Iíll start out with a disclaimer that Iím not exactly an avid hockey fan, although I do enjoy the playoffs and I start following more intently around April. Itís just not a sport I grew up around or have attended much.
I was inspired to write this just because I happened to grab a sports page yesterday and look at the standings. I just never saw the point of getting excited about a sport 6 months before it crowned a champion. I mostly write the most about college football, and you might have noticed I donít have all that much to say about even that in July.
I talked about some different possibilities before the realignment in 2011.
In the first two of these possibilities, I was considering the current format of two divisions per conference. What Iím about to suggest is very similar to the second of those. The only difference is I was anticipating the Eastern and Western Conferences would have equal numbers of teams, and that is not what happened. Iím just going to assume the conferences will keep the same respective numbers of teams they have now. Itís not really fair to those seeking wild cards, but on the other hand, itís good that teams are on a somewhat level playing field (playing surface?) as the other division in a given conference.
When I discussed realignment possibilities for the NFL, a lot of people didnít like the idea of the Dallas Cowboys being anywhere but the NFC East, even though Washington, Philadelphia, and New York are of course nowhere near Dallas. I find it really strange that so many people are perfectly fine with moving the Detroit Red Wings to the Eastern Conference even though they were always in the West and have a much longer tradition than the Cowboys, who are about 50 years old as a franchise. Also, Detroit is in the middle of two logical groups of teams geographically, so the more traditional alignment does not completely fly in the face of any geographic logic.
So one thing I would do is move them back. This would be my Central Division (or Midwest could be another name):
Iíll talk more about this below, but I think itís good for Chicago to have another top franchise in their division. This isnít the 1990s anymore, when Dallas and Colorado were among the top franchises. I understand Detroit would probably rather play more games in the Eastern Time Zone, but Iím not sure itís necessary to play that many more games against other divisions within the conference as other divisions outside of the conference.
I think fans on the West Coast, for instance, are more excited to see teams like New York and Boston than Colorado and Dallas even though obviously Colorado and Dallas are a lot closer, so there really isnít a good reason (other than reducing travel of course) to play non-divisional in-conference opponents more than non-conference opponents. I donít think playing teams in the Central Time Zone is a big deal for Detroit (like itís not a big deal for the Cowboys of the NFL to play against the Eastern Time Zone), but I am definitely sympathetic to the idea of avoiding a high number of games against the Mountain and Pacific Time Zones. So if the scheduling followed this logic, it shouldnít bother Detroit as much not to be in the Eastern Conference.
So moving Detroit back to the West creates an opening in the Atlantic Division. What strikes me is that along with the likes of Buffalo and Montreal, we have two teams from Florida. Letís move those out as well. So now we have three spots. What collection of three teams makes the most sense together? How about the Rangers, the Islanders, and the Devils? The New York area also shares a state with Buffalo, and I get the impression from other sports you can establish some good rivalries between New York and Boston-area teams.
Whatís left is essentially a revival of the Southeast Division except itís going to go a little farther North and West. Philadelphia is fairly close to DC, and Pittsburgh makes a lot of sense as an in-state rival. Columbus is not too far from Pennsylvania either. Itís also not all that far from Nashville, which would have a natural rivalry with Carolina (another team that had been in the Southeast Division).
I wouldnít do anything to alter the Pacific Division as currently constituted, so here are the two divisions of the Eastern Conference under my proposal:
New York Is.
New York Ran.
(I would also note that if a team were to move to Eastern Canada, you could then move New Jersey, so keep that in mind with the teams below as well. Also see the map below.)
Iím putting this all on the map below. The Southeast Division is in Yellow, mostly corresponding to the current Metropolitan Division. The Northeast, which mostly corresponds to the current Atlantic Division, is in blue. The Central/Midwest is in green, and the Pacific is in red.
Each proposed division is a different color. Uninhabited states/provinces are gray. No state or province has teams of multiple divisions.
This is the map of the current divisions. New York State is sort of a teal color since it has teams in both the Atlantic and Metropolitan Divisions.
Map of the current divisions
I looked up the Stanley Cup Finalists since the lockout season, and I think Iíve done a reasonable job with competitive balance even though that wasnít my primary objective. The four divisions have all either had 4 or 5 finalists in that time. The only division clearly more successful than the rest by this measure is the Pacific, which has won three Stanley Cups in that time and also had two runners-up.
My proposed Northeast Division also has had 5 finalists, but it has the fewest Stanley Cup Champions. Boston won in 2011, but the last team in that group to win before that was New Jersey in 2003.
The Southeast had 2 champions (Carolina and Pittsburgh) and 2 runners-up (Philadelphia and Pittsburgh) in that time and also won the last Stanley Cup (Tampa Bay) before the lockout season.
The Central/Midwest had three champions in that time (Chicago twice and Detroit) and one runner-up (Detroit).
Iím open to additional information I might be overlooking, but this seems a lot more sensible than having Florida teams in the same division as Canadian teams and having another division that goes from Nashville to Denver.
Quiet indeed....That's what you're getting from me in regards to the NFL...Last week I said I was done, and I really did mean it...The NFL's abuse of those who tried to bring CTE to light was horrible enough...This Ray Rice shit was totally fucked...Then Adrian Peterson whipping the hell out of one of 4 year old kids, from one of the countless women he has impregnated...Then Jonathan Dwyer breaks his baby's momma's nose and also got some shots in on the 18 month old...I'm not calling for a boycott...I'm not asking you to join me...Fuck it...Do what you want...This is just me taking a personal stand...And to show you how much I mean it,†my pal Sully texted me while I was at work Sunday,†asking why my fantasy roster was empty?† I mean what I say...The NFL will get none of my time or money...
Luckily, working Thursday nights, all day Sunday, and Monday nights makes it easy to ignore the pricks...And yes, I know not all NFL players are evil...But enough clearly are, along with the evil commish, his underlings,††and a number of owners...So they can eat my ass!
I did take in some football Friday night...My daughter has always liked going to our local high school football games...She loves the band, and hanging with her friends...The football team is often smaller, slower, and less skilled then their opponents...And often out-coached...But Friday nights in the Fall, in Brooklyn, Ohio is Marching Band night....Football is just an excuse...
Each home game they march from the high school, down to the Stadium...
Then after the Hurricanes Football Team goes down 34-0 by halftime, the Marching Band bangs out a 4 song set...This night they ended with "Whiter Shade of Pale"...
They continue to have a blast and play in the stands, even with their team getting drilled 41-7...Then, with their police escort, they do the same, fun, upbeat march back to the school...(I haven't uploaded that video yet...A little too dark anyways)
It's good to see kids having fun, and not getting too worked up over their football team getting thumped...My buddy was disappointed in the football game...He felt our brand new tax-payer funded turf should have improved our team, not everyone else...I've just grown accustom to the bad football.
-Moving along...Have you seen this new Derek Jeter Gatorade commercial?
I haven't...I keep seeing it posted on blogs, and facebook...People are talking about it...But I won't watch it...WHY? you ask...Because fuck Derek Jeter! He's a Yankee! What, he's retiring, so now I'm suppose to like him...Fuck that, he's a Yankee....Sorry folks, before ESPN made sure we all knew Boston hated New York, there was this magical time when the Indians were in the same division as the Yankees...As a matter of fact, the Yankees were everyone's biggest rival, because they were the fucking Yankees! I hated those guys long before Varitek mooshed his glove in A-Roid's face...
Yes, Derek Jeter has never been implicated in any PED talk...He's always played hard...He's a good ball player...He was a good hitter...Quick making him out to be Honus Wagner, or Ty Cobb...He was nowhere close...He wasn't even Pete Rose with the bat...And no, he wasn't the greatest Shortstop ever...He had a solid glove...I can give you a laundry list of better gloved SS's...He was a good player....I see no need for this idiotic swing on Jeter's nuts parade that has gone on all year...This shit happened last year with Rivera and it drove me crazy...The only slight difference is, you could actually say that Rivera was possibly the best at what he did...Jeter wasn't...
Jeter has great at banging hot women...I'll give him props for that...Dude slayed all kinds of hot puss...But all you high moral, religious Jeter fans better rethink things...Jeter is s serial fornicator!
Fucking guy goes around the league and all these other teams are giving him gifts, ans swinging on his balls....FUCK THAT! He's rich as hell, he doesn't need your shitty gifts...He probably fucked your wife...Go out there and strike him out...Slide into second with your spikes up...That's how you honor the fucking Yankee!
Eat my ass Jeter!
That's it for now...I need to find some one to really eat my ass...
Here we are again...Looking down the barrel of another long, work week...I'm really starting to get tired of how quickly the weekends fly by...But then again, maybe the weekends won't get past me as quick, once I'm not sitting in the cold rain, watching my local Brooklyn Hurricanes High School football team, play like shit...Browns fans are pretty unhappy with Pat Shurmur...And we'll get to him later, but this high school coach is a complete fuck-tard...
Then there are the parents who were screaming at the refs Friday night, after a 30+ yard TD run was called back for holding...Well, I know you're parents and I get you supporting the kids, but if the D-lineman is dragging an O-lineman who is clutching at the back of his jersey...IT"S FUCKING HOLDING! This team isn't win-less because of the refs...They lack size, experience, talent, discipline, and good coaching...Bitch at the coaches for only having 10 men on the field far too often...Bitch at the coaches for not teaching them to zone block properly, or not hold...Blame the coaches for not working more with Johnny Throw Another Pick...
Holy shit, I just defended refs!
-Then comes Saturday, which I spend a ton of time watching College Football...And then going through College Football notes, to decide what I'll write about for Sunday's WRAP_UP...
Although this Saturday we started the day at Toys-R-Us...The Little Beeze had a few gift cards burning a hole in his pocket, from his birthday...He loaded up on some Club Penguin toys, and some Angry Birds...he also let his older sister get a doll...Pretty cool of an 8 year old boy to do...He also grabbed some Angry Birds Star Wars toys...But they couldn't ring them up...They informed us that they aren't allowed to sell them yet...So answer me this..."WHY THE FUCK DO YOU HAVE A HUGE SHELF FULL OF THESE TOYS, IF YOU'RE NOT ALLOWED TO SELL THEM YET!?!"
They apologized, and then we were asked to leave...Fuck them!
-Sunday, I did yard work during the Browns game...It finally wasn't raining, and shit needed to get done...And I decided I'd rather watch the Patriots/Jets game, then watch the Browns lay another steaming pile of shit...
Last week Fatty, Walrus, Holmgren was shown the door....Sadly, in a polite way...He was given the chance to say he's retiring after this year, and will help with the transition that is going on...GM Tom Heckert has been looking for a job since the news of the sale broke in August...And after what I heard on the radio from fans Sunday, and what I saw on Twitter...Pat Shurmur better start looking, because if the new boss Jimmy Haslan doesn't run him out of here soon, the fans will...Dude, you lost to the Colts...From what I saw, Weeden played well...better then Luck...But the Browns only ran it 17 times, for 55 yards...What the fuck did they draft Trent Richardson for? we already have water boys!
As for the Patriots, they beat the Jets 29-26...While it's a win, it's disappointing...The Pats defense better start knuckling up, because giving up 26 to the shitty Jets is just bad...
-Hey the Red Sox have a new manager...Their former pitching coach under Francona...They traded an average SS to the Blue Jays for their manager...What the fuck is that...I'll tell you what that is...That's making the fans happy, because it's a guy they like and know...And it's making the players happy, because it's a guy they like and know...Fuck everything else...One year of headaches was enough!
-The latest BCS Rankings came out Sunday night...There has been a slight change that will get some people in the Pacific Northwest upset...Here's the top 5...
1. Alabama...2. Florida...3. Kansas State...4. Oregon...5. Notre Dame...Honestly, at the start of the season, I looked at Alabama as the best team out there...But these rankings are suppose to be based on a number of things, and Alabama hasn't played much of a schedule yet...Especially compared to Kansas State, Florida, and Notre Dame...Oregon is an offensive power-house, but their defense has shown squat so far, so any crying they're doing can stop until they stop some one...I would have K-State above Florida and 'Bama, but I can accept Florida ahead of them...This season wasn't expected from them, and thrashing South Carolina this week proved they've earned it so far...Things are going to be interesting...
But the slight that would have me pissed if I lived in Oregon, would be the fact that the undefeated Oregon State Beavers are sitting at 7, behind LSU...That is just fucking garbage...These asshole continue to overrate LSU...Undefeated Miss State should be ahead of LSU instead of at 11...
The 7-0 Ohio University Bobcats finally made it in at 24...Still too low, but at least some people are taking notice...
(16) Louisville and (15) Rutgers didn't move up as much as they hoped after Temple gave Rutgers and early scare, and and USF gave Louisville a late scare...
-So I was watching the Steelers and Bengals game...It went to a commercial...There's Brad Pitt standing there...Talking...Sounding all deep, and spiritual, like he's about to hit us with some serious shit, that only a Hollywood douchebag can clue us in on...But then it ended...
Are you fucking kidding me!?! Even my wife broke off a "What the fuck!"
Seriously...Are all those adopted kids making things that tight, that you're being all deep, and emotional about Chanel No. 5....You know what dude...Put a fucking dick in your mouth and choke on the load!
The only thing that made me more disgusted with TV today was a commercial for a show called "South Beach Tow"...
Is this really what our world has come to...A so-called reality show about obnoxious douchebags towing cars...Everyone in this show looks like people who get fired from dish washing jobs...Enough with the not-so-reality TV...Lets get back to writing, and filming quality shows...And History Channel, lets get back to History, instead of assholes in a pawn shop...It scares me, what America is becoming...
Here we are again...Monday comes so quickly, and there are often a ton of things in the sports world to write about...This week, I will touch on a couple of things in sports but then I'm moving on...This blog is going to be focused on my Friday night...But first...
Everyone knows, I'm no Auto Racing fan, but when I heard that Dan Wheldon died Sunday in a horrible 15 car accident...Wheldon is one of the names I know...I remember hearing about him beating Danica Patrick, but everyone does that...
But seriously, these guys live on the edge, and this is an awful way to go...
May his family have the strength to get through this...33 is too young to die...
-Next, the Cleveland Browns suck...Once again, their best player, Peyton Hillis wasn't on the field enough, and didn't get the touches...The guy ran for over 1,000 yards last year, and he was the second leading receiver...Yet there he is on the sidelines...Fuck Shurmur and his shitty offense...Fuck the Walrus Holmgren, and his overrated management skills...And fuck the Browns...I'm tired of you twats wasting my time!
-Speaking of twats...Let's get to Friday night...Here in my little off-shoot of Cleveland, Friday night was the big Homecoming Game...My daughter and all the youth cheerleaders were invited to march in the pre-game parade, and then cheer during the first half, with the high school cheerleaders...
A few weeks ago, the high school announced they would have a cheer camp for $20 dollars, open to all grade school girls, and that they would cheer with the cheerleaders in the 4th quarter...The youth cheerleaders were threatened that if they didn't go, they wouldn't be allowed to cheer at the game...Us parents raised hell about this...We had put in at least $150 and our girls had put in all the hours of practice, and we weren't going to be blackmailed into this...They agreed...Or so we thought...
So after the parade, we are at the game...All these kids are out there with the high school cheerleaders, except our cheerleaders...They are sitting on the track watching...So I of course, am getting pissed...I wasn't alone...So myself and a few other parents go down and ask the woman who is semi-in charge, "why aren't our girls out there?" She responded, "I know, I'm pissed to." Her daughter being a cheerleader as well...She then threw the woman who actually started the program, under the bus...This has happened countless times this year...
She started the program a few years ago, out of her own pocket...Just as one guy started the youth football program out of his own pocket...I totally appreciate that...But this Shrek looking woman is one of those people who has to be involved in everything, and she loves to be in charge...But it's too much...She's got a million things going, and shits the bed repeatedly...Like the candy we had to sell, to raise money for jackets...The candy that sat in the back of a car, on a 90 degree day, all day...Nothing like selling Reese Cups that you can play Name That State with!
Back to Friday...So we're pissed...The girls are upset, but they're okay, because they know they get the 2nd quarter to themselves...But us parents weren't pleased...Some other Gash (one of the team moms) stepped in...She basically had taken control of this event...I asked why are kids who's parents have put up at least $150 and their kids had put in the year of practices, being trumped by ids who's parents put up $20 and the kids put in a few hours of practice...She said our kids "should have gone to the camp"...So clearly, when we were told they didn't have to go, we were lied to...(I have no problem with those kids, and their folks, just the twats that screwed over our girls)
A mother, said "this is Bullshit" and the Gash told her to take her kid and leave...So another mom stepped into Gash's face had let her have it...Gash said, "The girls seem okay, none f them have said anything to me about being upset."....So I replied, "Why the fuck would they say anything to you...No one knows who the fuck you are!"
Look out...Gash freaks that I dropped an F-bomb, and starts yelling for the Cop to escort me out...Luckily, one of the girls on my daughter's team father is a cop, and he was standing next to the cop on duty, and they laughed at her...She told me to "talk like an adult," And I said "I won't talk to you like you're bitch, when you stop acting like a bitch!"
Then during the second quarter, as our girls were cheering, I stayed down there on the track, just to piss her off, one of the girls took a drink of water...The Gash told her no drink breaks...I was ready to snap, but her mother made everybody look like pussies...She got up in Gash's face, and said, "You tried to kick him out of here for saying fuck? Cunt you tell my kid she can't have a drink, I'm gonna start punching in your face!"Gash was saved by other parents, while me and our teams moms laughed...
When my daughter said she wanted to do cheer leading, I thought of all the cheer leading stereotypes, and said to my wife, "She's too smart, and too nice to be a cheerleader." I had no idea that I would run into this crap...A program run so half-assed, with idiot parents...I never thought that I'd be going off at bitches like this...I also never expected to go home and have my daughter all fired up to tell my wife what happened...She ended the story with, "If I see her again, I'm gonna get in her face!" That's my girl!
Before we left the stadium Friday night, our team getting smoked again, 43-13, I volunteered to run the Cheer leading Program next year..."I can't do any worse," I said...I doubt they'll let me...Thank God!
One question that has been beat into our heads and has remained unanswered this offseason is how long will Crosby be out?† Pens fans shouldnít really be that concerned in looking for an answer to that question.† The Pens played the last 41 games of the season without Crosby, and still managed a 4thplace finish in the conference.† It would be smart to allow Crosby to take his time and make sure that when he returns to the game, he will be 100%.† Ray Shero made a smart move in the off season, bringing in C Steve Sullivan.† Sullivan should be good for about 45 points on the season.† As well, if Malkin can come back healthy, the Penguins are going to be one of the strongest teams in the Eastern Conference.† Backup goalie Brent Johnson will not be a liability when he has the chance to give Fleury a rest.† The Pens also stacked up a couple of key players on their back end, adding Martin and Michalek.† Pittsburgh could be frightfully good on their back end this season.† However, one question that may haunt the Penguins this year is depth.† In the event of a couple key injuries, do the Pens have enough scoring to carry them through?† That is where the late season trade for James Neal comes in.† 6 points in 20 games isnít going to cut it, especially after scoring 39 in 59 games for Dallas.† Neal is a good young player, and he will be the player to watch for the Pens this season.
2.†††† Philadelphia Flyers
Ever since the departure of Hextall, the Flyers havenít had a solid number one goaltender.† The net has been a constant carousel of goalies, each trying to earn the job full time.† Names such as Cechmanek, Snow, Vanbiesbrouk, Boucher, Emery, Hackett, Froese, SoderstromÖI could go on forever.† However, this year, as well as every other year, the Flyers believe that they have found their guy.† Bryzgalov will be a consistent performer for the Flyers this season, but we will see how he can deal with the legendary Flyer fan animosity if he starts a string of bad games.† Weíll see how he deals with getting his first trailer hitch thrown at him.† Fans in Philly are a little more ďpassionateĒ than the average fan in Phoenix.† Philly had to move some important stock in order to land Bryzgalov, and that involved moving key players such as Carter and Richards.† That is going to be a lot of points that will need to be spread out amongst the rest of the team.† Players such as Giroux, Van Riemsdyk and Simmonds are going to be leaned on heavily this season.† However, the addition of Jagr will help them out, but one shouldnít expect record setting numbers from Jagr.† Voracek will be a helpful addition as well, and even though the Flyers lost 2 of their top 4 scorers, they wonít feel the pinch.† Their back end is as solid as ever, with grey bushes Pronger and Timonen leading the show; that is, if Pronger can remain healthy.† The Flyers have one of the better D-Cores in the Eastern Conference this season, and with no major changes, more will be expected. †Were the GAA last year indicative of average goaltending or because of inconsistency on the back end?† This year will tell us.
3.†††† New York Rangers
The Rangers are well on their way of developing their younger players and moving forward.† The addition of Brad Richards will help the Rangers see that they are not blowing as many third period leads this season.† More responsibility is being placed on the Rangers younger players, and forwards such as Dubinsky and Callahan are going to asked to shoulder the majority of the workload this season.† Gaborik is always consistent, but that is only when he is healthy.† Gaborik missed 20 games last season, but this season he will need to be much better.† Support from Stepan and Boyle will help the Rangers take the next step, but they are still a fairly young team.† On their back end, players such as Staal, Girardi and McDonagh will be playing together for a few more years yet, and they will continue to improve as the season develops.† If only Del Zotto can shake off a forgettable sophomore year, he will emerge and help round out one of the best top 4ís in the East.† How are the Rangers going to be in the nets this year?† One wordÖLundqvist.† Quite simply, one of the best in the game and he can carry this team through many games this season, just like he has in the past.† With Biron as a backup, he is capable of playing huge minutes in relief of Hank, but honestly, can anyone see him taking a stretch of games off?† Henrik played over 4000 minutes last season, and was just shy of the numbers that would qualify a Vezina nomination.† The player to watch this season on the Rangers will be newcomer Mats Zuccarello.† Zuccarello will be seeing more ice time this season, and lets see what kind of numbers he can put up in a full NHL season.† Bottom line for the Rangers is thisÖgetting knocked out by the Caps in the playoffs could be the best thing to happen to this young team.
4.†††† New Jersey Devils
Entering this season, there are 2 major questions that need to be answered; can the Devils rebound from a simply horrific start to the 2010-2011 season, and is it time for the Devils to start thinking about life without Brodeur?† There were lots of factors that could be blamed for the Devils poor start.† How much of the blame can be placed on the injuries to Parise and Brodeur?† How much can be placed on the teams lack of response to head coach John MacLean?† And finally, if Kovalchuk stumbles out of the gate once again, will the same pattern be repeated?† However, in light of all of these occurrences, the Devils still turned it around and were in playoff contention in mid March.† What the Devils accomplished in the second half was pretty remarkable, and that deserves some accolades.† However, one fact remains true; the Devils have only won 1 playoff round in the last 5 seasons.† Unlike Brodeur, Kovalchuk is going to be around for much longer.† Why Jersey would allow a player such as Parise to go to arbitration is beyond me.† Parise is one of their premier players and Lamoriello needs to ensure that he is around long term.† Hopefully the arbitration process didnít shake Pariseís faith in the organization too dramatically.† Unlike the division rival Rangers, the Devils are an aging group and time is running out on this group to win it all together.† The Devils will need to score more than 174 goals this season, which was the lowest goal scored total in the league last season.† Elias can still be counted on to be a regular contributor, but players such as Zubrus and Zajac will have to do better than their 44 and 30 point seasons respectively.† A healthy Parise will add to the goals scored total, but at the same time, they will need to improve on a 14.4% power play goals as well, which garnered them 28thplace in the league last season.† Aside from a solid top 2 d-men in Tallinder and Volchenkov, there isnít much depth on their back end as they need.† Sure they only allowed 209 goals last season, but this may be the opportunity that Adam Larsson needs to crack the lineup and be a full time Devil
5.†††† New York Islanders
Believe it or not, things are starting to shape up on the Island.† The Islanders will be better this season, and GM Snow has slowly and quietly been putting together a solid core of young players.† Sure, drafting a player of Tavaresí talent makes it much easier to build a team, but Snow has done a fairly remarkable job.† For the Isles, the tough part of the rebuild may be completed.† Now, it is time to build on last year and show steady gains year to year.† Players such as Grabner, Moulson and Tavares may be three of the most talented young players on one team.† There, I said it.† Throw in players such as Parenteau, Nielson, Bailey and Comeau, and the future is starting to look bright on the Island.† The Isles have also quietly built up their farm system, and have drafted some prospects that could make the Islanders forwards an elite group within 5 or 6 years.† If Snow can keep this current group of forwards together, they may be reminiscent of another group of young forwards that remained together in the 80ís until Bruce McNall got involved.† And no, I am not alluding that any member of the Islanders is close to being of 99 status.† It is just a reference to an extremely talented young group.† One thing that has plagued the Isles year after year is the health of DiPietro.† However, when DiPietro does get injured (and he will), it will be up to Al Montoya to carry the bulk of the workload.† Once upon a time, there were two amazing US Born Goalie Prospects named Montoya and Dipietro.† Montoya worked hard every day and even did his evil step-brothers chores, but no matter how hard he worked, he always remained in the shadows of his charismatic and fragile step-brother.† Sounds like a fairy tale, but the whole concept of an oft-injured DiPietro is a nightmare for the majority of the Isles fans.† One thing that the fans can count on though, is that Montoya will be a more than suitable replacement for DiPietro.† Throw in the possibility of Nabakov being in the mix, and an injury to DiPietro may be the best thing to happen for the Islanders goalies.† On the back end, they were hit with numerous injuries that allowed quite a few depth players to see some ice.† For such a young team, dealing with the news that they would miss Streit for last season, was quite the blow.† If Streit can return at 100%, there is still a hodgepodge of d men back there.† Players such as Hamonic, Eaton and Mottau are going to be counted on to provide some much needed stability and security.† The Islanders are moving forward ever so slightly, but they have a number of shining stars in their future.
With a new ownership that has loosened off the purse strings, the Sabres have to be considered a legitimate threat this season.† The Sabres were the hottest team going into the playoffs this past spring, winning 16 of its final 24 games to enter the playoffs with the number 7 seed.† The Sabres were always a piece or two short of completing the puzzle, and after trading for Regehr and signing Ehrhoff long term, the Sabres have one of the strongest blue lines in the Conference.† Tyler Myers is going to be counted on to improve on last years numbers, and he will have lots of opportunity to see the ice this season.† Finally, the Sabres have an ownership that is willing to go out and spend money on players.† Last season, Stafford and Ennis made strides in becoming pivotal pieces in the future of the Sabres.† In 2010-11, only three teams in the Eastern Conference scored more goals than the Sabres, and letís remember that they did that even while missing Derek Roy for the majority of the season.† With a healthy core group of forwards, the Sabres have a balanced and legitimate attack with skaters such as Hecht, Pominville, Boyes, Vanek and others.† In nets, Ryan Miller is capable of stealing multiple games this season.† Remember, Miller is only one season removed from a Vezina winning campaign.† Jhonas Enroth will get a chance to start some games, but not very many.† With Miller starting in 65 games last year, Enroth still found time to win 9 games for Buffalo.† With Lindy Ruff at the helm again this year, this Sabres team is going to be one of the most entertaining teams to watch this season.† Count on Ruff to ensure that the Sabres do not underachieve.
2.†††† Boston Bruins
One can only watch in amazement when Thomas is working between the pipes.† Thomas has been oft-criticized for being an unorthodox goalie by numerous analysts, but he has done what many of them couldnít; win a Stanley Cup and multiple Vezinas.† The Bruins managed to maintain their core group of young players, and aside from Recchi retiring and Ryder renting a U-Haul bound for Texas, the Bruins are still the same team.† With Savard regrettably on the shelf for the duration of this season, it puts a hole in the Bruins that can easily be filled.† Last season, Krejci and Bergeron filled in admirably in his absence, and Krejci will be leaned upon lots this year.† Seguin will continue to develop, and playing on this Bruins team will help him immensely.† Just remember, that head coach Claude Julien will continue to expose Seguin to different situations slowly.† There will be some questions about Horton after his concussion in the post season, but if he can come back healthy, he will be relied on to provide some additional scoring to help plug the hole left by Recchi.† Big things are going to be expected from the little sparkplug that is Brad Marchand.† Marchand was pivotal in the Bruins championship run last spring, and he will be expected to pick up where he left off.† On their back end, any d-core that is led by Chara is going to be strong and steady.† Other d-men such as McQuaid, Boychuk, Ference, Corvo and Seidenberg will round out a very strong back end.† For being the best goalie in the world right now, Thomas reminds me of someone youíd bump into in line for a beer.† Thomas posted record numbers last season, and he isnít showing any intention of slowing down.† Rask will get the opportunity to play in plenty of games this season, and head coach Claude Julien has already stated that the Bruins are entering the season with 2 number 1 goalies.† Adam McQuaid finished a remarkable +30 last season, and with an increase in ice time possible, he will improve on last seasons numbers.
3.†††† Montreal Canadiens
The Habs definitely have some speed to burn up front, but itíll take more than speed to make this a contending team.† One would have a hard time stomaching the high priced contracts handed out to the likes of Gionta, Gomez, and Cammalleri.† The Habs did not get their moneys worth from their highest paid players. The addition of Erik Cole will help with secondary scoring, but the majority of the Habs wins this season are going to come from low scoring games.† Last season, Montreal finished with 44 wins, but they only scored 216 goals.† Players such as Gomez need to score more, simply put.† Young players such as Lars Eller is ready to be the offensive contributor that Gauthier thought he was trading for when Halak was moved.† On the back end, the Habs felt the pinch when Gorges and Markov both went down with injuries.† Subban was able to step up and fill in when needed, and now that the Habs have seen what he may be capable of; the expectations will be considerably higher this year.† Montrťalís d-core should be fairly solid this year, with Weber and Yemelin chomping at the bit for more ice time.† If Montreal can make it through this season relatively injury free, they may be in the position to move some assets to help their scoring, or lack of as it will be.† In the nets, Price will be a workhorse once again.† After starting in 70 games last season, he set career numbers in GAA and SV%.† Peter Budaj will continue to be the reliable backup that he has been throughout his career, but realistically he shouldnít be expecting to get a lot of work.
4.†††† Toronto Maple Leafs
Toronto is developing and acquiring some talented young players.† Grabovski is coming off career highs in every important category, but will he improve again this year?† There has been a fair bit of pressure placed on youngsters Bozak and Kadri to develop and produce right away, but the emergence of MacArthur and Kulemin provided the Leafs the chance to ease off on Kadri and Bozak.† The Leafs hope that Connolly will be the center that Kessel needs, but as always, his health is an issue.† On defense, Phaneuf will be the workhorse on the blue line, with Schenn and Aulie slowly emerging as a legitimate threats.† The bottom line is that the d-core needs to be better and improve on their 251 goals allowed last season.† The acquisitions of Liles and Franson will help them on their back end, but their goals against would have been much worse if it wasnít for the emergence of James Reimer.† Reimer is going into this season as the number one goalie for the Leafs.† After starting in 35 games last season, Reimer is going to shoulder the workload this year.† However, if he starts to slip, the Leafs will not have much of a choice but to turn to Gustavsson, who has been hampered by a heart condition the last couple of seasons.† If Gustavsson is unable to go or performs subpar, the Leafs are going to have to go to the well that is the Marlies for a call up.
5.†††† Ottawa Senators
As an outsider looking in, I watch in amazement and wonder how Bryan Murray has been able to keep his job.† Numerous quality coaches have been sent down the river in years past, and the next man in the breach is Paul MacLean.† MacLean will have a fairly young team to work with this year, with players such as Fisher, Kelly, Ruutu, Kovalev and Elliot gone.† After using 6 goalies (Brodeur, McElhinney, Leclaire, Elliot, Lehner, and Anderson) during the 2010-11 season, the Sens are hoping that they finally have their man in Craig Anderson.† As well, the only players that can tell people that they had a good year and keep a straight face were Karlsson and Spezza.† The Sens have a fairly young team this season, and Paul MacLean is hopefully the right man for the job.† Alfredsson needs to come back at 100% after his injury, and prove his worth to the Sens this year.† A young team will need his veteran presence in the locker room.† Young players such as Bobby Butler and Nick Foligno need to improve on last seasons numbers, and they are going to have plenty of opportunity to do just that.† Last year, the Senators allowed 250 goals against.† That is simply horrific, and the Senators only had 2 of the d-men that they used all season finish on the right side of the +/- category.† Defensemen such as Phillips (-35) and Kuba (-26) simply need to be better.† This is going to be a long season for the Sens, but if certain players continue to develop and improve on seasons past, many Senator players will reach career highs.†
1. † † Washington Capitals
Life is good in Washington.† They have a great team, a supportive and rabid fan base, and a couple of the most exciting players in the game today.† Regardless of regular season achievements, until the Capitals do something, they are on the same page as the Sharks; playoff pretenders.† Washington has drafted extremely well over the years, and they are going to continue to reap the benefits for quite a few years.† Players such as John Carlson (yes, Iím still upset over his amazing goal in the WJHC), Marcus Johansson and Mathieu Perrault are going to continue to develop at the NHL level.† McPhee made a couple of moves in the off season, bringing in Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer.† The Capitals will recover from a low scoring 224 goal (by their standards) season and will continue to improve defensively.† Players such as Backstrom and Semin (especially after he was criticized in the press for his unambitious play) need to increase their offensive production.† With Green missing significant time last season, Carlson emerged as a player capable of handling the minutes.† Washington further bolstered their blue line by adding Wideman and signing Hamrlik to a d-core that already had Green, Poti, Alzner, Erskine and Schultz.† With the off season moves that the Caps made in their nets, Vokoun will handle the workload nicely and should be expected to play between 50 and 60 games this year.† If Vokoun begins to struggle, Neuvirth has shown that he is more than capable of stepping in.
2.†††† Tampa Bay Lightning
By making it into the third round of the playoffs last season, the Lightning grew in leaps and bounds.† Key younger players such as Stamkos and Purcell had an extra long drink at the post season fountain.† Letís remember that this was the team that came back against the Crosby-less Penguins and then sweep the Capitals last season.† Guy Boucher had his team motivated and ready for success last season and new GM Steve Yzerman put some key elements in place.† Any team that can put players of the caliber of Lecavalier, St Louis and Stamkos together has to be considered a serious threat.† Throw in some secondary scoring support from Moore, Downie, Purcell and Thompson, and the Lightning can be extremely offensive.† If Gilroy can become the type of player that Yzerman thought he was when he went after him as a free agent and if Hedman continues to develop, the Lightning can have a very strong defensive team as well.† Throw in Brewer, Kubina, Ohlund and Clark, it would appear that the Lightning are very deep in their own end.† Roloson enters the season as the number one goalie, but if he starts to show his age, look for Garon to start to take the majority of the starts away.† The Lightning have many of the pieces in place to compete in the playoffs.
3.†††† Carolina Hurricanes
Eric Staal is arguably one of the best centers in the league, and he is barely 27 years old.† After missing out on the post season in their last game of the season, the Hurricanes should be expected to make the cut this year.† One thing that may have hurt the Hurricanes last year was depth.† Carolina simply lacked secondary scoring that was effective enough to guarantee a post season berth.† Staal and Skinner are a very competent combination, and Skinner has developed faster than many thought he was going to.† Players such as Boychuk, Jokinen, Larose, Ponikarovsky and Sutter are going to have to pick up the slack and provide some much needed secondary scoring this season.† As well, the current group of forwards on the Hurricanes needs to be more active in their own end, and they need to be more efficient back checkers.† The d-core will be anchored by Gleason and Pitkanen, and the additions of Allen and Kaberle will help out dramatically.† Going into this season, Cam Ward will continue to eat up starts for the Canes, and Brian Boucher will be relegated to opening the gate for the majority of this season.† Boucher can expect to get about 10 starts this season, barring any injury to Ward.†
4.†††† Florida Panthers
Heading into this season with a new head coach in Kevin Dineen, the learning curve is going to be quick in Florida this season.† During the regular season, GM Dale Tallon was active (as usual) and was ready to make moves to improve his club.† Tallon moved the majority of the veteran talent out of town, and quickly stocked up on draft picks and young prospects.† As a result, Dineen is taking over a younger team, and essentially, a chunk of clay for him to mold.† Last season, Floridaís leading goal scorer only had 23, and the team leader for points was 49, you would think that there is a lot of room for improvement.† Players such as Santorelli and Bradley will be leaned upon to produce, and the addition of Bergenheim should help.† On the back end, it doesnít look much better for Florida.† Kulikov, Campbell, Weaver and Jovonovski (yupÖheís still playing) on their back end, there is a lot of opportunity for Gudbranson and Ellerby to eat up some minutes.† In the nets this season, Jose Theodore may emerge as the number one tender going into this season.† His leash may be a little shorter this season, and if he starts to struggle, Kevin Dineen may give Markstrom an extra long look.† Markstrom will be the Panthers tender of the future, but they need to be careful that they donít burn him out early in his career.
5.†††† Winnipeg Jets
A new home is not enough to improve the Atlanta Thrashers.† Sure, the players will get to experience a circus like atmosphere with their games, which may be a new feeling for many of them that have been in Atlanta long term.† Even though the Jets are a fairly young team, they are still a very talented team.† Offensively, the team has Ladd, Kane, Antropov, Little, and Wheeler.† Forwards such as Burmistrov, Cormier and Glass are going to be expected to contribute more offensively, while players such as Byfuglien and Enstrom will add to their offensive totals.† On the back end, Byfuglien and Enstrom will be anchoring the d-core with Bogosian and Oduya providing additional support.† However, last season the Thrashers finished 29thin the NHL with 269 goals against.† That number is going to have to decrease dramatically before the Jets can be considered a legitimate threat for the playoffs.† The Thrashers were also 20thin the league for goals scored, another stat that is going to have to improve before they can be taken seriously as a playoff threat.† In the nets, the combination of Pavelec and Mason will provide to be an adequate goaltending tandem, but their numbers will have to be better.
As always, these types of prognostications always come with opinions of varying degree.† Let me have it if I am right the fuck out to lunch. †
And now, your hockey fight of the week. †A great fight between Brian McGratton and Cam Janssen. †Two great competitors.