I'm also going to have to take Carolina under the condition that they get a backup goaltender who can stop anything. Patrick DesRochers has looked awful in the preseason and i'm looking for them to make some noise in the waiver draft.
Eric Staal is probably in. Erik Cole is healthy. Rod Brind'Amour is healthy. Josef Vasicek looks better than ever. The defense is solid. Weekes is focused. I can't see this team not challenging for a playoff spot this year. In my opinion, this team is far and away better than the team that went to the SC Finals two years ago. Not saying it's going to happen by a long shot, but I'm thinking a playoff spot wouldn't be ridiculously out of the question.
Biggest improver: St.Louis - Healthy Pronger you'd think is huge, but add in a can't-be-worse-than-last-years-5-goaltender-circus Chris Osgood, and a more healthy Keith Tkachuk, a slick rookie is Peter Sejna, and a sophmore campaign for Barret Jackman, the Blues are going to be a force to be reckoned with next year. I'm expecting a President's trophy-type season
Biggest fall: Boston - I'm sure Boston fans think I do this out of spite, but I'm sorry, Felix Potvin is god-awful, Boynton aint there, Stumpel is gone, and a rookie coach. Samsonov back is nice, but there are so many ifs/ands & buts in Boston, that I think they're up for a big fall.
i have alot of teams moving up and alot of teams moving down.
Carolina and Buffalo will be big movers in the East. Both have their injured players back and have made some great strides in the off season. Buffalo did wonders with that team and one of their goaltenders will break out. Carolina is going to benifeit big time with Vrbata comming in for a full season, along withy Cole Brind and Francis all healthy. I hope thier goaltending stays healthy, Weeks is a good gaoltender.
Toronto and Boston will be the big fallers, I don't think Samsonov can help boston with their pathetic goaltending and defense, Berard not comming back should hurt the team also. Toronto just has no defense and Sundin adn Mogilny are just getting older with the rest of the team, they still will make the playoffs but as an 8th seed.
In the west Calgary and LA will be the big risers, Calgary's defense is in the top 10 in the league and defense wins championships. I think Sutter will have this team playing responsable defense with Iginla leading the charge, expect a breakout year from Saprykin. LA just gets alot of players back and their strong prospect's from 2 years back are all fighting for the team. Roman will give them the #1 goaltender they need.
Big fallers in the West are Edmonton and Vancouver, I still see Vancouver making the playoffs as the #7 seed. Their secondary scoring scares me along with Jovo and Sopels defense. The goaltending will be a problem with both goaltenders fighting for the #1 spot going into the playoffs much like Theodore and Hackett 2 years ago. Edmonton just lost two much talent and it is a shame becasue they are drafting alot of great prospects adn can't keep them.
East - Florida and Carolina.
Florida greatly improved all aspects of their team this off season, JayBo is a year older and seasoned, Weiss MAY show us something.Is Olli a one trick pony tho? Carolina, you gotta figure they cant get worse than last year. Retooling the blueline and getting players healthy has to mean something.
Can't get much worse for them either. Stu should be back.Having 3 capable goalies doesnt hurt.
East - Washington and Tampa
Washington - An ECHL core of a blueline after Gonch and Witt. Chemistry and heart are always problems for the team. Now they are trapping it up. Sweet idea, lets use the trap with Jagr, Bondra and Lang and a terrible D core. Tampa, I just doubt.Don't know why, but I do.
West - Minnesota
Possibly losing Gaborik for a "significant amount of time" will dig them a hole they can't possibly get out of.
improvements / reasons, taking into account even more divisional play this season:
carolina 20+ points - everything went wrong last year, it can't happen again. vrbata may have impact, as well as staal. goaltending should be better. defence looks good this year.
buffalo 15+ points - likely to sign satan, and healthy seasons from hecht and afeniganov won't hurt. ryan miller or noronen will be better as backups, and drury will pop in offense because he ALWAYS does. will delmore smarten up, this, his third team already?
philadelphia 10+ points - will score more goals as players adjust better to hitchcock. williams and gagne will put on a clinic. pitkanen has immediate impact, shoring up depth at D - maybe even woywitka as well. and leclair is too good to let injuries keep him down forever. great forward depth all around, amonte seems to have fit right in.
san jose 10+ points - goaltending out of the gate was terrible last season. marleau and damphousse were still a killer 1-2 center combo. blueline is better than average. loss of nolan and selanne will likely mean less goals scored however. i'm assuming PK is overhauled somehow.
los angeles 10+ points - even with deadmarsh and allison out ( and cammaleri...) armstrong was getting better and klatt will plug some holes. checkmanek will flat-out steal some games.
phoenix 10+ points - sean burke, or the emergence of zak bierk, will give them solid goaltending. scoring should be imroved with kolanos and doan healthy again. jan hrdina may help as well.
calgary 10+ points - solid defense, actual depth at forward (as long as forward doesn't include RW!). that said it still hinges on goaltending.
atlanta, florida 10+ points - the steady improvement of youth.
i'd have given LA, phoenix, and san jose more points but they all play in the same division, something has to give. i'll say 30 points improvement between them, one may stumble.
teams taking a fall:
boston -20 - goaltending, defence, yikes.
toronto -15 - too many new faces, will not gel.
minnesota -15 - their scoring was barely enough, now it's not quite enough.
dallas -10 - division was very weak last season.
washington -10 - division much stronger this year.
tampa bay -5 - loss of prospal, stronger division.
Atlanta will be far and away the most improved team. With a full season under Hartley they'll come close to a playoff spot.
I agree 100%. Ivan Majesky will be a huge help for this team (literally) and the defense is gonna improve because of it. Coburn has a shot at playing and im sure Thrasher fans are still hoping Tommi Santala comes around and if he does this team will definitely be a contender for a playoff spot this season. I don't see Lehtonen playing any more than 10 games this season.
For those saying Anaheim will fall more, I disagree.
They lost Kariya, but gained Fedorov, who fits much better into the defensive system they play. They also picked up Sykora, and combining him with Fedorov eliminates all and more of the offense they lost with Kariya.
If anything, they will make the playoffs with a higher seed than seven.
Nashville and LA up by close to 20 in the West while Minnesota down at least 15.
In the East Atlanta, Montreal, and Florida up by about 20 and i think Toronto, Boston, and Washington will all take significant steps in the wrong direction.
I think Buffalo will be a much improved team with guys like Drury, Briere and the youngsters (Pyatt and Kotalik) ready for a full season together. McKee signing is a sign that the sabres plan to contend for a playoff spot this year.
Atlanta will benefit from Hartley's presence but may need to fill some spots to help out Heatley and Kovalchuk.
Their secondary scoring scares me along with Jovo and Sopels defense. The goaltending will be a problem with both goaltenders fighting for the #1 spot going into the playoffs much like Theodore and Hackett 2 years ago.
Jovanovski is not bad defensively!!!
he was a 2-way rock for us all season long (except for his injury period). i don't know what he has to do before people will start to realize it. he increased his +/- by +26, found a balance between hitting and positioning, and improved his pinching several folds.
he finally shed that myth, and was accepted as one of the best 2-way defensemen, then he had a bad 2 games at the end of the playoffs and all of a sudden he regains his old reputation?
and true it could become a Theodore/Hackett... but it could also be a Fernandez/Roloson.