Well—with the training camps not too far away, we continue our look at the divisional settings in the new look NHL. This week, we’ll go up North and take on the Northeast and Northwest. Both division should be highly contested with the possibly of a majority of the division getting into the playoffs.
However, the big thing that the Bruins did was to get their superstars under contract. By getting the likes of Glen Murray, Joe Thornton, and Sergei Samsonov under contract for the long-term; they Bruins will have their building blocks for seasons to come and they don’t have to worry about losing them early in their careers. Not only that, but they can also won’t have to worry about getting them signed when trying to get Patrice Bergeron re-signed in a couple of seasons.
Between the pipes, Andrew Raycroft has proven he could be a quality number one goalie. With the defensive corps the likes of Hal Gill, Leetch, Jiri Slegr, and Ian Moran, you have a mix of scoring ability and positional play.
The upside for the Sabres is that they actually have a good team at a young age. Both Chris Drury and Daniel Briere helped the Sabres save some kind of face last season, but they’ll have to do a lot more work to do the same this year. However, lucky enough for them; they’ll have help in the way of Derek Roy, Ales Kotalik, and Tomas Vanek, all young talent who have proven they belong on the big squad. The back line of defense is a young, but they’ll be able to learn from Numminen and grow together as a squad, hopefully helping
The Sabres do have an interesting situation in net. It seems they’ll have a logjam at who will be staying. Ryan Miller had an amazing season in
Up front, Alexei Kovalev will have to actually play during the regular season and not wait until it is too late to get his scoring streak. Saku Koivu will be back and should be good with having another year off to get all his wits about him. Add Radek Bonk and Mike Ribeiro to the fold, you can bet the Habs should be pretty set up front.
Jose Theodore should be getting most of the work this year. Cristobel Huet should get some work here and there, but since he’ll still be trying to adapt to the workload in the NHL, Theodore will be the workhorse for the team. The only thing that Theodore will have to worry about is not slipping back into his old habit of alternating good and bad years. To be an elite goalie, he’ll have to consistently have quality seasons for the Habs.
Outside of the lost of Hossa, the Sens are the team they have been in the past few seasons. You can expect Daniel Alfredsson and Zdeno Chara to get about the same ice time they have in the past years. The defense will be as strong as it has been in the past and the offense should benefit from the new rules to open up the game. If they can score 262 with a lot of clutching and grabbing, you can bet they’ll match or exceed that mark this year.
The one question mark is between the pipes. The Sens will go as far as Dominik Hasek’s health. There’s no doubt that Hasek could help the team out for the better, but the stat that he’s played only 14 games in 3 years; that could be the one that alarms Sens fans most. Plus, even though they have a great crop of young talent in net, none of them seems ready to carry the workload and pressure of being a full-time NHLer.
All that aside, the addition of Jeff O’Neill could help the Leafs up front, as they lost Alexander Mogilny to
In the net, the Leafs almost have the same situation as their Provincial rivals in
The defense for the Flames should be very strong. With Jordan Leopold, Andrew Ference, and Robyn Regehr all back to the Flames, along with the addition of Roman Hamrlik, plus the rising prospect that is Dion Phaneuf—the Flames should be very strong along the blue line this coming season.
In net, the Flames only hope that Miikka Kiprusoff can rekindle the magic he had during last season’s playoff run. Much like many teams, there’s not much experience in the back-up position. The Flames have Brent Krahn in their system and acquired Phillipe Sauve from
However, lucky for the Avs, they have players like Milan Hejduk, Alex Tanguay, and Joe Sakic to provide the offense while Rob Blake and top prospect
In net, David Aebischer will have to prove himself even more this year than last year. Though the Swiss native posted a 32-win season, he did have some great talent in front of him. He should be thoroughly tested with the new wide-open NHL. He’ll get a lot of time in the net too because both Peter Budaj and Tom Lawson lack NHL experience.
The causalities of the trades were Eric Brewer, Jeff Woywitka, Doug Lynch, and Mike York; all who have promising careers ahead of them. Yet, even with those losses, the Oilers have been able to keep the likes of Jani Rita, Raffi Torres, Ales Hemsky, and Shawn Horcoff from getting away from them. Along with Jason Smith, Radek Dvorak, and Ethan Moreau; the Oilers have a great mix of young and experienced in their line-up.
Between the pipes, Ty Conklin did pretty well in his rookie season; but there is going to be a better set of defenders in front of him to help fend off some of the attack. But if Conklin is unable to get the job done, the Oilers will have Jussi Markkanen to help push the sophomore along should the road get bumpy.
Minnesota Wild: The youth movement is obviously the way the Wild front office wants to go, as they did not even make a dent in the off-season when it came to pick ups. Their biggest move was picking up tough guy Andrei Nazarov. However, looking at the crop of talent that the Wild have been able to accumulate over the years—I wouldn’t be surprised if they were able to make some noise in the future.
As for the present, it should be interesting to see if Alexandre Daigle can keep his game the way it is. The Former 1st Overall Draft Pick lead the Wild in goals and points in ’03-’04; but not having Marian Gaborik for the first part of the season didn’t hurt his cause either. But how well will Gaborik do this year?? The Wild hopes he’ll regain his form and get the lead out for the season. If not, they know that Brian Rolston will whip him into shape and push him to become the star he knows he is.
With Manny Fernandez and Dwayne Roloson making the same amount of money—the 1a and 1b tags will be on them once again—but for some reason I think Roloson will be able to over take the #1 position outright.
The Canucks were able to get some key role players into their line-up via free agency. Anson Carter was picked up from
Defense and goaltending should be fairly solid. Ed Jovanovski, Mattias Ohlund, and Sami Salo will be anchoring the corps, which Dan Cloutier will be getting most the work in net with Alex Auld and Brent
So that’s another two divisions down with two more to go next week. Remember, if you agree, disagree, or want to check my psychological background when it comes to these previews, please email the Show with anything you have to ask. Next week, we end out with the Southeast and Pacific Division.
This has been ScottyWazz. Take care of yourself and someone else. PEACE!!