Teams Expected To Do Well
Tampa Bay Lightning
Despite having the worst standings in away games last season, the Lightning demonstrated solid offense. With new faces like Ryan Malone and Gary Roberts in the line-up, fans will witness additional scoring alongside star forwards Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis. Both players are expected to give a full-out performance, despite the loss of line-mate Brad Richards.
Detroit Red Wings
The Red Hot Wings are expected to do what they do best—win. With phenomenal leader Nicklas Lidstrom and offensive powerhouse Pavel Datsyuk at the helm, these Wings won’t have any trouble flying to the top once again. Is this why Marian Hossa willingly decided to sign with the Stanley Cup Champions? You know what they say, “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”
Teams Expected to Fail
Toronto Maple Leafs
Autumn has arrived. Unfortunately, there will be more falling leaves this season than one would wish for, as the Toronto Maple Leafs get ready for what looks like another embarrassing season. With most of their “star” players gone and a captain nowhere to be found, it’s up to youngsters like Matt Stajan and Alex Steen to make a name for the team and lower the blood pressure of its nervous fans.
Florida is one team I can’t figure out, yet can’t forget. With the loss of their captain Olli Jokinen, Florida needs to build a solid foundation with their remaining players or face missing the playoffs for an eighth consecutive year. If the Panthers want to retain their jobs, it’s crucial for underrated players like Jay Bouwmeester and Nathan Horton to step up and illustrate their ability to reconstruct the team.
Teams to Watch
With the departure of starting netminder Olaf Kolzig, the Washington Capitals were deemed hopeless coming into the 2008-2009 season. However, the Capitals still boast a lot of promising talent. Reigning Hart Trophy winner Alexander Ovechkin—the heart and soul of the organization—will have another productive year with his constructive plays and impressive puck-handling abilities. The arrival of José Theodore to Washington adds a greater emphasis on goaltending and defence, enhancing the Capitals’ chances of making the playoffs.
St. Louis Blues
It’s possible that St. Louis is feeling anything but blue this season. The Blues are the perfect example of how great teams are overshadowed by media-crazed cities like New York and Toronto. St. Louis is full of thriving prospects that can ultimately make a difference in the way people view hockey in Missouri. With the presence of Paul Kariya and Brad Boyes, whose combined total reached 130 points last year, St. Louis should be optimistic about their offense. Even if they fail to make the playoffs, the Blues should have a solid record and a respectable season.
Teams that will Disappoint
After a stellar season last year, there’s no doubt that “young gun” Sydney Crosby will amaze with his speed and diligence. With 72 points in the 2007-08 season (24 goals), I wouldn’t be surprised if Crosby’s points soared to an ultimate high this year. Along with Crosby, Pittsburgh boasts the exceptional talent of forward Jordan Staal, whose strength and consistency will be a crucial factor to the Penguin’s success. Despite Pittsburgh’s gifted hopefuls, they are a struggling team whose spotlight is slowly fading. Don’t plan on witnessing a repeat of last year; disappointment is likely.
The Senators are a risky and unpredictable team. In the Cup finals two years ago, the team still possesses the intimidating troika of Jason Spezza, Daniel Alfredsson, and Dany Heatley. Many see this team as a strong competitor because of the names on the roster. But to their detriment, the Senators look like a misguided group of players trying to construct a productive team on the ice. With Spezza, Alfredsson, Heatley, and Mike Fisher all in the game, one would expect to see quality results. Regrettably, Ottawa seems like an attractive team on paper, but futile on the ice.—MH
by Diana Helmy
Team to Watch
The Blackhawks are going to be a force in the West with their star young players, last year’s Calder Trophy winner Patrick Kane, and new captain Jonathan Toews. With the acquisition of superstar defenceman Brian Campbell and veteran goaltender Cristobal Huet, Chicago has the potential to make it deep into the playoffs.
Team that will Disappoint
With the loss of Andrew Brunette and Peter Forsberg, it will be a long and difficult season for the Avalanche, as Colorado does not have an offensive powerhouse. Their newest goalie, Andrew Raycroft, had his confidence shot in Toronto, and it may take a while to get it back. The promising talent of young players like Paul Stastny and Wojtek Wolski will not be enough to save this team. Last year, the Avalanche finished in sixth place in the Western Conference. This year, look for a 10th or 11th place finish.
It looks like the Leafs are in the hunt for John Tavares. It’s difficult to believe that Ron Wilson—a coach that is used to winning (206-134-45 with the San Jose Sharks)—will allow the Leafs put in anything but 110 per cent. With only one all-star player, Tomas Kaberle, and one possible top six forward, Nik Antropov, the rest of the team must step up. The upcoming Leafs season will be one of frustration and rebuilding with the loss of many key players in the off-season, including Mats Sundin, Darcy Tucker, Kyle Wellwood, Andrew Raycroft, and team pariah Brian “McKlutzy” McCabe. Look for Kaberle to take on a leadership role and Jason Blake to try and get out of his funk after a 40 goal-season. New defenceman Jeff Finger will have his work cut out for him in front of Vesa Toskala with Toronto’s lack of offensive depth. Newcomers Niklas Hagman, Mikhail Grabovski, Jamal Mayers, and Mike Van Ryn will be mediocre at best. The Maple Leafs should take their time in developing their next saviour, defenceman Luke Schenn.
Best in the East
Fresh from their Stanley Cup final loss, the Pittsburgh Penguins are back with a vengeance. Expect Sidney Crosby to take his post-season heartbreak and turn it into determination. Evgeni Malkin has had the summer to recover from choking during the Stanley Cup Finals, and should return to fine form. Expect both players to reach 100 points this season. With Marc-Andre Fleury in net, and offensive-defencemen Ryan Whitney and Sergei Gonchar, Pittsburgh will once again be the Eastern Conference champions.
Honourable Mention: Montreal Canadiens
The Habs may have lost Mark Streit, but they have gained hard-hitting Georges Laraque and goal-scoring left-wing Alex Tanguay to their already highly skilled line-up. It remains to be seen if Carey Price can handle the pressure of being a number one goaltender at 21 years old. Expect the Canadiens to finish in second place in the East.
Best in the West
Detroit Red Wings
With new edition Marian Hossa, the Red Wings will be unstoppable. Last year, Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and Marian Hossa had a whopping 255 points combined. With Norris Trophy winner Nicklas Lidstrom as well as Brian Rafalski and Niklas Kronwall on defence, opponents can only pray to get past the Red Wings.
Honourable Mention: San Jose Sharks
The Sharks know how to win having reached 107 points in 2006-2007 and 108 points in 2007-2008. They have added creative defenceman Dan Boyle to the line-up, as well as proven defenceman Rob Blake. If Patrick Marleau, Joe Pavelski, and Jonathan Cheechoo can improve over last year’s lackluster performance, and Joe Thornton and Evgeni Nabokov continue their stellar play, San Jose will be a force to be reckoned with.
Stanley Cup Prediction
While the Penguins will come out strong, Detroit will reclaim the Cup. No team has won two Stanley Cups in a row since Detroit won in 1996-1997 and 1997-1998.
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
Sidney Crosby (Pittsburgh)
Crosby had a rough 2007-2008 season, missing 29 games due to an ankle injury. Hopefully, he has learned from his heartbreaking loss in game six of the Stanley Cup finals, and is stronger because of it. If Crosby can stay injury free, he will be able to fend off Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin in their quest to dominate the NHL.
Rookie of the Year
Steven Stamkos (Tampa Bay)
This year’s first-round draft pick is poised for superstardom. In 61 games with the Sarnia Sting last year, Stamkos had a whopping 105 points. If placed on a line with Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St-Louis, there is no doubt Stamkos will shine. While top defencemen Drew Doughty, Zach Bogosian, and Alex Pietrangelo will be solid rookies if kept in the NHL, they will not compare to Stamkos.
Best Off-Season Acquisition
Olli Jokinen (Phoenix)
After supposed conflicts with Florida Panthers coach Jacques Martin, Jokinen will have a fresh start with Phoenix. Jokinen, a first line centre, could regain his scoring touch. Jokinen’s leadership skills will help guide the young Phoenix team possibly to their first playoff spot since 2002.
Marian Hossa (Detroit)
Hossa gave up bigger contracts to sign with the Detroit Red Wings for $7.45 million this year. The superstar right-winger will be a key player in the Red Wings’ hunt to reclaim the Stanley Cup.
Worst Off-Season Acquisition
Todd Bertuzzi (Calgary)
Bertuzzi’s on ice production has declined. He scored 11 points in 2006-2007, and 40 points in 2007-2008 down from the 71 points he scored with the Vancouver Canucks in 2005-2006. He ended the career of Steve Moore in 2004, never taking full responsibility for his actions. For $1.95 million, the Flames could have acquired a young centre with a clean record, not a thug past the prime of his career.
Players to Watch
- Dion Phaneuf (Calgary)
- Kyle Turris (Pheonix)
- Carey Price (Montreal)
- Patrice Bergeron (Boston)