Sep 212010
 

Dear Lou Lamoriello,

Way back in the day, (we’re talking pre-Fresh Prince of Bel Air days), I was a fan of the New Jersey Devils.

There were a few reasons for this. One, Oshawa-native John Maclean was your go-to scorer at the time. Another reason was, well, I was a fan of Christmas, and your team colours happened to match the season.

The biggest reason though was that I wanted to be one of those fans who bragged after winning a championship that he’d “been there” through the lean years.

In reality, by the time your Devils won the Cup I’d moved on. You see, I realized I was using your squad just for bragging rights – my true allegiances fell elsewhere in the NHL.

I raise this because there’s a buzz that this is a “Cup or bust” season for Martin Brodeur and company.

Therefore, as a former (brief) die-hard, I thought I’d offer you a piece of free advice.

Your defense isn’t good enough to win a thing.

Of the last 20 Stanley Cup winning teams, did you know 17 of them featured an elite, puck-moving/scoring defenseman as a key part of their top-4?

The only exceptions were the Carolina Hurricanes (2005-06), Montreal Canadiens (1992-93) and Edmonton Oilers (1989-90). I think it’s fair to say these teams were also the most unlikely Cup winners of the past two decades.

So “Double L”, congrats on signing Ilya Kovalchuk.

But don’t forget the back-end, because Andy Greene is just not going to cut it.

P.S., for comparison’s sake, here’s my evaluation of the Eastern Conference’s defense corps.

A+ Grade

Philadelphia

Nice mix of puck-movers and defensive guys, young and old. Chris Pronger seems to have figured out how to dominate again after losing a step.

A Grade

Boston

Solid top-4, particularly if Johnny Boychuk takes another step. With an improved forward group adding to his stat-line, Zdeno Chara could win the Norris this year.

B+ Grade

Toronto

There appears to be real depth here although, when (if?) they move Tomas Kaberle, their offensive IQ as a group will plummet. Discipline is also an issue.

Pittsburgh

No real top-end guy, although Paul Martin, Zbynek Michalek and Brooks Orpik are a solid nucleus. Real offensive promise in Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski, although consistency is a concern.

B Grade

Washington

Mike Green is the best offensive defensemen in the league. A rookie-of-the year-type campaign from John Carlson is expected, but don’t overlook Karl Alzner either as a youngster who could impact.

Montreal

This rating is based on two assumptions: Andrei Markov returns to form from injury and P.K. Subban is the real-deal.

B- Grade

Buffalo

If Tyler Myres suffers the sophomore slump, this unit is in a lot of trouble. Craig Rivet and Steve Montador are not guys who can play big minutes, while the jury’s out on Chris Butler and Andrej Sekera as NHL defensemen.

C+ Grade

Atlanta

An underrated group that could rank higher if Zack Bogosian takes another step. You could argue that Tobias Enstrom is the second-best offensive defenseman in the Conference (behind Mike Green).

New Jersey

Henrik Tallinder and Anton Volchenkov make this a formidable squad in their own zone. Exiting their zone is a whole other matter. There’ll be some interesting first-passes on the Devils this year.

Ottawa

Got to wonder how good Sergei Gonchar’s numbers will look without Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to feed on the powerplay. His presence should help Erik Karlsson’s development, although both players need a map to find their own zone.

C- Grade

Carolina

Okay at the top-end (Joni Pitkanen has improved; Tim Gleason is underrated; Jamie McBain has strong puck-mover potential), but spots 4-7 could be a nightmare. I wouldn’t trust Joe Corvo to park my car, let alone play defense.

Florida

Could move up these standings depending on the impact Erik Gudbranson, Dmitry Kulikov and Keaton Ellerby have. Each could become very strong NHL defensemen. Dennis Wideman and Bryan McCabe are as shaky as it gets defensively.

D+ Grade

New York Rangers

A young, inconsistent group anchored, and I mean bottom-of-the-ocean anchored, by two terrible vets (Michal Rozsival, Wade Redden). They really need Dan Girardi to continue improving; otherwise Marc Staal is the only guy with defensive zone presence.

D Grade

New York Islanders

An average, young group with a bit of upside, although none of it flashy. I’m not sure anyone here could ever break the top-4 on a contending team.

Tampa Bay

Won’t be the worst for long, as all signs point to Victor Hedman becoming an impact player soon. Pavel Kubina will help the powerplay, and Mattias Ohlund is solid, albeit, piano-on-his-back quick. The rest of the d-corps is journeyman at best.

Sep 152010
 

Yesterday, I ranked the Eastern Conference teams in terms of their forwards. Today, I look at the West.

A+ Grade

Chicago

Surprised? Don’t be. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Dave Bolland and Patrick Sharp are a nucleus that can keep this team in contention for years to come. Naturally, with all the off-season moves, depth is a greater issue than it was last year.

A- Grade

San Jose

The best first line in hockey (Patrick Marleau-Joe Thornton-Dany Heatley) can stay together, now that the team has found Joe Pavelski to anchor the second line. Nice grit, but little offensive depth on the 3rd or 4th lines. An effective Logan Couture would go a long way towards establishing the bottom-half of the Sharks forward roster.

Vancouver

Henrik Sedin had more assists last year than he had points in any previous year. Hard to believe he’ll produce at the same pace this year. Manny Malholtra and Raffi Torres really help the third-line. Still lacking some depth though – if the Sedins and Ryan Kesler take an offensive step back, I’m not sure who is capable of picking up the slack.

Los Angeles

Young, fast, and physical, with good depth up the middle (Anze Kopitar might become the best centre in the Western Conference as early as this year). With their aggressive style of play though, hard to see how this collection of forwards can stay healthy for 82 games. Winger depth isn’t great.

B+ Grade

Detroit

Not as fast as they once were, but this group remains talented and well-disposed to execute the team’s puck-possession game plan. Experienced, but lacking the grit required for a long post-season run. Can Jiri Hudler and Valtteri Filppula form an effective second-line? The Wings sure hope so, as they’d like to play Henrik Zetterberg and Pavol Datsyuk together more often this year.

Colorado

One of the fastest groups of forwards in the league, with a lot of young scoring depth. Could really use some high-quality sandpaper for the 3rd and 4th lines. And while Brandon Yip, David Jones And T.J. Galiardi seem like they’re poised to be 25-goal scorers, doesn’t this whole group reek of sophomore slump?

Anaheim

A terrific top-line (Bobby Ryan-Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry), but the offensive dam is starting to spring a bunch of holes. Not the quickest or most disciplined bunch either. Two bets I’d stay away from this year: Brett Favre playing an entire NFL regular season, and Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne combining for 50 goals between them.

C+ Grade

Edmonton

Weak down the middle, the Oilers do feature some promise on the wings. It’s an awfully young group supporting Ales Hemsky though, and one that’ll be inconsistent this year. Size and defensive play are also in short supply. After three straight 40-point seasons, it’s make or break time for Sam Gagner. This team desperately needs a 1C, or at the very least someone to take quality offensive minutes away from Shawn Horcoff.

Dallas

Not a very deep group, but the top-6 is solid and can play at both ends of the ice. Nice to see Brad Richards back producing, but beyond him the centre position is weak. 3rd and 4th lines aren’t very talented either. How’s that Fabian Brunnstrom thing working out, Stars fans?

Calgary

A pretty pedestrian collection of forwards without much imagination. And Jarome Iginla’s a year older. One of the slower sets of forwards as well, although it has some grit. A lot of pressure on Mikael Backlund to show some offensive flash this year.

C Grade

Phoenix

Like Colorado, this group has killer speed, but the Coyotes’ offensive talent just isn’t nearly as deep. It’s not very physical or consistent mix either. Is this the year we find out if Viktor Tikhonov, Mikael Boedker, Kyle
Turris, Martin Hanzal and Lauri Korpikoski can turn potential into results? None of them look like sure things anymore.

St. Louis

Solid two-way group that has decent size, but the Blues really could use some more offense. The bottom-6 is a goal desert. Patrik Berglund looks ready to take the next step though.

Minnesota

An eclectic mix of size and grit personified in Mikko Koivu, who has all the skills and strengths of Ryan Kesler without the notoriety. Pluggers fill-out the 3rd and 4th lines. A health Pierre-Marc Bouchard would really stabilize the offense, but that might be too much to ask.

C- Grade

Nashville

A hard-working, gritty group that can play a strong two-way game. Very little offensive talent though. A healthy Steve Sullivan would be a major help, but it’s far more likely Colin Wilson takes a step towards being a franchise 1C.

Columbus

Hard to believe a team with Rick Nash on it can be graded so low, but this team is lacking at centre, doesn’t defend very well and needs an upgrade on the 3rd, 4th lines. Jakub Voracek ended last year strong – they need another producer up front desperately.

Sep 142010
 

Say what you want about Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke, but the man has his own beliefs and sticks to them.

Burke has long suggested you can win a Stanley Cup with the simple forward formula of a skilled top-six and a gritty bottom six.

It’s this formula that he’s applying to the Leafs, while foregoing the traditional approach of rebuilding through the draft.

We’re entering the third year of Burke’s rebuilding experiment, and a few things are starting to become clear.

One, by not rebuilding through the draft, the Leafs have essentially limited their access to the best young, cheap, high-end talent available.

Secondly, the Leafs forward ranks, while still mid-20s young, are especially thin in skill.

This wouldn’t be a big issue except, since the NHL lockout, Stanley Cup contenders have had a common mix up-front.

Strength down the middle; speed; size; young skilled players who contribute without playing big minutes; and strong defensive role players who help the systems game and bring character to the fold.

Scanning the Leafs roster – this “contender” mix is one the Leafs aren’t anywhere close to icing, now or in the near future.

Here are the teams with the best Eastern Conference forwards heading into 2010-11, based on individual player ratings of their likely starting-12.

A+ Grade

Washington

The first three lines can play go-go hockey, and Alex Ovechkin has something to prove. Not sure how committed they are to their own zone though, and while Eric Belanger is a useful player, he can’t be a 2C. Tomas Fleischmann, Brooks Laich or someone else will have to step up.

A Grade

Pittsburgh

Gino Malkin and Sidney Crosby are two of the top-three forwards in the game, and will play on the same line this year more than ever before. Huge drop-off in offensive talent after these two though. Jordan Staal has to take another offensive step, and/or Eric Tangradi has to be an impact rookie, to take the pressure off the team’s top two players. Nice grit, speed on the wings.

A- Grade

Philadelphia

Probably best group of centres in the league, including Blair Betts, one of the leagues most underrated defensive players. Without a glaring weakness, this collection of forwards has size, depth, scoring, and can play at both ends. Does Bobby Clarke know Nikolai Zherdev is a Flyer? Just can’t see this partnership ending well between the player and team.

Boston

Maybe the best collection of forward the Bruins have had since the late 80s/early 90s. Good size, grit on the wings. If Nathan Horton shows a pulse at all, he’ll score 30 this year.

B+ Grade

New Jersey

Maybe the strongest group of forwards the Devils have had since their Cup runs. Depth is an issue on the 3rd and 4th lines, and speed isn’t exactly the strength of this bunch. There’ll be a lot of pressure on Jason Arnott and Patrik Elias to re-create magic, but any offense from Vladimir Zharkov would be a huge boost and take the burden off the team’s veterans.

B Grade

Tampa Bay

Pretty strong offensive talent on the top-two lines, but this is a group that has to play better in their own zone. Simon Gagne and Dom Moore might help in this area. Vincent Lecavalier is half the player he used to be (92 goals from 2006-2008, 53 goals from 2009-present).

Ottawa

Jason Spezza and company are solid all-around, but aren’t truly excellent in any one way. Health is a concern, and there’s no scoring beyond the first two lines. A lot of pressure on Peter Regin to inject some offense into this mix.

New York Rangers

Group of forwards in desperate need of a gifted, offensive centre. Balanced on the wings, especially if Alex Frolov has a comeback year offensively. If Marian Gaborik repeats last year’s performance, does he get MVP consideration? He had twice the goals of anyone else on the team.

Buffalo

Fast, young, but not overly big, Sabres forwards are also lacking a top-end offensive threat. Thomas Vanek has all the tools to be the elite scorer they need, but at 26, he’s seemingly peaked early in his career.

C+ Grade

New York Islanders

Quietly, some nice pieces are being assembled here. A very young group, but one that has elements of size, speed and skill. Not exactly a responsible group defensively though, and still lacking depth, particularly at centre. Not sure how bringing Doug Weight back solves anything. He’s a nice guy, a good captain, but skates like he’s in quicksand these days.

C Grade

Montreal

Shifty group that played above-its-head in last year’s playoffs. They’re not very big, and offensively it’s not a deep collection of talent. Lars Eller will be under the microscope, having been traded for playoff hero Jaroslav Halak. Thankfully, all he needs to do is play some solid bottom-6 minutes to fill a gaping hole up-front.

Atlanta

On paper, this is big, nasty, rugged collection of forwards that will have a difficult time scoring goals. Speed might be an issue, and the depth at centre is awfully shallow. A comeback year from Bryan Little would really help.

Carolina

It’s rebuilding time in Carolina. Eric Staal and Brandon Sutter are the lone bright-lights up-front. Decent grit though.

D+ Grade

Toronto

There’s Phil Kessel, and then there’s everyone else. Scoring depth is a major concern, although there’s a bit of speed and lots of size in the mix. Nazeem Kadri will be leaned on heavily to play as a top-line centre, which might not be the best thing for his development.

Florida

Not very big, not very fast and not very young either. David Booth and Mikael Frolik look like the only “keepers” on a team that’ll look far different at the end of the season.

Sep 092010
 

Yesterday, I looked at the Eastern Conference coaches; today, I look at the bench bosses from the West.

A Grade

Mike Babcock – Detroit

Just the second coach in NHL history to coach Stanley Cup Game 7s for two different teams. He’s the only coach to have won Olympic Gold, a World Championship Gold and a Stanley Cup.

B+ Grade

Joel Quenneville – Chicago

He has never coached a losing season in the NHL, despite coaching for three different teams. The 2010 Cup win is the cherry on top for a career almost destroyed by physical exhaustion.

Barry Trotz – Nashville

Always gets the most out of his roster, and is quite player-friendly. Just the 10th head coach in NHL history to coach 750 games with a single team.

B Grade

Dave Tippett – Phoenix

While serving as an assistant coach, he was often described as the best powerplay mind in the league. His Dallas teams always seemed to underperform, but his work in Phoenix last year was incredible.

Randy Carlyle – Anaheim

Former Moose coach has won a Cup but his demanding style can grate on players (see Ryan Whitney).

B- Grade

Tom Renney – Edmonton

A strong teacher, communicator and infuriating line juggler, did great work with the Rangers but will be challenged with the Oilers.

Alain Vigneault – Vancouver

There’s no question A.V. has had a positive impact on player development. However, questions remain whether he is tactician-enough to get the Canucks far into the post-season.

C+ Grade

Terry Murray – Los Angeles (Fired watch)

Has always had success coaching skilled players, and yet his teams always seem to have issues between the pipes. Finds ways to get outcoached in the playoffs.

Joe Sacco – Colorado

The first successful coaching season of his professional career was last year with the young Avalanche. A strong communicator, it will be interesting to see what he does for an encore.

C Grade

Todd McLellan – San Jose (Fired watch)

Had coaching success at the junior and minor league levels, and ran a good power-play while serving as an assistant with Detroit. His time in San Jose though has been a disappointment.

Brent Sutter – Calgary

A junior hockey coaching legend, he’s entering Year 2 with a Flames team that under-achieved last year. Reviews about his first year in New Jersey were mixed as well, before the team gelled in their second year under the coach.

Davis Payne – St. Louis

A high energy guy earning a reputation for player preparation. The Blues offense came to life under his watch last year. Let’s see what a full season warrants.

Scott Arniel – Columbus

He has yet to coach an NHL game, although he did serve as an assistant in Buffalo. Four straight winning seasons with the Moose, and will try to instill a puck-possession style into the Blue Jackets approach.

C- Grade

Todd Richards – Minnesota (Fired watch)

Strong AHL coach with a good teaching reputation, but rumours of a rift between him and his assistant coaches persisted throughout the summer. He couldn’t get the Wild to play his up-tempo style last year.

Marc Crawford – Dallas (Fired Watch)

Hasn’t been to the post-season in four years and there are legitimate questions about his systems and ability to teach at the pro-level. That Cup win seems like it was a lifetime ago.

Sep 082010
 

“In training camp, most coaches give players binders full of rules,” Wayne Gretzky once said.

“Glen [Sather] only had one rule: don’t embarrass the coach.”

Gretzky’s anectode is quaint and funny at first blush. The irony, of course, is that Wayne eventually became a binder-guy coach. Not that The Great One had a choice. In the modern NHL, the differences between each team, and in fact between winning and losing, are minute.

One reason for this is that the coaching role has blossomed, dominating what happens at every moment on the ice. The introduction of system-play and more sophisticated pre-game preparation have reduced in-game mistakes to a minimum.

15-years ago folks like Rogie Vachon, Pierre Page, Ron Low, Rick Ley, Terry Crisp, Jim Schoenfeld, Rick Bowness, Jacques Demers, Mike Milbury, Colin Campbell, Nick Beverley, Jim Wiley, Mario Tremblay, Dave Allison and Steve Kasper could hold NHL head coaching positions.

Today there isn’t a single franchise who would ask any of these men to lead their teams into a season.

If the NHL was once a ballet for its performers, today it has become chess-on-ice for its coaches.

In this two-part series, here is a look at the league’s chess players heading into the 2010-11 season.

First from the Eastern Conference:

A Grade

Lindy Ruff – Buffalo

The NHL’s longest tenured coach. Among coaches with 40 or more playoff wins, Ruff is in the top 6 in terms of career winning percentage.

B+ Grade

Peter Laviolette – Philadelphia

Having taken both the Hurricanes and Flyers to the Cup final cements his rep as a top-level guy. Laviolette did a masterful job in Philly last year, taking over a messy dressing room and a lost on-ice product.

John Tortorella – New York Rangers

He’s a Cup winner and master manipulator (both of players and media). Demeanor makes him easy to root against, but there’s real substance here.

B Grade

Dan Bylsma – Pittsburgh

Less than two-seasons as a head coach but has a Cup to his resume. Player’s coach who loosened the shackles on the Penguins best players. One of the great communicators behind the bench.

Claude Julien – Boston

One of the league’s premiere defensive coaches has yet to have that success carry him beyond the second-round.

Cory Clouston – Ottawa

The baby-faced drill sergeant has done a good job taking on the complacency that stymied the Senators before his arrival.

B- Grade

Jacques Martin – Montreal

Let’s get this out of the way: his defensive approach in last year’s playoffs – I’m exaggerating, but basically having all five players stand in front of Halak – drove me crazy. A great defensive mind, his hatred for all things offense has hindered his teams chances in three decades now.

C+ Grade

Bruce Boudreau – Washington (Fired watch)

One of the great minor league coaches of our time has enjoyed terrific regular season success at the NHL level. The post-season has been a different story all together. 2010-11 is a make-or-break season for Boudreau.

Ron Wilson – Toronto (Fired watch)

He’s one of the stronger teaching coaches in the NHL and a bench boss that demands accountability from his players. Historically has worn out his welcome though and Toronto’s showed little improvement under his
watch.

Peter DeBoer – Florida

The two-time OHL Coach of the Year gets his players to compete using an old-school, hard-nosed approach. Panthers were surprisingly competitive in his first year, but took a step back in 2009-10.

Guy Boucher – Tampa Bay

One of the most heralded rookie coaches of the last decade, we’ll see if his innovative 1-3-1 forecheck works at the NHL level. If it works, he could zoom up this chart.

C Grade

Scott Gordon – New York Islanders

Former AHL coach of the year led the Isles to an 18-point improvement over the 2008-09 season. Still, he’s not exactly burdened by expectations coaching this squad.

John Maclean – New Jersey (Fired watch)

Brent Sutter felt Maclean was ready two years ago to coach the Devils and said so publicly. Maclean has promised to open up the offense a bit, but is that wise with a 97-year old Marty Brodeur in net? Don’t forget – Lou has a short leash on his coaches.

Craig Ramsay – Atlanta

Whether it was as a player or an assistant coach, Ramsay has always been known as one of the great defensive minds in the game. It will be interesting to see him adapt that philosophy in Atlanta, a team without much scoring talent. Always well-liked.

C- Grade

Paul Maurice – Carolina (Fired watch)

Has never coached a team to more than 91 points, and has only one 40-win season to his credit.

Oct 012009
 

I asked some very bad ass lady bloggers from the pacific division to give our blog a preview of how they saw their teams and the pacific division going down this season. It’s an all star lineup for sure and you should add their blogs to your blogroll if you haven’t already. We have…

Patty in Dallas from Penalty Killing for (obvs) the Dallas Stars
SKeleven from Ducks and Pucks for the Anaheim Ducks
Connie from A Queen Among Kings for the LA Kings
OnyxStarr from Hip Shot Blog for the Phoenix Coyotes
Gray and Minako from Couchtarts for the San Jose Sharks

1) How do you see your team doing this season? Continue reading »

Oct 012009
 

Continuing with our previews of the divisions, we posed some questions to some of the Northeast Division bloggers – David Oleksy from Die By The Blade (Buffalo Sabres), Chris Topham from Lions In Winter (Montreal Canadiens) and The Wonderful World of Loser Domi (Toronto Maple Leafs). Here are their responses:

1. What was the biggest improvement your team has made for the upcoming season?

Die By The Blade: The biggest improvement the Sabres made might be mental as opposed to any specific move. The Sabres noticed that the game has become more physical than it was immediately following the lockout, because of that they went out and added toughness. There moves were minor, signing Steve Montador and Mike Grier but it gives the team a brand new mentality. Although the moves were essentially cosmetic they are expected to be a tougher team and a team that will grind it out in the corners. It has been evident in Pre-Season that players like Clarke MacArthur, Drew Stafford and Thomas Vanek have been more physical on the puck and in tight spots.

Lions In Winter: The biggest improvement to the team has been the complete overhaul of the coaching staff. Regardless of what you think of Jacques Martin, the fact he even has a strategy in mind is a step forward. Just today, evidence that the Candiens strength coach (a weak member of the old greater coaching staff) wasn’t conveying just how important fitness was. Jacques Martin sounded concerned as he said it might take a year to get this team into proper shape.

Loser Domi: One of the more noticeable improvements on the Leafs has, of course, been the addition of truculence and grittiness. I like this because even if the Leafs don’t win, I think they will be harder to play. Other teams won’t just walk over them as they have in seasons past. It should be interesting to watch.

2. Who (or what) has been the biggest surprise – good or bad – this preseason?

Die By The Blade: The biggest surprise in the pre-season has been the play of rookies Nathan Gerbe and Tim Kennedy. Both players looked good and figure to be a key part of the Sabres in the very near future. Nathan Gerbe was sent to Portland on the last round of cuts but Tim Kennedy made the roster and is expected to be in the lineup when the Sabres face the Canadiens on Saturday night.

Lions In Winter: There weren’t really any otherworldly pleasant surprises for me. Brian Gionta did alright, and Ryan O’Byrne was decent. But the most surprising thing was how team vets who should be driven and inspired by all the changes mailed in the camp. It was an unpleasant surprise really, despite the wins.

Loser Domi: First, I’ll start with the positive. Viktor Stalberg and Jonas Gustavsson were very pleasant surprises (to say the least) coming out of preseason. I know that Stalberg is apparently going to appear on opeing night, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more of Gustavsson (see the bad)

The bad: most noticeably, Vesa Toskala. While he’s not the only one who crapped the bed in a loss to the Buffalo Sabres, he was the most noticeable. He did have surgery in the off season and apparently he’s taking longer to get back into game form than anticipated. It’s possible that he’s not ready mentally to prove he deserves the job, or maybe he saw shiny objects and got distracted. I don’t know.

3. How would you rank your team compared to the other teams in the Northeast Division? (i.e. Where do you expect your team to finish and why?)

Die By The Blade: The Sabres were primed to be a playoff team last year until they lost Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller. This season they are going to surprise a lot of people that are giving the team no chance to win. I expect the Sabres to finish second in the Norteast Division behind the Boston Bruins. Behind the Bruins and Sabres I expect it to be Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa.

Lions In Winter: In the Northeast, we are second best I think. Simply by virtue of having a goaltending team we didn’t get via mail order and a defensive squad that has some experience. Of course the division is tight, but it seems just as likely to me that Boston fail as Buffalo overtake us, so I’m comfortable with second. Unfortunately for all of us, the division had a pretty weak build up year to be followed by a weak summer. No one here is contending with the Caps, Pens, Canes or even Flyers. if Gaborik stays healthy and NJ respond to Lemaire again, it could be a quiet spring for the Northeast.

Loser Domi: Toronto is in a very odd place. Unlike a lot of other people, I’m not totally on the PLAYOFFS!!1 train just yet. I can’t say that Toronto will definitely make or miss the playoffs. They’re in that weird place where they either just make the playoffs or they just miss them. All in all, it should be a fun team to watch. And GO LEAFS GO!

*****

As for the Sens and Bruins, let me just add a couple of personal thoughts:

I’m not sure the Sens have benefited at all from the Dany Heatley deal. Getting Milan Michalek is nice, but he’s not nearly as dominant a player as Heatley was. I’m not convinced Jonathan Cheechoo can return to his Rocket Richard form. They’re also relying on the young kid Karlsson, who pushed previously, highly-touted prospect Brian Lee down to the farm. You can argue that they’re a bit better in goal with Pascal Leclaire, but Leclaire followed up his career 2007/2008 season with an injury-filled 2008/2009 season.

The Bruins have their share of question marks as well. They’re my pick to win the Northeast Division, but that’s assuming David Krejci’s and Tim Thomas’ seasons weren’t flukes, that a full season from Mark Recchi and Marco Sturm and continuous improvement from Blake Wheeler and Milan Lucic can help offset the loss of Phil Kessel, and that Derek Morris can return to his pre-Phoenix Coyotes form.

Sep 302009
 

Last night I sat down with Mike Meyers from Tavares Country, ClockWork Flyers from Clockwork Orange (and Black), Carlos from Speaking of the Devils, Damian from Pens Universe, and Catherine Smith from Cathybytes.com representing the Rangers to break down the Atlantic Division for the upcoming 2009-10 Season.

Take a look at what they had to say.

Sep 292009
 

Last night, we had the pleasure of chatting with Dirk Hoag from the On The Forecheck blog and he gave us a preview of what to expect from the Nashville Predators and the rest of the Central Division. Following is the transcript:

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