My 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".

But please, 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!

Remember, 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.


PHILADELPHIA 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.

NEW JERSEY 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.

PITTSBURGH 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.

NEW YORK 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.

NEW YORK 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.


OTTAWA SENATORS. 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.

MONTREAL 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 big year.

BOSTON BRUINS. 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.

BUFFALO SABRES. 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.

TORONTO MAPLE 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.


TAMPA BAY 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.

ATLANTA THRASHERS. 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.

FLORIDA PANTHERS. 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.

CAROLINA 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.

WASHINGTON 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.



NASHVILLE 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.

DETROIT RED 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.

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS. 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 goalie.

ST. LOUIS 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.

COLUMBUS 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.


SAN JOSE 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.

DALLAS STARS: 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.

ANAHEIM MIGHTY 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.

LOS ANGELES 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.

PHOENIX COYOTES: 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 gel.


CALGARY FLAMES. 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.

VANCOUVER 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.

COLORADO 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 post-season.

EDMONTON 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 starter.

MINNESOTA 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.

 The opinions expressed on this page are of the author, and in no way reflect the views of the NHL, it teams or players. All material copyrighted (C) 2003 Spector's Hockey. Reproduction of this material in whole, or in part, without consent by the author is prohibited.