New Jersey Devils
Key Additions: C Jason Arnott, G Johan Hedberg, D Henrik Tallinder, D Anton Volchenkov,
Key Subtractions: D Paul Martin, LW Jay Pandolfo, C Dean McAmmond, D Mike Mottau, C Rob Niedermeyer
One problem coming out of Jersey over the last few seasons has been their inconsistency behind the bench. With the addition of former Devil John MacLean as the new coach, hopefully he will be there long term and the players will be able to build on it. The Devils have always been known for stability, and now they need to regain that appearance and swagger. John MacLean brings a solid defensive style of play (SURPRISE!!!) and is going to do his best to keep the team responsible in their own end. As always, the Devils are going to be riding Brodeur pretty hard, who had a 45 win season at 38 years old. Devils fans can take some comfort in the fact that Brodeur always shows up to play, and always keeps his team in the game. However, if anything were to happen to Brodeur and he will need some time off, the Devils will be looking to Johan Hedberg to fill the gap. Hedberg is a good goalie, but he is getting up there in age and hasn't really had a good season since his 25 win season in 01-02 with the then anemic Pens. The Devils have two of the best young forwards in the game right now in Zach Parise and Travis Zajac. Parise and Zajac will continue to grow and will improve on last years numbers of 38-44-82 and 25-42-67 respectively. Throw in the long term addition of Kovalchuk, we should expect to see Parise and Zajac have a tremendous season. New Jersey has long been hounded for their defensive style of play, but what doesn't really get a lot of press is the fact that if Elias (who missed half the season) and Langenbrunner scored one more goal each, the Devils would have had 6 20 goal scorers. Pretty impressive for a team that is known for almost trademarking a certain style of defensive play. Arnott has played the best hockey of his career in Jersey, and he will get back to his old tricks and have another productive season. The Devils D core will be consistent as always, and the addition of shot blocking specialist Volchenkov will make them that much better. However, the Kovalchuk saga has put the Devils in a cap crunch situation for years to come, and some moves may have to be made.
4th in the Eastern Conference
Key Additions: D Andre Meszaros, D Sean O'Donnell, LW Jody Shelley, D Matt Walker, LW Nikolai Zherdev, Bill Guerin
Key Subtractions: G Ray Emery, LW Simon Gagne, D Lukas Krajicek, D Ryan Parent
Philadelphia hasn't had consistent goaltending since Hextall left. The Flyers organization has utilized a rotary system in their nets since then and has yet to find a stable goalie that will play the season from start to finish. This will be Michael Leighton's chance to shine and prove that he deserves the job. Boucher played tremendously in the playoffs, and that led to his opportunity to come back to the organization this fall. That being said, I fully expect the opportunity to play to be awarded to the hot goalie at the time. There won't be any consistency in the Flyers nets this year, and that isn't really a bad thing. The Flyers have one of the best D cores in the East right now, and the additions of Sean O'Donnell and Matt Walker just made them that much tougher to play against. The only player on their back end that are under 6' tall is Timmonen. The loss of Simon Gagne is going to be tough to fill, but the Flyers have a fairly deep farm system and should find someone to pick up the slack. With that in mind, remember that the call ups aren't going to be relied upon to put up Gagne type numbers. The addition of Zherdev, should he choose to apply himself on a regular basis, should help with that slack. Flyers fans can be confident in the fact that if his play starts to slip up, Pronger will be the one to call him on it. Pronger has a reputation of being a hard nosed team leader, and players aren't going to be able to take shifts off anymore. With Pronger putting pressure on Zherdev, it will go one of two ways; either he flourishes or he quits and starts getting benched, leading to rumours of another adventure in the KHL.
5th in the Eastern Conference
Key Additions: C/LW Mike Comrie, D Paul Martin, D Zbynek Michalek
Key Subtractions: D Mark Eaton, LW Ruslan Fedotenko, D Sergei Gonchar, RW Bill Guerin, D Jordan Leopold, RW Alex Ponikarovsky
The brand new Consol Energy Center will not be waiting long to host its first post season game. Not a lot of teams have a tandem to the extent that Pittsburgh does with both Malkin and Crosby. Crosby has gotten better with each passing season, and Crosby and Malkin will continue to put up good numbers. The loss of power play QB Gonchar on their back end is going to be a hard spot to fill. The additions of Paul Martin should help alleviate that concern, but there were few players available this off season that could effectively fill that role. Pittsburgh has an overall young team, and players are going to continue to get better with each passing season. One question that could affect them would be how long will Jordan Staal be out for? Mid October is the last estimate I heard. Pittsburgh is going to be pushed this season with a strong division. Philly and Jersey will be putting heat on them this season, and this division looks to be one of the more competitive ones for this upcoming season. Pittsburgh won't have any problems scoring goals this season, but they need Fleury to regain his composure and performance of 09. With a strong back end, Fleury should be just fine this year.
2nd in the Eastern Conference
Key Additions: G Martin Biron, RW Derek Boogaard, D Steve Eminger, LW Alex Frolov, RW Tim Kennedy, RW Mats Zuccarello Aasen
Key Subtractions: C Olli Jokinen, LW Jody Shelley, G Steve Valiquette, LW Aaron Voros
With the long term retentions of Dan Girardi and Marc Stall, the Rangers are moving in the right direction on their back end. Throw in the salary dump of Redden on waivers, and the Rangers have found themselves in a good situation. Are they better than the team that missed the playoffs last season because of the shootout rule? Not really, but the addition of Biron in nets should allow Lundqvist to take a night off without feeling guilty about it. Biron will be a suitable back up for the Rangers, and the Redden move is a classic example of addition by subtraction. With Staal, Del Zotto and Girardi on the Ranger back end for a few years, their D Core is going to be fairly stable and will continue to develop. Gaborik should continue to flourish since being released from the confines of the trap system in Minnesota. Should Gaborik stay healthy, he will continue to put up impressive numbers. With younger players such as Christensen, Williams, and Callahan, the Rangers will show a steady increase in offensive output this season. One move that I found curious was the decision to let Shelley walk and bring in Boogaard. Shelley is not even close to being on the same level as Boogaard when it comes to hockey skills, with Shelley putting up 2-4-6 in 21 games for the Rangers last season, compared to Boogaards 0-4-4 in 57 games for the Wild last year. Throw in Shelleys +4 to Boogaards -12, the smart decision would have been to keep Shelley for half the money they are paying Boogaard. Shelley is more than willing to do the same job, and isn't a defensive liability doing it.
7th in the Eastern Conference
Key Additions: D Mark Eaton, D Milan Jurcina, C Zenon Konopka, RW P A Parenteau
Key Subtractions: G Martin Biron, LW Jeff Tambellini
The Islanders have been continuing to develop a solid core of young players. The Islanders are going to be much improved over last years team, as Garth Snow continues to build around Tavares. After coming back from off season surgery for a broken foot, Tavares is expected to be much better. Not only will Tavares continue to grow and develop, but he will make those around him better. Just look at what he did for Matt Moulson last season. The Isles were hit hard by the injury bug last season, losing Schremp, Weight, and Martinek for most of the season. If DiPietro can come back from his knee surgery somewhat effective, the Isles will see a drastic improvement in nets over the rotation of Biron-Roloson. Even when it comes to puck handling, DiPietro is better in that area than the other 2. Kyle Okposo is going to improve again this year, and P A Parenteau is going to have more of an opportunity to play on Long Island than he did in Manhattan. Throw in the addition of spark plug Zenon Konopka, Tavares and his young teammates might find a little more open ice this year. Ths Islanders still have some work to do to make the playoffs this season, but they are on the right track.
11th in the Eastern Conference
With hockey preseason well under way, I welcome back an older feature...HOCKEY FIGHT OF THE WEEK!
With preseason hockey, we see a lot of the younger players trying to break into the league, you still can't deny the seasoned vets of the fisticuffs their due. This week, the fight of the week honors go to Darcy Hordichuk and George Parros.
Now, your weekly Whale Tail. Thanks for stopping by.