predictions of where each club will finish in the standings of
each division are just that: predictions. If you disagree with
my assessments, no problem, write in and tell me why and I'll
post your comments in "The Fans Speak Out".
folks, if I rank your team lower than you expect, don't get wrapped
around the axle about it, ok? Insult-laden e-mails will be treated
with howls of derisive laughter prior to my hitting the "delete"
key, as those comments won't see the light of day on this site!
this is based on what the rosters looked like as of September
19th, 2005. Injuries, trades and call-ups will obviously have
some impact on their outcome.
FLYERS. Even if Derian Hatcher and Peter Forsberg fail to pan
out as hoped, there's plenty of depth at almost every position
on the Flyers roster. If they do work out as hoped, the Flyers
will become that much stronger. Keep an eye on youngsters like
Anteri Niittymaki, Jeff Carter and Mike Richards.
DEVILS. Losing Scott Stevens to retirement and Scott Niedermayer
to free agency stings, as does the absence of Patrik Elias as
he recovers from hepatitis. Still, the Devils will play their
dogged defensive game under new head coach Larry Robinson, and
their depth in that regard should still serve them well.
PENGUINS. Completely overhauled roster with veteran free agent
signings, plus hit the jackpot at the draft with Sidney Crosby.
How well this team performs depends on how well this roster gels,
as well as the health of owner-captain Mario Lemieux. Could still
be touch and go to make a playoff berth.
ISLANDERS. Losing Adrian Aucoin and Roman Hamrlik to free agency
and Kenny Jonsson to retirement hurts their blueline. They're
hoping the streaky Miroslav Satan can help rekindle Alexei Yashin's
scoring touch,and are looking to Yashin to step up his game and
lead the team, which might be seeking too much.
RANGERS. They're now apparently committed to rebuilding with
youth, although management did bring in some veteran free agent
depth to help the kids gain their footing. Rangers fans shouldn't
get their hopes up and will have to be patient.
Made shakeups behind the bench and a notable one in the roster
by trading Marian Hossa for Dany Heatley. Questions as to whether
the 40-year-old Dominik Hasek can regain his dominating form
in goal, but the roster's depth remain their strength this season.
CANADIENS. Possess a good mix of speedy veteran talent and promising
youth, plus there could be some more from the farm making the
lineup this season. Some questions still remain about their blueline
depth, but with goalie Jose Theodore locked up long term, and
the new rules to open up the game, the Habs are poised for a
Started training camp without defenseman Nick Boynton but re-signed
goalie Andrew Raycroft, who should provide the strength required
between the pipes. Will have two strong scoring lines but there
are some concerns about their blueline depth and their overall
team speed. Look for a big year from captain Joe Thornton and
sophomore Patrice Bergeron.
They've got plenty of speed but there are concerns about the
depth of their offence and their blueliner, and questions about
their goaltending. They'll be hoping rookie forward Thomas Vanek
can make a big splash, and if several other players can step
up, the Sabres could finish higher.
LEAFS. Governed by the "if" factor. If Eric Lindros
and Jason Allison can stay healthy, if Ed Belfour's back problems
are a thing of the past and if their younger players can step
up their games, the Leafs could finish higher than this. If not,
it could be a long, painful season for Leafs Nation.
LIGHTNING. There are some questions about John Grahame's ability
to replace the departed Nikolai Khabiblin and their blueline
depth, but the defending champs still retain most of the key
players - most notably Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards, Vinny
Lecavalier and Dan Boyle - responsible for their Stanley Cup
run. It'll be tough to wrest the Cup from the Bolts this season.
Made significant improvements with veteran free agent signings
and obtaining Marian Hossa, but there are concerns over Ilya
Kovalchuk's contract status and the club's overall defensive
depth. They'll need him back in the fold, and must improve their
defensive game, to make a serious run for the playoffs.
GM Mike Keenan brought in the veteran leadership he felt the
club previously lacked, and the depth in promising youth should
benefit from the coaching of Jacques Martin. Goalie Roberto Luongo
shouldn't face as much rubber this season, and if youngsters
like Jay Bouwmeester, Nathan Horton and Stephen Weiss step up,
the Panthers could move up higher in the standings.
HURRICANES. Shook up the roster with some free agent signings
and trades, but this club is still in the midst of a rebuilding
phase. Martin Gerber should provide solid goaltending and they
could turn some heads offensively, but there's still questions
about their blueline and checking line depth.
CAPITALS. The major rebuilding phase begun prior to the lockout
will continue this season. Ownership remains committed toward
the team's youth, which means a long, painful season for Caps
fans. Blueliner Brendan Witt is seeking a trade to a playoff
contender, and Olaf Kolzig might not be far behind.
PREDATORS. Expectations are high for this club to not just make
the playoffs again but to go beyond the first round. Plenty of
talent just entering their prime now, and the addition of Paul
Kariya could give their offence a big boost, but now's the time
for David Legwand to step up as their first line center. Their
hardworking team game should put them over the top in the Central.
WINGS. Hired Mike Babcock as head coach and will look toward
giving their young players more prominent roles as many of their
veterans are now on the downside of their careers. Might be without
centre Pavel Datsyuk this season, and there are concerns about
their goaltending depth. They're still a dangerous club but no
longer the dominant force they once were.
Major off-season changes that could have a positive effect on
the good young Blackhawks. Nikolai Khabibulin will provide healthier,
more experienced netminding. Bringing in Adrian Aucoin provides
a powerplay quarterback but there's still concerns about the
blueline's overall depth and the absence of a quality backup
BLUES. Head coach Mike Kitchen will have his first full season
to try to keep the Blues in playoff contention. Starting goalie
Patrick Lalime should be an improvement, and the blueline depth
is still of good calibre, but there's a serious lack of offensive
punch beyond the first line. Winger Keith Tkachuk's training
camp weight problems aren't a good omen for a fast start.
BLUE JACKETS. Possess two exciting young forwards in Rick Nash
and Nikolai Zherdev, who should combine to light it up this season,
although Nash may be hobbled early by a leg injury. Adding Bryan
Berard and Adam Foote brings much-needed experience to the blueline,
but there's still plenty of holes throughout the roster that
still need to be filled for this club to have a shot at the playoffs.
SHARKS. Management wisely stuck to building from within, which
considering the club's success in 2003-04 shouldn't be surprising.
With depth at all areas and many core players in their mid-to-late
twenties, the Sharks are poised to be a dominant force in the
Western Conference for a long time, and a potential Cup contender.
A predominantly veteran roster will be looking to make amends
for another early post season exit. Goalie Marty Turco should
continue to provide strong netminding, but the pressure will
be upon key veterans like Mike Modano, Sergei Zubov and a healthy
Jere Lehtinen to carry them deep into the post-season again.
DUCKS: New GM Brian Burke wasted no time putting his stamp on
the Ducks roster, most notably adding 2004 Norris winner Scott
Niedermayer to the roster. Expect talented youngsters like Joffrey
Lupul and Ryan Getzlaf to be given every opportunity to make
the roster,center Sergei Fedorov to have a good year, and goalie
JS Giguere to return to his 2002-03 form.
KINGS. Added veteran depth in Jeremy Roenick, Craig Conroy and
Pavel Demitra to replace Ziggy Palffy, Martin Straka and Jason
Allison. Also possess several promising youngsters who if they
can step up their game could make the Kings playoff contenders.
If this clubs stays healthy it could finish much higher in the
standings, but it avoid the injury bug which seriously hampered
them over the previous two NHL seasons.
The 'Yotes spent the past eighteen months adding affordable veterans
to their young roster. Several of the younger players are poised
to hit their prime. The promise is there but it remains to be
seen how rookie head coach Wayne Gretzky can get this group to
Possess one of the deepest bluelines in the league. Should continue
to receive strong netminding from Miikka Kiprusoff, and will
be looking toward off-season additions of Tony Amonte and Daymond
Langkow to help take some of the offensive load off captain Jarome
Iginla. An aggressive club that'll be tough to face.
CANUCKS. Management retained first line players Markus Naslund
and Brendan Morrison while Todd Bertuzzi returns from suspension,
which should continue to provide plenty of offence. There remain
questions about the Sedin twins ability to improve as well as
Dan Cloutier's ability as a playoff netminder.
AVALANCHE. They've retained Joe Sakic and Rob Blake but lost
Peter Forsberg and Adam Foote due to cap constraints. They'll
be looking to veterans like Pierre Turgeon and Patrice Brisebois
to step up and fill the void. As go their important veterans
so go the Avalanche. If they play well, the Avs could finish
much higher, but if they struggle, it'll be a fight to make the
OILERS. Made eye-popping signings of Chris Pronger and Mike Peca,
whose presence should provide the key veteran experience needed
to put them into the playoffs. That being said, they'll need
forwards like Ales Hemsky, Shawn Horcoff and Jarrett Stoll to
step up as well as goalie Ty Conklin to prove himself a quality
WILD. Made few off-season additions, the most notable Brian Rolston.
They'll expect Marian Gaborik to fuel their offence, but he'll
need help from youngsters like Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Miiko
Koivu to step up too. Their aggressive team defence should serve
them well, but if their offence remains limited, they'll have
to work hard to make gains in a very tough division.