Georgian Bay Sports Fan

commentary & opinions on the sports and political scene

EASTERN CONFERENCE – Southeast Division

1st – Washington Capitals

It’s hard to bet against these guys.  Last season they won the division and the conference with the 2nd best record in the league….and it seems their potent forwards all had just average years.  Coach Boudreau finally got Ovechkin and his crew to buy into the team concept midway through the season and hopefully they will take that into this year.   Boudreau got outcoached by Boucher in last year’s playoffs big time and if they have a weakness it’s the coaching staff.  Thomas Vokoun comes in from Florida to fill the net and is world class.

2nd – Tampa Bay Lightning

Coach Boucher used his over hyped 1-3-1 system last year and got the guys to buy into it.  Then when teams finally made adjustments, they changed it up.  They surprised Washington and a lot of others, but it won’t happen again this year.  Stamkos, St. Louis and Lecavalier are as dangerous as they come, they can piece together a decent 2nd line but the 3rd will be soft.

The blue line with Brewer, Hedman, Kubina and Clark will be very good, but not great.  Roloson is a good all purposed goaltender but he’ll need more than Garon to help him out.

3rd – Carolina Hurricanes

Coach Maurice turned a team of developing kids into a legitimate NHL team way ahead of schedule, and came within a game of making the playoffs.  Young guns Sutter, Skinner, Boychuk and Bowman need to take a step forward if they’re going to be a playoff threat this year.  Staal is a workhorse and can be dominating at times.  Cam Ward in net keeps them in every game and will again.  Defencively they need to get better….Kaberle is not an upgrade from Corvo and the next four guys in depth are just above average.  If they can upgrade on the back end and the kids up front gel they might make some noise.

4th – Florida Panthers

Coach Kevin Dineen comes in to replace DeBeor after six seasons in the AHL.  He has a lot of new faces in the lineup thanks to GM Dale Tallon.  Tallon had cap room so he arguably overpaid for handful of free agents then traded for another handful….the results are 10 new players in the lineup.  One of those was Jose Theordore in goal, unfortunately he’s no replacement for Vokoun and Clemmensen is not a starter.  IF the young defencive core comes together, IF a couple of guys can break out and start scoring, IF the new coaching staff can get the right systems implemented…..they might make the playoffs.  2 many IF’s.

5th – Winnipeg Jets

If nothing else they should be fun to watch.  Kane, Burmistorv, and Little are young and enthusiastic and they have a few more in the system including Mark Scheifele who will probably season another year under former Jet Dale Howerchuk with the OHL Colts.  Coach Claude Noel is charged with getting these guys competitive but he’s unproven.  In goal Ondrej Pavelec should be fine.  It may take a few games for returning players to block out the distraction of fan noise after playing in Atlanta.  Side Note: new logo? Ugh L

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