Saturday, October 3, 2009

Quick Look at Bridgeport

Last season's Bridgeport Soundtigers experienced their best season ever. Still, despite 49 regular season wins and 106 points, the team's season fizzled to a halt in a 5 game first round dismissal. As disappointing as that was, it certainly is understandable in light of a differing line-up and a bunch of younger players experience their first AHL playoff hockey, if not simply their first AHL hockey.

The good news is, the 09-10 regular season shouldn't differ all that much from the 08-09 regular season, at least with respect to the regular season standings. Many of the core components such as Nathan Lawson, Andrew MacDonald, Dustin Kohn, Mark Wotton, Trevor Smith and Jesse Joensuu are returning. They played key roles in last year's success and are each expected to carry their share of the load with the mother club expecting another step in development from each and every one of them other than elder statesman Wotton. The loss of several good veterans such as Chris Lee, Joe Callahan, Mike Iggulden, Jeremy Colliton, Ben Walter and Mr. McLean have been compensated for with the signing of other established AHLers such as Scott Munroe, Mark Flood, Brett Westgarth, Jeremy Reich, Greg Moore, Greg Mauldin, Bobby Hughes, and Trevor Gillies. That contingent could be enchanced by Matt Moulson, if and when he's sent down (uhhh, and he will be).

Of course, the best thing about this year's edition is that more of the Islanders' own draft picks than perhaps ever before will be looked to as regulars in the upcoming season. After an initial (and disappointing) year in the Swedish SEL, young trickster Robin Figren will be spending the season on the farm, and hopefully dazzling his way to a cup of coffee on the Island at some point this season. The returning 6'4", 200 lbs. Tomas Marcinko is returning after a rough rookie year and is hoping to take on a totally different role this season, especially with Rob Henningar having been traded. Pleasant OHL surprises Justin DiBenedetto and Matt Martin, both drafted as overagers, are signed and ready to go. They each had a pretty good NHL camp and both looked primed for a strong introduction to the pro ranks. Their Sarnia teammate and former 3rd round pick Mark Katic is expected to spend the season in Bridgeport and hopefully become a regular on the power play. The latest addition was this summer's 31st overall pick, goaltender Mikko Koskinen, who wasn't only drafted surprisingly early, but also an unexpected signing - one that must have been made with some conviction considering there was no rush and he was likely in line for 1st string duties in the SIM Liiga. To show that the surprises just weren't gonna stop coming, the Islanders also signed 2009 5th rounder Anton Klimentiev, likely just to keep him in North America and avoid any possible stress that could come with a signing in Russia. Whether he plays in the AHL, ECHL or even in the OHL (also drafted there this summer), Anton looks destined for a season in North America.

Also returning are regulars Sean Bentivoglio and Tyler Haskins as well as roughian fan favorites Pascal Morency and Michael Haley. Summer signee Jason Dale and Long Island's own Vlad Nikiforov are currently down in Utah while Jon Gleed and Jake Gannon appear to be in the picture for the Soundtigers, with Gleed likely lining up with captain Mark Wotton on opening night.

Topping things off was the addition of Long Island's own Tony Romano who scored 36 goals last season in the OHL. Coming over in a trade for Ben Walter, Romano has been strong this fall and looks ready to pivot one of the top 3 lines.

With a plethora of depth, an above-average goaltending trio, a great balance between AHL rookies & veterans as well as one of the most aspiring coaches in all of pro hockey in Jack Capuano, the only real weakness of note is the lack of experience on the blueline, although this group would have to be considered league average, at worst. All in all, the fans of both the Soundtigers and Islanders should keep a good eye on this team because it is really turning into a top address in the AHL while always keeping its focal point on player development.

Following is a breakdown of the type of pointage you the fans can realistically expect from the players this season.

Munroe 25+ wins
Koskinen 15+ wins
Lawson 5+ wins

MacDonald 30+ points
Katic, Flood each 25+ points
Kohn, Wotton each 15+ points
Westgarth, Gleed, Gannon each 5 points

Smith 65 points
Mauldin, Moore, Joensuu, Moulson each 40+ points
Reich, DiBenedetto each 30+ points
Romano, Bentivoglio, Figren each 25+ points
Haskins, Marcinko, Martin each 20+ points
Morency, Haley, Hughes, Gillies each up to 10 points

Ohhhhh, and one last thing: expect this team to be involved in as many fights as any team in the AHL!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Curiosities Entering the Season

With the league and Islander stats predictions in and the home opener not even 36 hours away, one can’t help but have a few other questions about the upcoming season, for example:

- What role will the injury bug play this year? Arguably, few other teams have been hit as hard the past two seasons as our beloved Islanders have been. Will things change? Well, if the preseason is any indication…
- For a team putting heavy emphasis on younger players, we have a blueline that is long in the tooth and perhaps short on talent. As the lone draftee playing amongst the top 7, will Gervais continue to build on the steps he took during the second half of the 08-09 season?
- Other than Streit, who is going to man this team’s point on the power play? Hillen looked like he was getting a shot in the preseason, but last season saw players like Weight and Okposo get a good amount of time manning the points. Will Gordon look to go that route again, sometimes even having 5 forwards on the ice at once?
- Speaking of Gordon, he’s no longer got the bye of being a pure NHL rookie. At the same time, he’s hardly entering this season with a better line-up than he had last season. The question is, will the continuity of having retained a good 85% of the line-up allow this team to now show the true colors of Gordon’s more complicated overspeed system?
- Even more so than Gervais, Jeff Tambellini really turned things around down the stretch run last season. It seemed to come as a result of his readiness to be a player who contributes in areas other than scoring, which had been his chief responsibility at every other station thus far in his career. He does work hard and he is fast, but can he now take it all to another level this season?
- Roloson and Biron instead of MacDonald and Danis: on paper, a huge upgrade in the goaltending department. How much of an upgrade will it translate into in the standings?
- Will Streit solidify his standing as one of the NHL’s top 15 defenseman? I mean common’, can he really duplicate the type of season he had last year?
- Can any of Sim, Bergenheim, Comeau, Tambellini or Moulson be an answer in the secondary scoring department this season?
- Will any of the kids who took nice strides last season take a few steps back this year?
- Will Bailey quietly become one of the NHL’s top young two-way centers?
- How much of a jump will Okposo take after having a very convincing rookie year?
- At what juncture this season will we fans become more concerned about next summer’s draft than with our battle for a playoff spot?
- Once the trade deadline approaches, which of Weight, Witt, Biron/Roloson, Park, Sim, Moulson, Sutton, Meyer or Martinek – or anyone else deemed worthy of exchanging – will Snow be able to turn into another asset for this franchise? Or will we actually be able to be a buyer?
- The biggest off-ice issue in Islanderland? We should know by the end of the season if the Islanders’ future will take place on Long Island, or not.
- The biggest on-ice issue in Islanderland? In Tavares, we now have a Canadian kid who has garnered more attention than any other non-NHL player over the past two years. In fact, he simply is the most talked about kid coming out of juniors since Crosby joined the NHL’s ranks. Now his time has come to make his NHL dreams true, but he doesn’t necessarily have a lot to work with out there. Just what kind of season is he going to have?

Here’s looking forward to a nice start to the season as well as some positive answers to the questions above. The opener will see our Isles facing a Penguins team that is hopefully going to be showing signs of a Stanley Cup hangover. It’s also a team that might be coming in here without a few important players like Cooke, Talbot and the aforementioned Crosby. The Isles will have a few nights off after the big home opener and will then hit the road for games in Ottawa and Boston on Thursday and Saturday, respectively. By the end of October, our Islanders will have played roughly a sixth of the season.

For those in attendance tomorrow, have fun and make some noise!

More stuff stolen from Forever1940

With Trent Hunter on the Injured list, the Isles will start the season without the team's active leader in games played, goals, power play goals, game winning goals, assists and points as an Islander.
So who holds those distinctions now (only in games played as an Islander)?
( now has a new stats engine that allows you to answer such pressing questions.)
Games:  Martinek 373, Park 235  (Trottier 1,123 is all-time club leader)
Goals:   Park 36, Bergenheim 30   (Bossy 573)
PP goals: Okposo 10, Streit 10     (Bossy 181)
GW goals: Bergenheim 7, Park 5   (Bossy 82)
Assists: Martinek 68, Park 53       (Trottier 853)
Points:  Park 89, Martinek 84       (Trottier 1,353)
Hunter is 87-110-197 in 381 games as an Isle with 21 pp goals and 15 gw goals.

Forever1940 is the nom de plume of Eric Hornick, statistician on Islander home telecasts since 1982. Visit my blog: and follow me on Twitter @ehornick

Stolen from Forever1940

The Isles will play their 37th Opening Night on Saturday.  The Isles are 9-19-8 on Opening Night; a .361 winning percentage.
Only two teams have lower percentages: (San Jose (.353) and Anaheim (.267))
Of course this will be only the 5th season that the Isles have opened at home (2-2-0)
They opened at home in 1972 (first game ever), 1980 (first banner raising), January 1995 (After lockout) and 1998 (after Gluckstern threatened to move due to leaks).

Forever1940 is the nom de plume of Eric Hornick, statistician on Islander home telecasts since 1982. Visit my blog: and follow me on Twitter @ehornick

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


For all you folks who enjoy magazines like McKeen's Pool Yearbook, here's a blog for you: your (un)official NYI STAT PREDICTIONS!

NYI: 34-40-8 for 76 points


Dwayne Roloson
There’s little to say about Roli, a guy who has stuck around a long time and has somehow gotten better with age. He’s technically coming off his best season and is used to playing with goalies who are placing a claim on the starting role. Hopefully he’s like a fine wine that just gets better with age, because we’ll be needing just that if we’re to get anywhere in the standings. Since nominal and numeral improvement (however menial) is expected vis-à-vis the goaltending situation last season, Dwayne should ultimately be one of the main reasons for it.
Stats with Islanders:
17-22-4 in 46 games, 2.90 GAA, .912 SV%

Martin Biron:
A surprise signing, the guy is simply a bona-fide NHL starter who knows that the Island is serving as little more than a purgatory-style phase in his career. He'll earn some decent change to feed that brood of his and will hopefully gain a few wins for this team in the process - the type that goalies last season were not able to get this club! Still, expect him to be gone at the trade deadline - I predict to Philly:-)
Stats with Islanders:
12-16-2 in 32 games, 2.74 GAA, .916 SV%

Rick Dipietro:
As opposed to last season, Dipietro will not come back just to go on the IR again shortly thereafter. In addition, once he comes back, he is gonna look great. That's my call. He'll be extremely motivated and he'll give a preview of what type of wall he plans on being in the '10-11 season.
Stats with Islanders:
5-2-2 in 9 games, 2.38 GAA, .918 SV%


Mark Streit:
He came here looking like a power play specialist. He ended last season looking like one of the league's top ten defensemen. We knew he could put up some points; we found out he can do everything else as well. Tavares and Dipietro will continue putting in dibs as the face of the franchise, but the Islanders' best player is Mark Streit. I dare say he's better than any of Hamrlik, Aucoin or even Jonsson were!
Stats with Islanders:
12-49-61 in 75 games

Bruno Gervais: 6-20-26
No blueliner made as much progress last season as Gervais did. The question remains: did he really develop into a legitimate Dman for this team or was his success the simple result of being paired with Streit? I believe it was a little of both - and with Steit he shall play again. Part of the top pairing entering the season, young Gervais is refreshing and is a guy you see being very active in the community. He is a late-round pick and has earned his way to where he is now. He should continue being a block in the youth movement.
Stats with Islanders:
6-20-26 in 78 games

Jack Hillen:
The college UFA had an up-n-down first pro season and has looked pretty good in the preseason. He can skate and can move the puck. That means that he's got a heads up in a Gordonesque system. He'll get some PP time this season and will start to look like he wasn't such a bad signing after all. Still, he's not getting us any closer to a cup.
Stats with Islanders:
4-17-21 in 62 games

Ken Sutton:
A world of size, two seasons marred by injury, and a reputation amongst Islander fans as a player ever-so-ready to make the clumsy, botched up play. I myself wonder where that crazy-*** bastard I saw in Atlanta has gone? I'm not holding my breath, but I think we'll finally see a bit of that fella this season. It's a contract year for him. With several forwards getting point time on the PP nowadays, don't expect Sutton to keep up his surprisingly good offensive pace of last season (2-8-10 in 23 games).
Stats with Islanders:
6-12-18 in 69 games

Freddy Meyer IV:
Freddy played less than 30 games last season and I get the jist that many Islander fans still do not appreciate what he brings to the table, namely a hard, honest effort. He has had a few flashes of brilliance and I just know that there's a 35 point Dman in there somewhere, but he'll not be appearing on Long Island. He's a useful depth Dman. Expect him to quietly go about his business this season, probably his last with the organization.
Stats with Islanders:
2-15-17 in 72 games

Radek Martinek:
Truly one of the nicest depth defensemen in the league, Martinek is a guy who you just know will be spending at least a quarter of the season on the IR list. I suspect it'll be the same this season. He showed a surprising tendency to score goals last season, but he strength lies in being positioned intelligently and quickly starting the rush in the other direction. He's a good man... just wish we'd see more of him in the course of a long and hard season.
Stats with Islanders:
4-7-11 in 64 games

Brendan Witt:
Say it sooo folks, but Brendan Witt is looking like a fella on his last leg. Hopefully he'll provide a boatload of blocked shots and rough customer treatment, because there's not much there in either the skill or speed department. Fans like him and I wager the boys on the team do to. Let's just pray that some other team feels he can help their playoff run, because there's little chance that Witt's Islander career is extending past this season anyway.
Stats with Islanders:
1-5-6 in 58 games

Andy MacDonald:
Andy is currently the Dman in BPort who is closest to making the NHL. This sixth rounder, drafted as an overager as a Ted Nolan tip, spent a season in the ECHL looking like it'd be his final destination. He suddenly not only made it to the AHL, but even became a top-pairing Dman and was nominated to the AHL all-star game. He should get a cup of coffee on the Island because injuries are inevitable. Never thought he'd even become a topic, but he looks like this generation's Trent Hunter.
Stats with Islanders:
1-3-4 in 17 games

Each of Kohn, Katic, Flood and even de Haan could see a handful of games throughout the season. Another waiver-wire pick-up along the way shouldn't come as a surprise.


Kyle Okposo:
One can say that Okposo might have gotten a bit lost in the Tavares-hoopla this summer, but let there be no doubt that this young bronco is turning into the "Shane Doan" of the franchise. If it wasn't evident to you last season, it will be by the end of this season. Expect him to be our best player on many a night this season as he looks to earn a spot on Team USA, whether in the Olympics or at the WC in Germany. He can do a little bit of everything and is incredibly strong on the puck. We must hope that there'll be no ugly side affects with respect to his preseason concussion, because that's the type of thing Islanderland just doesn't deserve. Neither does Kyle.
Stats with Islanders:
24-28-52 in 75 games

John Tavares:
Don't expect tooooo much. He's a young rookie with a lot of expectations to live up to, but he's hardly surrounded by the type of talent that'll help him reach any lofty heights. You should however expect growth, progress and signs of quick learning. His first year may be steadier than last season's first overall pick, but it won't be all that much different statistically. Expect more setting up than sniping.
Stats with Islanders:
21-26-47 in 79 games

Josh Bailey:
Many will continue debating whether Josh should have stayed with the club and fought through last season or have been sent back down to captain the CHL's top team and perhaps even Team Canada at the WJC, which Canada hosted. Important for us now is that he's shown us no reason to believe that he won't continue improving in every capacity. He took huge steps in the course of last season and seems ready for more this year, his bulked up frame already being very noticeable. As a two-way forward, he'll be entrusted with a good load of responsibility this year and gosh darnit, Mr. Bailey might just be more than ready for it. Expect slight stat improvement and some crafty face-off tenacity.
Stats with Islanders:
14-27-41 in 76 games

Trent Hunter:
Trent just keeps on truckin', remaining a fan favorite, throwing as many checks as anyone in the league and always letting us think he could just be a 50 point man if he could get in a good 80 games. Alas, that hasn't happened recently and one of the league's most underrated players and best financial deals is just craving for the type of health and responsibility that'll let him be all that he can be. Expect him to be good when he's in the line-up, especially if playing with Nielsen, but injuries are to be assumed until proven otherwise.
Stats with Islanders:
16-22-38 in 62 games

Jeff Tambellini:
Last season really didn't go as planned for Jeff. The start to his season was just about as bad as it could get for a 24 year old with nothing more to prove at the AHL level and an NHL team simply GIVING him scoring line duties. Still, Jeff managed to turn into a player who went into the corners and held his own for the last 25 games of the season. His stats improved and he seemed to be a player who had started to "get it". Look for him to improve upon that this season and establish himself as an NHLer who just needed more time. He's certainly fast and hard working, so Garth's faith in him may yet pay off. Don't forget, it took Jason Blake a good while to establish himself as more than a 4th liner.
Stats with Islanders:
13-24-37 in 79 games

Blake Comeau:
Simple story here: Blake is a solid player. He is a good young winger who will continue to develop this season and is gonna be talked about on occasion - and not just by Islander fans. The scoring won't be off the charts, but he'll be among the more consistent Islanders and will play his part in improving the on-ice product.
Stats with Islanders:
12-25-37 in 77 games

Doug Weight:
In addition to Streit, Doug Weight is our leader extraordinaire and is most definitely THE spokesman on the team. His career as an announcer isn't far down the line, but for this seaon, he's got to help steer the ship. His production when he played last season really wasn't bad, especially for the first 25 games. Still, we have to expect more of the same in the injury department, something that already started this fall. He'll be our main man on some nights and, in addition to Streit, will regularly be the provider of the best passes we Isles fans will see this season, but let there be no doubt that his on-ice impact will be somewhat minimal when all is said and done.
Stats with Islanders:
8-26-34 in 61 games

Frans Nielsen:
Gotta love the Frans. He actually had a mighty fine little season for a 3rd line center breaking in. He too suffered a brutal injury incurred in part due to that one unnecessary hit by the Devils' Mottau, but when there, he was a swift and hard-working guy who even went where it hurts. Smart is a good way to describe him. Unfortunately for us, he's hurt his knee again and he'll start things up late this season. He should however continue to bring the same intelligence and prowess once back and do expect him to score more goals than he did last season.
Stats with Islanders:
11-21-32 in 66 games

Sean Bergenheim:
Many are hoping for big things from Sean. I am too, but expect injuries and groin problems to continue to be a part of his world. The 20 goal plateau is thoroughly realistic, but things are gonna have to go well for Sean in the health department and with respect to chemistry with his linemates. He'll show some great things this season, cut down on the dumb penalties and will even be the star of the game on a couple of occasions. Unfortunately, this won't be the season he establishes himself as a scorer.
Stats with Islanders:
13-11-24 in 62 games

Jon Sim:
From Botta to Sim himself, we've heard that the guy just had a wrotten seaon last year stemming from his ACL tear the season before. He's working hard and trying to resuscitate his NHL career. Snow surely had hopes that he'd be a 20-15-35 type player when he was signed to a million per a couple of summers ago, but it hasn't worked out. That'll not change this season, even if he does get plugged in all over the line-up. Look for Sim to be waived with every opportunity and some team will take him later in the season. His contract is almost over.
Stats with Islanders:
11-8-19 in 53 games

Richard Park:
He's the little engine that could and an extremely valuable depth and role player. That will not change this season. What will change is his modestly strong production, because fact is, it's time for the younger guys to get more of those minutes that Park was getting the past few, injury-riddled seasons. In fact, if things go well in the development department, look for Park to be a topic at the trade deadline - guys like him can help in playoff runs.
Stats with Islanders:
7-12-19 in 59 gams

Matt Moulson:
It shouldn't be too surprising for Islander fans that this apparent AHL signing has found a way to stick to start off the season. He signed here knowing it may be his last NHL chance and just two seasons ago, he was one of LA's big hopefuls. He has shown a little chemistry with Tavares but no-one should expect it to turn into a regular gig. He should help us as a depth player who scores the odd goal, but Moulson will get lost in the numbers game if we should have any luck in the health department. By season's end, he'll either be manning the first line in the AHL or will have been dished off at the deadline to a team willing to add him as a depth player for the playoff run.
Stats with Islanders:
8-6-14 in 47 games

Tim Jackman:
Jackman came out of nowhere with improved skating last season and took quite a beating as a roughian in order to earn himself an NHL contract - which he got. He's an ample 4th liner and has shown an incredible willingness to "take one for the team". Gotta respect him though, because the boys in that locker room sure do. He's simply not a real fighter, but he's willing and will shed blood for this team again this year. That's important for an Islander team lacking a true enforcer. Has developed into a decent penalty killer.
Stats with Islanders:
3-5-8 in 70 games

Jesse Joensuu LW/RW:
Many fans were ready to simply pencil Joensuu into the line-up. Not sure why, but I believe it had something to do with his size and +22 on the farm. Newsflash: the young Finn just isn't ready yet. Time for him to role up his sleeves and work on being productive on the farm, even when it means potting the garbage goals. He has a possible NHL future and the tools are there. Skating has improved and he can even dazzle a bit. He'll take strides on the farm and should be a real option next fall. Expect another cup of coffee this season, muchst like last season.
Stats with Islanders:
2-2-4 in 9 games

Trevor Smith C/F:
Last year's most improved AHL prospect, Smith has gone from college dropout to ECHL all-star to top gun in BPort in less than two calendar years. He got a long look this preseason and he's a guy with a nose for the net. Size and speed may hold him back, but he offers a good depth option with room to improve. Should be one of BPort's go-to guys once again. Breakthrough not coming this season.
Stats with Islanders:
2-1-3 in 16 games

Jeremy Reich F:
Gordon coached him for several years and he's a guy who has 50 some games of NHL experience. His willingness to be a middleweight and play aggressively will likely see him get some time on the Island this season, especially when Rechnlicz's knuckles are too sore. Just a depth player who could have a big leadership impact with Bridgeport.
Stats with Islanders:
1-1-2 in 10 games

Justin Dibenedetto F:
Drafted as an overager and blossomed as an offensive player who can put up points without Stamkos. He's gonna be in BPort for most of the season, but expect him to get a cup of coffee and actually register a point. He'll be more productive on the farm in the second half of the season.
Stats for Islanders:
0-1-1 in 4 games

Matt Martin:
I'm getting the fever. A few weeks back, I didn't think he'd be signed, but he came to camp looking like a man on mission. He did some nice things in the preseason and showed a willingness to fight, actually holding his own quite well. Now I'm excited. His season will begin in the farm system and I'm not sure if he'll start off in BPort or Utah, but I'm simply looking forward to him getting ice time. He simply needs to play. There is ample reason to fear that any perceived set-backs will bum him out a bit, but I think he's gonna spend some time on the Island and we're gonna find ourselves liking him real quick!
Stats with Islanders:
1-1-2 in 18 games

Joel Rechlicz RW:
He'll be around. He wants to be a heavyweight and that is something we don't otherwise have. He's young and enthusiastic. Expect him to stick on the Island as a 14th forward and play every couple of games, and all of the games against the NYR, Philadelphia and Toronto. Also expect him to have more than 200 PMs this season. He'll get beat a good share of the time, but Islander fans will appreciate his blood 'n gutts attitude and demeanor.
Stats with Islanders:
0-1-1 in 43 games


Robbie Schremp C:
No matter what you think of this pick-up, pretty much EVERY Islander fan is majorly curious how it's gonna turn out. We all know that there are several examples of young guys who needed little more than a change of scenary in order to finally bloom. Will Schremp be one of them?
Stats with Islanders:
5-12-17 in 38 games

Tuesday, September 29, 2009



As our New York Islanders enter the 09-10 season, there’s no doubt they are currently one of those teams in the NHL that the media of the hockey world simply has little interest in. Surely the presence of a one Mr. Tavares puts us in a certain spotlight that we haven’t had in recent memory, but what will happen if he starts off this season anything like Steven Stamkos did for the Tampa Bay Lightning last year? Expecting anything else might prove to be little more than wishful thinking on our behalves. Speaking of expectations, our team is promptly experiencing preseason placement in the lower 10th of the standings with nary a publication expecting more than a spot amongst the league’s worst three teams.

Now, unlike previous years where certain “professional” hockey writers have even gone so far as to NOT preview the Islanders based on statements to the effect that the team is simply far too uninteresting to waste one’s time on, publications are at least giving this franchise credit for taking a conservative and promising path to better competitiveness. In addition, whereas the team made few splashes in the course of this summer and may have failed to improve certain on-ice weaknesses (enforcer, defensive depth, scoring winger), there is no doubt that the drafting of Tavares – considered to be immediately NHL-capable, if not more – as well as the signing of not one but two bona-fide NHL goaltenders in Roloson and Biron, has this team looking better than it did this time last year. One must also think (hope, believe?) that the Islanders can’t possibly have worse luck in the injury department than was the case last season. This all accumulates into the assumption that this team must be better than last year’s edition. Still, I suppose the many experts out there will say that although this would seem true, the competition hasn’t been sleeping either.

Indeed it hasn’t, but are the other teams in the conference really as strong as some may suggest? Haven’t some, perhaps like Philly, only created some new holes in order to plug others (uhh, goaltending)? Will teams that aren’t starting the season with a Danny Heatley or Phil Kessel going to be as good as they have been with those players? Can a team whose first line consists of some extremely talented players, none of which is taller than roughly 4’2”, successfully handle the rigors of a long NHL season? Will a team losing its best goalie and top DMan still be able to fight for that 8th spot in the conference? As always, the results are earned on the ice and not on paper, but I’ll contend that this season is going to see more than one team have a heck of a lot of trouble maintaining the lofty spot it held in last year’s standings. In so many ways, it seems like many of last year’s competitive teams have lost a bit more than they’ve gained. This could be said of no less than the Flyers, Bruins, Penguins, Devils, Panthers and especially, the ohhhh so despised of NY Rangers.

With this in mind, here’s a short look at where I BOLDLY predict the teams in the NHL to finish this season!

1) Washington – Their time seems to have come. A team that’s been on the rise will see its Ovechkin literally “will” them to the top of the conference. He has some help and the Theodore/Varlamov tandem will be sufficient enough in the regular season.
Topscorer: Alex Ovechkin with 54-58-112
Keep an eye on: Nicklas Backstrom, maybe the league’s most underrated playmaker.

2) Philadelphia – Like Washington, the goaltending will suffice in the regular season and this team is simply loaded up front. Pronger’s leadership is the key to an otherwise suspect defense, despite what many think the names should add up to. Once the playoffs start though, it’ll be a whole new ball game.
Topscorer: Simon Gagne with 33-52-85
Keep an eye on: Ray Emery, because there’s probably not a player in the league with more to prove.

3) Ottawa – YES, I’m not joking. The big chip on the shoulder has been removed and something tells me these boys are gonna be the better for it. By the by, there’s still a boatload of talent hanging around in Ottawa. Goaltending and the defense will have to be much better than last season though.
Topscorer: Jason Spezza with 35-56-91
Keep an eye on: Jonathan Cheechoo, whose career simply MUST take a swing upwards after 4 years of unalterable decrease in production.

4) Boston – Some players were just too good last year. The team has depth, but Krejci is out the first few months and they simply are not the team they were without Kessel in the line-up.
Topscorer: Marc Savard with 18-53-71
Keep an eye on: Michael Ryder, who will be asked for even more now that Kessel is gone.

5) Carolina – The little engine that could is still solid from top to bottom. Staal is a real stud, the blueline is doable and there are a few kids of note coming up through the system. It may not be a smooth trip, but Carolina is a tough team with a top goaltender.
Topscorer: Eric Staal with 39-37-76
Keep an eye on: Chad Larose, a guy who has improved every season and has become part of Carolina’s identity.

6) Pittsburgh – Crosby, Malkin, Fluery, Staal… this team will once again center (literally) around its young guns and the regular season will have its share of bumps and bruises. They lost some solid role players and didn’t necessarily replace them. In addition, the stars are surrounded by the Kunitz, Guerins and Fedetenkos of the world. Still, it’ll be a whole new story once the playoffs come around.
Topscorer: Evgeny Malkin with 42-73-115
Keep an eye on: Eric Tangradi, because someone has to prove offensively worthy of playing with Malkin or Crosby.

7) Tampa Bay – This season will be a whole new story. The additions were very good this summer and in Lecavalier, St. Louis, Stamkos, Malone, Meszaros and Smith, the team already had some real decent players to build around. I see much improvement in the standings coming on in TB.
Topscorer: Martin St. Louis with 36-58-94
Keep an eye on: Steven Stamkos, whose 2nd half to last season was simply outstanding for a rookie!

8) Montreal – The Habs must make good on last season and fact is, there are a lot of boys in Montreal who can really play this game. The pressure remains immense, but expect a competitive team to slip into the playoffs and be the type of opponent no-one wants to face in round 1.
Topscorer: Scott Gomez with 23-54-77
Keep an eye on: Carey Price, because not a goalie in the league will have THIS many critics to satisfy?

9) Atlanta – Is what Washington was the season before last. Things are looking good in Atlanta and the blueline was much improved last season – at least in the talent department. Goaltending has been solidified and there were some solid signings. They’ll make things interesting.
Topscorer: Ilya Kovalchuk with 53-46-99
Keep an eye on: Rich Peverley, who can’t possibly be as productive as he was for ATL last season, right?

10) Toronto – The Leafs will be one tough opponent to play against. There is talent here and they’ve got lots of guys who can literally hurt you. A lack of scoring at critical junctures will be what ultimately keeps them out of the playoffs, but things are definitely looking up. Most blueline depth in the league right now.
Topscorer: Phil Kessel with 41-24-45
Keep an eye on: Viktor Stalberg, who may be the biggest league-wide surprise to make an NHL line-up out of camp.

11) New Jersey – In recent years, I’d never count them out. Something tells me none of Brodeur, Parise or Langenbrunner will be able to hold the torch high enough to be in the playoffs again this year.
Topscorer: Zach Parise with 34-37-71
Keep an eye on: Paul Martin, who wants to be on Team USA and needs to finally put up the numbers to show it.

12) Buffalo – So much homegrown talent, but a nagging feeling in my stomach sees this team simply not being deep enough in the face of injury. That’ll be its downfall. Once Connolly falls, a lot of hard-fought 2-1 and 3-2 losses will be the result.
Topscorer: Roman Vanek with 42-33-75
Keep an eye on: Tim Connolly, because his being able to play 70 games as opposed to 35 will determine if this team is in the playoffs or not.

13) NY Islanders – The Isles will earn this spot based on a commitment to the system and better goaltending. They’ll still not be the prettiest team to watch, but the level of competitiveness and the improvements the kids make will be visible, will keep them in the running for a long time and will show the NHL, that they are a team on the rise! The goal this season is to simply show the critics that there’s much more in the tank than most currently believe.
Topscorer: Kyle Okposo with 24-28-52
Keep an eye on: John Tavares, the most highly touted player in hockey since… uhh, Steven Stamkos?

14) NY Rangers – If it weren’t for Lundqvist, this team would suffer greatly this season, but the question marks are far too great at the moment to rank the Rags ahead of other teams. Should health be on their side, they’ll not be at this spot. My prediction, however, is that their most important players are gonna lose too much time for this team to hold its head above water.
Topscorer: Marian Gaborik with 28-26-54
Keep an eye on: Artem Anisimov, upon whose shoulders A LOT of hope is being placed.

15) Florida Panthers – A fundamentally solid team, the loss of Anderson and Bouwmeester will weigh too heavily for Florida to compete. The biggest problem will continue to be a lack of offense. There’s only going to be so much that Weiss, Horton, Frolik and Booth can do.
Topscorer: David Booth with 27-38-65
Keep an eye on: Michael Frolik, who’s not called “baby Jagr” for nothing!


1) Detroit Red Wings – Still have all the ingredients.
Topscorer: Pavel Datsyuk with 38-51-89
2) San Jose Sharks – Have star power and a few real good kids.
Topscorer: Joe Thornton with 26-66-92
3) Calgary Flames – See San Jose.
Topscorer: Jerome Iginla with 41-53-94
4) St. Louis Blues – Chicago who? This is THE most up-n-coming team in hockey!
Topscorer: Andy MacDonald with 24-54-78
5) Chicago Blackhawks – Have question marks, no doubts, but doggone exciting.
Topscorer: Patrick Kane with 33-49-82
6) Vancouver Canucks – Solid, but still need to find more all-round production.
Topscorer: Henrik Sedin with 17-72-89
7) Anaheim Ducks – Ohhh, they’ll be in the playoffs and NO-ONE will want to play them there!
Topscorer: Ryan Getzlaf with 34-51-85
8) Dallas Stars – Simply too good when healthy not to be a playoff team.
Topscorer: Brendan Morrow with 36-41-77

9) LA Kings – Almost there, but goaltending won’t be good enough.
Topscorer: Anze Kopitar with 23-55-78
10) Edmonton - Still getting better, but just can’t put it all together.
Topscorer: Ales Hemsky with 28-48-76
11) Columbus Blue Jackets – Too much responsibility on the shoulders of young and small forwards.
Topscorer: Rick Nash with 45-37-82
12) Nashville Predators – Good, solid club with a great blueline and still desperate for scorers.
Topscorer: Jason Arnott with 29-32-61
13) Minnesota Wild – Going back to the drawing board, even if there are some interesting parts.
Topscorer: Martin Havlat with 31-42-73
14) Phoenix Coyotes – Some kids will prevent them from the best lottery percentage.
Topscorer: Shane Doan with 29-36-65
15) Colorado Avalanche – I see more injuries; I see last place!
Topscorer: Paul Stastny with 25-50-75