Thursday, September 28, 2006

Predictions: Southeast Division

This is the final division in my pre-season predictions. I have already posted my predictions for the West Conference, Atlantic Division and the Northeast Division. Here is the Southeast Division.

1. Carolina Hurricanes They are the defending cup champs, but they could be beatable. Cory Stillman and Frantisek Kaberle will miss significant amounts of the season to injury. Rod Brind'Amour is coming off a great year, but at age 36 can he repeat it? Cam Ward caught fire in the playoffs, but he is unproven in any NHL regular season. Eric Staal should be one of the best forwards in hockey. They lack an imposing defence, but it didn't stop them from winning the cup last year. Its amazing the defending cup champs have a situation where Bret Hedican could be their most reliable dman.

2. Atlanta Thrashers With Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa this will be an offensively powerful team. In order to really compete, they need Kari Lehtinen to continue to develop in goal and they need people like Slava Kozlov and Bobby Holik to provide some depth. A defence built around people like Greg deVries, Andy Sutton, Steve McCarthy and Vitali Vishnevsky won't be spectacular but it could be acceptable.

3. Tampa Bay Lightning With the exception of their three stars, Brad Richards, Vincent LeCavalier and Martin St Louis, this team has been gutted since its Stanley Cup win in 2004. Those three are very good players and will provide Tampa with a good offence. Beyond them, the highlights are goalie Marc Denis, who has never had a chance to play regularly with a team that isn't bottom feeding but has some ability, a defence headed by Dan Boyle and Filip Kuba and Vaclav Prospal providing offensive depth. The lockout and new CBA killed any momentum in Tampa Bay.

4. Florida Panthers The front office is not in good shape with Mike Keenan fired late into the summer after setting the team up for the current season by running the draft, signing a couple free agents and trading goalie Roberto Luongo for Todd Bertuzzi. Jacques Martin remains on as coach and will take over the GM job as well. Bertuzzi and Olli Jokinen form a pretty good one two punch offensively. A lot of their depth in Joe Nieuwendyk, Gary Roberts and Martin Gelinas are on the downsides of their careers. In a defensively weak division, Florida has potentially the best defence with Jay Bouwmeester and Mike Van Ryn, but they have allowed an awful lot of shots in the last few seasons. In goal they have aging Ed Belfour and relatively unproven Alex Auld and that should be a big step down from Luongo.

5. Washington Capitals Alexander Ovechkin is extremely talented and will be the superstar on this team. He needs a supporting cast. Dainius Zubrus, Richard Zednik and Alexander Semin may be the next best offensive players. Olaf Kolzig is a good goalie on the downside of his career. Their defence may be the weakest in the NHL. Brian Pothier was a third line guy in Ottawa who should play firstline minutes here. This team is rebuilding. Whether that is a logical move in a league with reducing free agency ages is an open question.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?