Additions: LW Jiri Hudler, C Mike Modano, D Ruslan Salei.
Subtractions: D Brett Lebda.
As the Wings start this season, there is one major person missing. This will be the first time since 83 that the Wings have started a season without Steve Yzerman on their payroll. Detroit has always drafted extremely well, and their lineup continues to be smattered with younger players looking to make their mark. One of those players looking to build on last seasons gains, is Jimmy Howard. Howard pretty much stole the starting job from Osgood and went on a tear right after the Olympics, going 13-0-2 in 15 games. How much longer does the old guard in Detroit have in them? Watching the playoffs last season, the Wings had more grey in their beards than Gandalf. Players such as Lidstrom (old but still good), Holmstrom, Draper, Maltby and Bertuzzi were starting to present their age. But like I mentioned before, the Wings have some tremendous young talent ready to step up. Datsyuk and Zetterberg will continue to impress, but players such as Abdelkader and Helm will continue to grow and prove themselves with the offer of more ice time. Defensively, the Wings are very solid in their own end. They have younger D men such as Ericsson learning of some of the best in the game with Lidstrom and Rafalski. Offensively, the Wings will benefit from a full season with Franzen. Franzen played 27 games last season, and if he can stay healthy this season, expect a breakout year. Add in the Holmstroms, Zetterbergs, Datsyuks, and Filppulas, the Wings should win their division this season and be ready for a deep run into the playoffs.
Prediction: 3rdin the Western Conference
Additions: D John Scott, LW Viktor Stalberg, C Jeff Taffe, D Ivan Vishnevsky, RW Fernando Pisani.
Subtractions: RW Adam Burish, RW/D Dustin Byfuglien, LW Ben Eager, LW Andrew Ladd, C John Madden, G Antti Niemi, D Brent Sopel, RW Kris Versteeg.
It almost seemed that some of the Blackhawks were getting pulled off the floats in the parade and were told that they were traded. Unfortunately, Chicago was just another victim of what we can expect in the years to come with the salary cap. Two of Chicago’s biggest losses was the movement of Niemi after an arbitration deal, and Byfuglien to the Thrashers. Buff led the Blackhawks in the post season in hits and was tied with Patrick Sharp for the team lead in goals scored. Their loss is Atlantas gain, but as I mentioned in the Thrashers breakdown, it is an experiment to see how Buff can play D for them. Fortunately for the ‘Hawks, they were able to keep their top three players in Kane, Toews, and Sharp. We can talk about who they lost this offseason, but the real story lies in who they kept. Toews, Sharp, Kane, Norris winner Keith, and D-men Seabrook, Campbell and Bolland. Chicago fans have been patient the last couple of decades, and this revamping in the summer isn’t that bad for the team at all. Bowman did what he had to in order to keep the team competitive and remain within the cap constraints. Bowman freed up some more cap room by loaning Huet to Europe and having his salary removed from the books. Sure, they are still paying him, but it doesn’t count against their cap. Chicagos back end is just as strong as last season, if not stronger. Chicago added solid defenseman John Scott from Minnesota. John Scott stands at 6’8” and was a force on Wilds back end last season. With a solid d-core, the Blackhawks and their fans shouldn’t be too concerned about the addition of Marty Turco. In the last couple of seasons, Turco was playing behind a struggling Stars team. Turco should do just fine in the nets for the Hawks this season, but if he does start to struggle or need a break, the Hawks will be looking at Corey Crawford to keep them in some games. Crawford has only started 5 games in 3 seasons, and he may be looking at a dramatic increase in ice time if Turco has a hard time regaining his previous form. Regardless of what happened this off season, the Hawks still look good for the next few years. Unfortunately, this season, they will be battling Detroit for the division title.
Prediction: 6thin the Western Conference
Additions: G Jaroslav Halak, C T.J. Hensick, C Vladimir Sobotka.
Subtractions: LW Paul Kariya, LW D.J. King, G Chris Mason, C Keith Tkachuk
The St Louis Blues had a gift fall in their lap this offseason. When the Blues traded for Halak, they picked up the Montreal goalie that carried the Habs to an unlikely and unexpected position last spring, and a goalie that has more wins than their highly touted number one goalie of the future. Halak should give the Blues that little boost that they need to make the playoffs this season. St Louis had already allowed fewer than 250 goals in each of the last 3 seasons, and the addition of Halak will only help them improve on that number. St Louis missed out on the playoffs last season, but should be in there this year. St Louis is looking east and taking direction from how the Pens and Caps have improved their team. St Louis is going to have a younger team this year, with players such as Oshie, Tarasenko, Berglund, Pietrangelo and Schwartz looking to prove that they belong with the club. Last season, the Blues had one of the best pk records in the league, mostly due to their forwards and d-men extremely willing to block shots. Backing up Halak in net this season will be Ty Conklin. As usual, Conklin can be counted on to relieve a struggling Halak, or just be available if Halak needs a night off. With this being the first full year for coach Davis Payne, Payne is going to have a good look at all the young prospects that the Blues will slowly start introducing this season. Throw in the return of players such as Boyes, MacDonald and Steen, and the Blues have enough offence to make the push for the playoffs this season.
Prediction: 8thin the Western Conference
Additions: RW Matt Halischuk, LW Sergei Kostitsyn, C Matthew Lombardi, D Ryan Parent.
Subtractions: C Jason Arnott, C Dustin Boyd, G Dan Ellis, D Dan Hamhuis, RW Ben Guite.
Here is an interesting stat. Nashville is one of 5 teams that had won more than 40 games in each of the past 5 seasons. The Preds were very smart in drafting a capable goalie in Rinne and gave him the time to develop in the minors before he was brought up for his shot. Other teams such as Montreal (Price) and Toronto (Pogge), have less than stellar records when it comes to bringing their goalies too quickly. Once Rinne had a couple of 30 win seasons under his belt, they gave him his shot. It has paid off immensely for them with Rinne having a record of 61-31-9 since being called up. Rinnes backups this year are Chet Pickard and Jeremy Smith, and both have little time in the NHL. However, on their back end, they have a relatively small d-core in comparison to other teams in their division. Their largest d-man right now is Shea Weber, unless Cody Fransen impresses enough to warrant the Preds keeping him up. The Preds have lots of puck moving defensemen the likes of Boullion and Suter, and their d-core makes up for their lack of size in that area. The Preds had 10 players score more than 30 points last season, and an improvement is going to sought this year. Nashville has been relying on their farm system to fill in gaps left by injured players, and that is one area that may hurt them this year. Last year, Nashville got lucky and only had 2 of their top 12 scorers play fewer than 70 games. Nashville has a fairly good team, but if they were to be hit by the injury bug, filling Hornqvists spot on the roster could be challenging for them. Nashville needs more depth in their farm system, and that could be their Achilles heel this season.
Prediction: 10thin the Western Conference
Additions: LW Ethan Moreau, RW Ben Guite.
If the Blue Jackets want to make the playoffs this year, all they have to do is cut down on their goals against since they were 2ndlast in the conference last season. Columbus also needs to hold on to their leads better, as they were also 3rdlast in the league when it came to winning games that they scored first in. Unfortunately for the Blue Jackets, they are going to have a hard time catching up to the rest of their division this season. Playing in the nets this season is Steve Mason. Last season, Mason had a rougher time than he did in 08-09, drastically decreasing his numbers in shutouts and victories. That being said, keep in mind that Mason is only 22 this year. This could be another team that should have gave their top goalie prospect some more time to season in the minors. Garon will be playing backup for Mason this year, and he is a fully capable backup goalie. Garon’s numbers were impressive last season, seeing as how he played in 35 games. With Ken Hitchcock no longer the coach in Columbus, it is now Scott Arniels chance to show what he can do with this team. Columbus fortunately has players like Nash, Umberger and the addition of Ethan Moreau that are more than willing to do what it takes to motivate their teammates. Nash is expected to lead the team in scoring this season, with players such as Vermette and Huselius contributing on a nightly basis. Columbus had 4 players score more than 20 goals last season, and if they expect to compete in their division, that is one area that they will have to improve. Columbus needs more consistency from their secondary scorers, and the steady improvement shown by Voracek and Brassard shows that they are on the right track. On their back end, the Jackets only had one defenseman in the pluses last season in Kris Russell. Columbus needs their d-core to clamp down and improve that aspect of their game. Stralman was the highest scoring d-man for the Jackets last season, but he was also a -17. Having a d-core that only has one player in the positive side of the +/- stat does not bode well. Jackets fans should expect draft pick Ryan Johansen to get some ice time this year, and try to secure a spot on their roster. Johansen’s game has been compared to that of Joe Thornton, and he should impress the fans with his ability if he gets the chance to dress for a couple of games. One thing that is going to hold Columbus back this year is their d-core. For their d-core to improve, Columbus either has to start burying more pucks or improve on their back end.
Prediction: 14thin the Western Conference
Now, your hockey fight of the week.
Ivanens is one tough prick, and to see him get dragged off the ice like this, makes MacIntryre look that much better to the younger players on the Oilers. They all grew 6" after this fight.
Thanks for stopping in.