We’re now at the end of the preview period of things. It’s down to the last two divisions in the Southeast and the Pacific Division. The basic premise is still there and everything like that. We should get through this rather promptly.
The blue line is a silent bunch with a lot of youth grit Jaroslav Modry will anchor this crew as the Thrashers try to mold Braydon Coburn and Garnet Exelby into all-star caliber defensemen. The ability to have Niclas Havelid on the back line to carry the puck more into the offensive zone will help the Thrashers in the long run.
Kari Lehtonen will be tested as the #1 starter this year. With a very successful stint in the AHL, it seems Lehtonen is ready for the big time. Having a veteran like Mike Dunham behind Lehtonen allows the Thrashers to give Lehtonen the playing time, knowing that if the rookie were to falter, there would be someone there to pick up the pieces.
The back-line is going to be another question mark. Getting Oleg Tverdovsky and Mike Commodore in the span of the past off-seasons will help a little bit, but not enough to allow them make a push as they did in 2002. Glen Wesley and Bret Hedican will be the stalwarts on the backline; and they’ll have plenty to do in order to get respect from the rest of the league.
The goaltending will be the huge question mark. There is no veteran presence in between the pipes. With Martin Gerber slated as the #1 goalie, the Canes will have an uphill battle to keep the pucks out of the net. Cam Ward is coming off a stellar season in
The blue line will have the same mix of youth and experience. With Jay Bouwmeester advancing his development, along with Mike Van Ryn—the youth of the Panthers defense is bright. Sean Hill and Eric Cairns will bring a veteran voice and rugged play back in the blue line.
Roberto Luongo should be expected to see a lot of rubber in this season, just because he plays for the Panthers. Now, if he and the front office could settle their squabbling and worry about the on-ice task that would be even better. If not, Jamie McLennan will be able to carry the load as he did in
The top defensemen of Pavel Kubina and Dan Boyle should be able to contribute as well and help abundantly on the power play. If Darryl Sydor can get his offensive form back, he should be a force to be reckoned with as well. However, the best part about this blue-line is although they have the scoring touch, they don’t often let the puck get past them. That could change with the new rules, but I doubt something like that will happen.
Now, the goalie debate will be on for the Bolts this season. With Nikolai Khabibulin heading to
Brendan Witt is going to be the old guard on the blue-line; however, how long he will be in DC is another question. The Caps are going to rely on the size factor. Getting towering defensemen like Mathieu Biron and Ivan Majesky to help compliment Jeff Schultz’s size—the Caps will have at least that in their favor. Steve Eminger should make the team and be a playmaker on the backline if he can stay healthy all season.
The workhorse will be Olaf Kolzig in net. He’ll get at least 60 starts if he stays healthy, but he probably won’t have the wins for the Caps. He’ll see a lot of pucks and should have a great save percentage, but if you just going on wins, he’ll be hard-pressed to get those. Should Kolzig go down, Maxime Ouellet will be there to show his stuff.
In addition, the Ducks got back Teemu Selanne from free agency. Selanne will be one of the few options the Ducks have to put the biscuit in the basket. Sergei Fedorov and Petr Sykora will be the other options for the Ducks. Newcomers Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry will be getting a lot of time for the new look Ducks, as they will be the future of this team leading into the next decade.
The person who should be most effected by the goalie pad reduction should be J-S Giguere. If he wants to be an elite goalie in this league—Giguere will have to show that he actually has skill and didn’t just rely on his oversized pads. There’s not much to help him out either as this will be Ilya Bryzgalov’s first real taste at the NHL limelight.
On the blue line, Sergei Zubov is back and will be he voice-of-reason for the defense. Having new guys like Stephane Robidas, Martin Skoula, and Trevor Daley put into the mix should help the diversity of play. The Stars lost a lot in the means of experience, but are going a different route all together.
Marty Turco will be the man back in net for the Stars. His ability to outsmart shooters could be his advantage this year. He should get plenty of wins for the Stars and if not, Johan Hedberg is ready to take some of the pressure off of Turco’s back.
The Kings have a solid defense, which will help them. With all of the top four defensemen staying in LA, the chemistry should be there. Mattias Norstrom and Lubomir Visnovsky will be the top line and should put up some nice power play numbers if given the chance to shoot more often. Having rugged defensemen like Aaron Miller and Nathan Dempsey onboard will help balance out the load on the blue line.
Mathieu Garon is hoping that his season last year in
The defense for the Coyotes will have very few holes in it—if they are able to stay healthy. Derek Morris and David Tanabe should be the top line, but guys like Paul Mara, Sean O’Donnell, and Denis Gauthier could be shuffled around along with Cale Hulse. The pressure to perform could come from Keith Ballard, Rick Berry, and Brad Ference; who are looking for a spot on the big league club at the start of the season.
There’s a new top dog in
The forward line is not the only one who has talent. The rear guards on
In net, Evgeni Nabokov will be the incumbent #1 with Vesa Toskala as the back up. Nabokov had a great year last year leading the Sharks to a Pacific Division title and will have to be on his game again to repeat that performance. He should be getting the majority of the starts and should be getting several wins this year, so he’s a good bet on any team.
So that’s all she wrote. That’s the end of the preview. Be on the lookout for the Fantasy Rankings brought to you by the boys at “Face Off Hockey Show”, as we try to break down the positions and do our best to make your fantasy team reign supreme.
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