Sunday, October 5, 2008

Atlantic Division Preview

The time is coming once more for hockey season to take hold. With free agency over and teams rosters set, they’re gearing up for another long and grueling season that each team hopes will end in lifting Lord Stanley’s Cup. And while I could do a nice, in depth report on each team in the league, I shall spare you a twenty page entry and focus on the teams the readers of this blog really care about: the Atlantic Division.

New Jersey Devils
Key Additions: Brian Rolston (F), Bobby Holik (F)
Key Losses: Sergei Brylin (F)
I swear every time the Devils address their need to score they give a big contract to an aging player. But to their credit the way Rolston has played the past few years he doesn’t appear to be slowing down, and he’ll give the Devils some much needed scoring. He’s also a good leader and two way player. Long time player Holik was brought back for a year at the cost of Brylin, and defensemen Karel Rachunek and Vitaly Vishnevsky were jettisoned to Europe. I do question giving bottom pairing defenseman Bryce Salvador nearly $3mm a year though. The Devils more than anything need to take their heads out of their ass and stop playing Brodeur for seventy games. The past two years he’s looked worn out in the playoffs, and he has let in soft goals he never used to because of it. They have a capable backup so there is no reason to keep doing this.
Why to Cheer them: You don’t like either team from New York
Why to Jeer them: They’re still going to be boring

New York Islanders
Key Additions: Doug Weight (F), Mark Streit (D)
Key Losses: Miroslav Satan (F), Ruslan Fedotenko (F)
Ah the Isles, what a sadly dysfunctional bunch they are. You kind of feel bad for their fans as Owner Charles Wang has made the franchise a laughing stock with his decisions. They lost forwards Miroslav Satan and Ruslan Fedotenko, who though weren’t significant (partially due to them not having anyone to play with) were better than their replacement: an aging and fading by the year Doug Weight. The only address they made on defense was adding Mark Streit, who has had one good year on the leagues best powerplay from Montreal. In fact, he wasn’t even a commonly known name before last year. The Isles are going to struggle, again, and until their young players like Kyle Okposo (note: do not look directly at his face, you may turn to stone) can fully develop, or they actually add a significant free agent, this team will be battling for the first overall pick in the coming draft.
Why to Cheer them: The front office, with its constant head scratching moves is probably more entertaining than the team on the ice will be.
Why to Jeer them: The front office, with its constant head scratching moves is probably more entertaining than the team on the ice will be.

New York Rangers
Key Additions: Markus Naslund (F), Nikolai Zherdev (F), Wade Redden (D), Dmitri Kalinin (D)
Key Losses: Jaromir Jagr (F), Brendan Shanahan (F), Martin Straka (F), Sean Avery (F), Fedor Tyutin (D), Christian Backman (D)
The Rangers had a busy off season changing over quite a bit fo their roster. Gone are scoring forwards Jaromir Jagr, Brendan Shanahan and Martin Straka and young blueliners Tyutin and Backman. Uber pest Sean Avery took off for a big deal from Dallas, and like him or not, he was a major driving force of the Rangers. They’re replacements though don’t add up to what they lost. Naslund has been declining the past three years and cant begin to dominate like Jagr could. Zherdev, obtained in the Tyutin and Backman deal, is an enigma. He has all the talent to be great but his work ethic is always in questions, not to mention he is maddeningly inconsistent. He could be great, or he could bomb. Kalinan adds depth to the defense and Redden, well, it’s tough to say. If he returns to the Redden of three plus years ago, he will be a big addition and anchor the Rangers blue line. If he’s the Redden of the past two years, they’ve got a $6.5mm albatross on their hands for six years. Regardless, I don’t think the forward corps can keep up what last year’s did and it’s going to hurt them. But hey, at least they still have “King” Henrik Lunqvist.

Why to Cheer them: Well one team from New York has to be good right?
Why to Jeer them: They’re the Rangers, do you need any other reason?

Philadelphia Flyers
Key Additions: Ossi Vannanen (D)
Key Losses: RJ Umberger (F), Jason Smith (D), Derian Hatcher (D)
The Flyers went apeshit in free agency last season, but left themselves with no room for anything but resigning their players this summer, meaning their roster was practically set for the coming season. They were forced to deal away Umberger in order to keep other players who were getting hefty raises like Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. How much better this team does is solely dependent on how well the younger players continue to develop with the likes of Carter, Richards and defensemen Randy Jones and Braydon Coburn. Still, Philadelphia’s main weakness is goalie Martin Biron. Despite Flyer fans and media trying to hype him, he is a decent starter and doesn’t really steal many games. And when compared to the other goalies in the Atlantic: Lundqvist, Brodeur, Fleury and DiPietro, he’s just downright average in comparison.
Why to Cheer them: They hit a lot.
Why to Jeer them: They’re still a bunch of cheap shotting douchebags

Pittsburgh Penguins
Key Additions: Miroslav Satan (F), Ruslan Fedtenko (F), Matt Cooke (F)
Key Losses: Marian Hossa (F), Jarkko Ruutu (F), Ryan Malone (F), Gary Roberts (F), Georges Laraque (F)
The Pens came within two wins of the Stanley Cup after an unexpected run. Of course one thing that comes with that territory is that other teams want all your free agents, and the Pens lost quite a bit with the likes of Hossa, Malone and Roberts. They’re replacements in Satan (pronounced sha-tan for those that don’t know) and Fedotenko are one year deals and they are meant to basically leech off all stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The good news for the Pens is that they’re defense stayed intact (except for Ryan Whitney and Sergei Gonchar being hurt to start the year) and goalie Marc Andre Fleury is back after a stellar playoff run. The forwards leaving will hurt, but they’ve still got their core intact which is more important.
Why to Cheer them: They’re one of the most exciting teams in hockey to watch with their talent level.
Why to Jeer them: They robbed everyone of fulfilling the dream of a guy named Satan playing for the Devils. That and you probably hate Crosby too.

1 comment:

Mahatma said...

It's too early for hockey.