Saturday, September 24, 2005

2005/06 Predictions: Atlantic Division

So far, I have posted my predictions for the Northeast Division and the entire West Conference. Today I will look at the Atlantic Division. I make no guarantee that my predictions are 100% accurate. They are far more likely to be incorrect. It is not possible to predict the final standings with any certainty. Here is my best guess.

1. Philadelphia Flyers - This team was largely rebuilt over the summer. Gone are John LeClair, Tony Amonte and Jeremy Roenick. They added Peter Forsberg, Darian Hatcher and Mike Rathje. Still here are Simon Gagne, Kim Johnsson and Robert Esche. They are adding several talented rookies from the AHL Calder Cup champion Philadelphia Phantoms in Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and Antero Niittymaki. I don't think this team is improved for all the changes they made, but they are good enough to win this division.

2. New Jersey Devils - This team still has the stellar goaltending of Martin Brodeur. They have had a very good defensive system and they still have Scott Gomez, Brian Rafalski, Jamie Langenbrunner and they added Alexander Mogilny. It is easy to dwell on the losses of Scott Niedermayer, Scott Stevens and the fact Patrik Elias will miss the start of the season with hepatitis. Nevertheless, this team still has depth and several good players. They will have a strong defensive mindset and a top goalie. I think that will keep them well above water.

3. New York Islanders - This is Alexei Yashin's team. He is the captain and they hope ready to play at the top level he once demonstrated in Ottawa. Rick DiPietro will have every chance to be their top goaltender as well. They added some good players in Mike York, Miroslav Satan, Alexei Zhitnik and Brent Sopel. This offsets the loss of Adrien Aucoin, Kenny Jonsson, Roman Hamrlik and Mike Peca. Likely this team will remain a solid team without making a step forward or backward.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins - This team became a media darling when they drafted Sidney Crosby and added Zigmund Palffy, John LeClair, Jocelyn Thibault and Sergei Gonchar. If Mario Lemieux remains healthy, they have a cast off all star names, although many are past their primes. Pittsburgh will be better (because its hard for them to be much worse), but I see them several years away from being solid contenders. That time may come if Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury live up to expectations in the future.

5. New York Rangers - A few years ago, Pittsburgh decided to build their team around Jaromir Jagr and a bunch of his countrymen. It failed and Pittsburgh soon traded Jagr. Jagr is now several years older, so the Rangers are recycling that failed strategy. They have Martin Rucinsky and Martin Straka to be Jagr's linemates. They lack any other top offensive players beyond that. Their defence includes Tom Poti, Darius Kasparaitus and Marek Malik. They are sold guys, but none are capable to be number one men. In net they are looking at Kevin Weekes or possibly rookie Henrik Lundqvist. It doesn't look good.

Hmm the Isles behind the Pens?

You are a brave one :)
Duuur...make that Pens behind the Isles.

What makes you think the Pens will fare so poorly with the offense they have?
Just how great an offence do the Pens really have? Lemieux and Palffy have been injury prone. LeClair is pretty much done. Crosby is a rookie.

I think they added big names without improving their offence much.

And it has to come a long way from 2003/04 to be average.
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