With the NHL Pre-Season just around the corner, I figure I would start giving a preview of the league, two divisions at a time; one from the Eastern Conference and one from the Western Conference. It's your basic premise of a season preview with off-season pick ups, chemistry of the team, and all the other fun stuff that you usually see with the season previews. So without any further adu, I present the preview for the
Aside from Mogilny, the re-signings of Scott Gomez, Jeff Friesen, Jamie Langenbrunner, and Brian Rafalski will keep most of the core of the team together. Of course, anyone of those players could be dealt in order to get under the cap; but there will be plenty of leaders on this team no matter what.
Not only that, but you have to consider the Devils as a contender for one reason: Martin Brodeur. Having 9 straight season with over 30 wins; you can rest assured that they can expect that kind of performace again from the 2-time Vezina Trophy Winner.
In any case, the Islanders will have to find a way to get into the playoffs and actually have some longevity in them. With early exits to
Between the pipes, Rick DiPietro is due for a breakout eventually; at least the Isles brass hopes so. He's been improving little-by-little and should do just fine for the Isles this season, even in the new look of the NHL. If DiPietro falters, they can only hope that Garth Snow can pick up the slack, but after the rules change-- who knows if Snow can adapt to the smaller pads.
Looking up front, with Jaromir Jagr's disillusion for the new CBA, you have to wonder if he'll give his whole heart out there or if he'll slack off like he has in the past couple of seasons. You have to think with former teammate Martin Straka with him, that he will be able to be the player many are accustom too. Picking up Steve Rucchin to be a leader out there on the ice, the Rangers offense could be turning a corner when it comes to production.
The goaltending should be an interesting site to see. Kevin Weekes has never had a winning season in his tenure in the NHL, Alvaro Montoya is just coming out of College, and Henrik Lundqvist coming over from his first North American season; the last line of defense could be the Achilles' heel for the Blueshirts.
The mentality of the Broad Street Bullies seems to be there with big guys who can hit and take a hit, plus they seem on paper they could take over the Eastern Conference for years to come....but that's on paper. We have seen weirder stuff happen.
With Robert Esche, Keith Primeau, Sami Kapanen, and Kim
It must have worked because they were able to get Sergei Gonchar, Ziggy Palffy, and
Speaking of Thibault, it looks like he'll be the mentor to Marc-Andre Fleury. Having both of them being French-Canadian and both being QMJHL graduates; this could be the best thing of someone like Fleury to learn more about the NHL game.
Chicago Blackhawks: Bill Wirtz has been known as a cheap owner. He didn't want to put home games on TV, he won't sign players to keep them in Chi-town, and he never would pass up on a bargain. However, he seems to be content with the new NHL and has been doing some shopping that he had longed for. Most notably getting the Stanley Cup winning goalie in Nikolai Khabibulin from the Tampa Bay Lightning and Adrian Aucoin from the Islanders to beef up the back-lines.
What's more important is that the Hawks are hoping that Eric Daze will stay healthy the whole season and that the pick-ups of Matthew Barnaby, Martin Lapointe, along with the stallwarts of Mark Bell, Tyler Arnason, and Tuomo Ruutu will be effective in the season to come.
The Hawks will be starting fresh with a new coach behind the bench and a completely new outlook on the upcoming season. The
Up front, the "Rick and Nik Show" seems like it will be in full effect. With Rick Nash signing a multi-year deal after coming off a terrific season in
With the signing of Martin Prusek as a back-up, this could take a lot of pressure off the starter Marc Denis and maybe make him play a little harder knowing that someone like Prusek could take over the Number One Spot should he falter.
Up-front the aging players the likes of Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan could actually benefit from the year off and could rest up and be on their game again. Add Kris Draper and Kirk Maltby to the mix; the Wings do a lot with a little. They will need to get their two young guys, Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, under contract in order to balance the old with the new.
With Mike Babcock behind the bench, the Wings could get a shot in the arm and actually make it further in the playoffs than they have in the previous campaigns. However, for that to happen, they'll need to make sure nothing go wrong, or else they could be in for an uphill climb.
The backline for the Preds will be a mix of young and old. With Danny Markov added into the mix, it will give guys like Kimmo Timonen, Dan Hamhuis, and Ryan Suter someone to learn from and someone who can help them out on the depleted back line.
Tomas Vokoun will probably be under the microscope again should his blueline falter. He has played very well in the past couple of seasons and coming off his first winning season in the NHL, he will be heavily tested to help get the Preds to another playoff berth.
Outside of Tkachuk and Weight, there's not many players on the team with the big scoring touch. Guys like Dallas Drake, Eric Boguniecki, Dean McAmmond, and Mike Sillinger will need to step it up big time in order for the Blues to have a productive season on the score sheet.
With the departure of Chris Osgood, the Blues will rely on Patrick Lalime to help backstop them to a playoff spot. With Reinhard Divis slated as his back-up, you can rest assured that Lalime will be a workhorse for the Blues. They can only hope he can bounce back from his dismal performance in the '04 playoffs and help them get deep into the playoff chase.
So that is the way I look at the two Division starting off our preview of the upcoming NHL Season. Next week, I'll focus on the Northeast and Northwest Divisions and what you can look forward to seeing when the puck drops on October 5th.
If you have some comments or questions; feel free to email the Show and we'll talk about it.
This has been ScottyWazz. Take care of yourself and someone else. PEACE!!