Monday, September 26, 2005

2005/06 Predictions: Southeast Division

This is my final division of predictions. I have already posted predictions for the Atlantic Division, the Northeast Division and the entire West Conference. Predictions of where teams finish are impossible ot get 100% accurate. They are fun. Here is my best guess at where the teams will finish.

1. Tampa Bay Lightning - The salary cap is doing its job. Tampa Bay is not as strong as they would have been. Nikolai Khabibulin is gone. Also, Cory Stillman and Jassen Cullimore are gone. They still have an excellent core of players including Vincent LeCavalier, Brad Richards, Martin St Louis and Pavel Kubina. The question is how good will Sean Burke and Jon Grahame be in net? They are a step down from Khabibulin. Nevertheless, they should win the southeast.

2. Atlanta Thrashers - Marian Hossa is a very good addition. I am guessing that Ilya Kovalchuk will sign at the last minute giving them possibly the best one-two offensive punch in the NHL. They also have Bobby Holik and Marc Savard to provide more offence. There will be problems keeping goals out where rookie Kari Lehtonen is pencilled in as the starter - although I predict Mike Dunham winds up carrying the load most of the season. On defence they lack any elite defencemen, Greg de Vries and Jaroslav Modry are the best they have. This is likely a team on the rise.

3. Florida Panthers - Mike Keenan teams usually overachieve until he leads the team to total revolt and the bottom drops out. The signs of revolt may already be there as superstar goalie Roberto Luongo is already unhappy after his team took him to arbitration. Nevertheless, Luongo is the best goalie in hockey today. They have some talent elsewhere in Olli Jokinen, Jay Bouwmeester and Mike Van Ryn. This team could make a big step forward as long as Mike Keenan doesn't create too many problems.

4. Carolina Hurricanes - This team has some solid forwards in Cory Stillman, Rod Brind'Amour, Erik Cole and Ray Whitney. None will be superstars, but all should likely be solid. Their defence is similar with Oleg Tverdovsky and Bret Hedican. There might be a weakness in goal as Martin Gerber has never proven he can be a number one and Cam Ward has never proven he can be an NHLer. A solid team with no serious weakness (but no strength) is a poor team and will finish below .500. Carolina lacks any strength to speak of.

5. Washington Capitals - The few good things I can say about this team are that Olaf Kolzig is still a decent goalie and Alexander Ovechkin has a lot of potential. There isn't much else there. Boyd Gordon is pencilled in one some lists as their number one right wing. Most AHL teams last year had better right wingers.

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