Thursday, October 05, 2006

NHL Preview

When am I going to learn to write these posts in Word and paste them into Blogger? I was through 13 teams on my Western Conference preview, and Firefox crashed. So you’re getting a semi-in-depth Western Conference preview (which I will write again, because I love you all), and a very quick Eastern Conference preview because frankly, the East sucks anyway.

Western Conference:

1. San Jose Sharks

They started off horribly last year. Enter Joe Thornton. Suddenly they become one of the hottest teams in the league, Jonathan Cheechoo goes from “Who?” to the most unlikely 56 goal scorer in a long time, and they enter the playoffs as a 5 seed. I can’t imagine they’ll be so bad at the start of the year again. And Mark Bell was a great pickup, DUI and all.

2. Calgary Flames

Iginla will bounce back after a relatively sub-par year last year. Tanguay was added to play on the top line and even though he sucked last year, I still like Jeff Friesen as a player. And they have the best goalie.

3. Anaheim Ducks

Quack! Quack! Quack! Quack! Quack Mr. Ducksworth!

Chris Pronger knocked up a reporter in Edmonton (errr allegedly) and they trade him to a team that plays just south of LA? Wouldn’t that be like telling TO to go work for Pfizer?

Seriously though, trading for Pronger gives them two of the five best defensemen in the game (maybe two of the 3 best). Combine that with a very good goalie (whoever they pick…my fantasy team hopes it’s Bryz) and they’re going to be a tough team to score on.

4. Nashville Predators

It’s their time. They put up a great fight last year in the Central Division and in the offseason they added two nice forwards in Jason Arnott and JP Dumont. Their blueline is very young, but they’ve got a great goalie backstopping them in Tomas Vokoun—provided he’s healthy after the blood problem that knocked him out of last year’s playoffs.

5. Detroit Red Wings

If Dominik Hasek wasn’t such an injury risk, I would have them in the 2-3 spot on this list. As it is, his health is such a question mark that Detroit is carrying a third goaltender (Joey MacDonald) just so Hasek doesn’t have to dress on the days that he isn’t going to play and potentially go into a game cold. Unfortunately that also means 35-40 starts guaranteed for Nogood.

Hasek was a great acquisition and I’d be tempted to lay off Holland for awhile because of it, if it weren’t for the fact that if he would’ve taken a lesser incentives, Psycho Eddie would be getting the start at the Joe tonight. And that would’ve been a colossal mistake. I do like the Markov signing though.

The losses of Yzerman and Shanahan hurt bad, and Detroit didn’t do much to replace the scoring lost by those departures. Jiri Hudler should be set for a breakout year, but I have to wonder why Peter Bondra hasn’t been signed yet. He’s old (perfect for us!), he wouldn’t want a long-term deal, he’s still got enough speed to be effective, he’s a wing, and he had a good season last year. You can’t take cap room with you, and we’ve got more than enough to be a “buyer” at the deadline, even if we were to pay Bondra.

They still have one of the best defense corps in the league. Probably second to Anaheim now.

The Wings just came out for player introductions. It looks really fricken weird to see a "C" on Lidstrom's jersey.

6. Dallas Stars

I underestimated them last year and I might be doing it again. They didn’t lose much from last year’s team and their #6 ranking is more due to the fact that I think San Jose and Anaheim are gonna be really, really good. Turco has to get it done this year or it might be over for him in Big D. Why would you strip Mike Modano of his captaincy though after he could have easily taken the money from Boston (I believe) a year ago? I don’t like that move.

7. Vancouver Canucks

After years and years of playoff failures due to the presence of Dan Cloutier, they finally wised up and made a great move in acquiring Roberto Luongo (Where were you, Kenny??). Unfortunately the rest of the offseason wasn’t very kind to them. Their blueline got blown up, and they lost two big wingers in Bertuzzi and Carter. They didn’t really replace the scoring lost with the departure of those two, but with Luongo in net, maybe they didn’t need to. Scary team to play in the first round.

8. Edmonton Oilers

I learned my lesson about picking against them last year. Losing Pronger is a killer, but Sykora was a nice pickup and if they had to move Pronger at least they were able to get a guy like Lupul. They also return about 8 guys that are no-namers but can score 20-30 goals and go buck in the playoffs—Hi Fernando Pisani. Dwayne Roloson’s deal with the Devil might have expired in the Stanley Cup Finals though.

9. Minnesota Wild

Demitra, good pickup. This team still bores me.

10. LA Kings

How can the same General Manager make the best move of the offseason (Fleecing Carolina out of Jack Johnson) and the worst move of the offseason (Giving up multiple draft picks—including a second rounder—for Dan Cloutier, when a superior goalie in Manny Legace could have been had for free). This team can’t seem to make up their mind if they’re looking to the future (trading Gleason in the Johnson trade, moving Demitra for Patrick O’Sullivan) or playing to compete now (moving a high pick for Cloutier). It’s very odd. They’re set up really nice for the future however. Though you would think they would have learned from Vancouver that Cloutier is unquestionably not the answer.

11. Phoenix Coyotes

This team has sleeper potential. They bolstered the blueline with Nick Boynton and Ed Jovanovski, and JR returns the desert where he’s looking for a “Teemu Selanne going back to Anaheim” type resurgence. They major downer for Phoenix is that they’re in a real tough division. They might finish in last place, but they’ll still be a pretty decent team.

12. Colorado Avalanche

I picked them to miss the playoffs last year, and they damn near pulled it off. This year it’d be a shock if they DID make the playoffs. I didn’t like the Tanguay/Leopold trade when it happened and I like it even less now that Leopold is hurt. Wolski is going to be a front-runner for the Calder Trophy though. He was outstanding last year when he was up, and this year he’ll be along for the entire season. Sakic, Hejduk, Wolski, Svatos is a nice top group of forwards but there’s not a ton behind them. Rob Blake sucked at the start of last year, but he played pretty well in the second half. And they’re going to miss him. Oh yeah, and they have Jose Theodore in net. That was a desperate move by a team on the decline, and it’s not going to work.

13. Columbus Blue Jackets

Once again, the West basement is inhabited by 3 teams from the Central Division. Rick Nash is healthy, Fedorov isn’t. Denis is gone. They’re going to be down in Franklin Counnnnnnnty this year. At least the Buckeyes hockey team is gonna be good….oh wait.

14. Chicago Blackhawks

Bad. Again. No Mark Bell. Havlat good pickup though.

15. St. Louis Blues

Bad. Again. Better goalie now though.

Eastern Conference:

1. Carolina Hurricanes

Even though they made an awful trade in moving Jack Johnson, I still gotta go with the Champs in the East. Unless Cam Ward goes Ben Roethlisberger.

2. New York Rangers

Lundqvist is sweet, they nabbed Shanny from the Wings, Petr Prucha and Fedor Tyutin have a year of experience, and they don’t have Tom Poti anymore. I won’t practice sports bigamy, but I’m growing to really like that team. They like Michigan players, they have Shanny, and I’ve got half their roster on my fantasy team.

3. Ottawa Senators

Scary top line. I like Gerber. Chara big. Chara gone. Own Toronto. Choke again in playoffs.

4. New Jersey Devils

It’s nice to see that someone has already figured out how to cheat the salary cap and get away with it. Bravo.

5. Buffalo Sabres

UG-LY JER-SEYS! I hate you Ryan Miller. Enjoy wearing the Buffaslug.

6. Philadelphia Flyers

Forsberg might be healthy for a little while. When Floppa’s healthy, Gagne’s probably worth the money they’re paying him. Calder and Baumgartner were nice signings, but they still don’t have a goalie.

7. Montreal Canadiens

If Huet is for real. If he’s not, drop them to 11 or so.

8. Tampa Bay Lightning

They finished 8th last year and I think they have a slightly better goalie now.

9. Atlanta Thrashers

Ready to break out since 2003.

10. Boston Bruins

Chara big. Big good. Dave Lewis bad. Bad Bad Bad.

11. Pittsburgh Penguins

Did I really pick them that high last year? It’s too bad Malkin got hurt. I’m looking forward to seeing him and Crosby both times they’re on TV this year. They should’ve brought back Hilbert. He was great with Crosby. Of course, I guess I would be too.

12. Toronto Maple Leafs

The natives aren’t going to be happy about this one. Raycroft has a sweet mask, but unless he gets back to his form from a couple years ago, this team isn’t going anywhere. Great coaching hire with Paul Maurice. It would help if they’d draft a 20 goal scorer once in awhile.

13. Florida Panthers

Out: Roberto Luongo

In: Ed Belfour, Alex Auld

All you need to know.

14. New York Islanders

Awesome offseason. The borderline insane moves of hiring their backup goalie as GM and signing a mediocre goalie to a 15 year deal undermine what was actually a pretty decent offseason. I love the Ted Nolan hiring.

15. Washington Capitals

Ovechkin rules. I wish he was in a bigger market so I could see him more. But since he’s on the cover of EA Sports’ NHL 2007 this year, he’s probably going to get the clap or something.

I'll take Calgary over the Rangers. But give me a healthy Hasek in April and I like our chances.

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