear cut than the West because so many teams have holes. The Habs, arguably the best team in the East, also has a shaky goaltending situation considering how Carey Price fell apart last year. These goaltending problems also plague at least 3 of the playoff teams listed. It’ll be interesting to see how this season plays out – a lot of teams have areas to improve, and considering the mass exodus of players from the East heading West, this year could be rather different.

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 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