Sunday, September 10, 2006

OffSeason Analysis- Atlantic

New York Rangers: Unlike their cross-town rivals, the Rangers did a good job of ridding themselves of crap(Poti, Sykora, Martin Rucinsky) and adding grit, leadership and experience (Brendan Shanahan, Aaron Ward, Cullen as well as Karel Rachunek. As long as tender Henrik Lundqvist doesn't suffer a sophomore slump and leading man Jaromir Jagr remains interested in playing, the Rangers should be again be a playoff team. Grade B

New Jersey Devils: With the bad contracts to Alex Mogilny and Vladimir Malakhov last season, the Devils are in a salary-cap bind, and have thus far been unable to sign leading scorer, Brian Gionta. Naming Claude Julien their new coach was a head scratcher. Overall the Devils were the quietly effective this off-season, re-signing three players (Jamie Langenbrunner, Patrik Elias and Colin White) to long-term contract extensions, and getting Scott Gomez under contract from another year through arbitration. Any team with Martin Brodeur in goal can competeand we expect lou to get all his ducks in a row before October. Grade B

Philadelphia Flyers: The news is mostly positive, as it relates to Peter Forsberg, who may not miss as much time as originally anticipated, but not good for Primeau, who may need to retire. The Flyers need to get Simon Gagne, their leading scorer, signed to a new contract, but mostly, they need to stay healthier than they were a year ago, when injuries decimated a team that, on paper, looked as if it could challenge for a championship. Michal Handzus sillily was sacrificed to Chicago in order to get Kyle Calder. Otherwise, the Flyers have mostly decided to stand pat and see how things evolve. Defense and goaltnding remain questions. Grade C-

Pittsburgh Penguins: Much of the off-season drama revolved around Russian centre Evgeni Malkin, who left Russia, in the hopes of playing in the NHL. Malkin's presence will give the Penguins a young, one-two punch down the middle with Sidney Crosby unlike anything the NHL has seen since the heady days of Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier. The Penguins brought Recchi back, added an agitator Jarkko Ruutu; and traded for Nils Ekman, who had 57 points for San Jose last season. Pittsburgh's future looks bright; it may be a year or more, however, before the turnaround finally occurs. Grade B

New York Islanders: Most dysfunctional organization in NHL history? The Isanders start the season with their former back-up goaltender, Garth Snow as GM, Ted Nolan behind the bench after an extended hiatus. Snow's predecessor, Neil Smith, lasted all of six weeks started the process of signing mid-market free agents (Mike Sillinger, Brendan Witt, Tom Poti, Chris Simon) and Snow eventually added Sean Hill to a roster replete with other journeymen. Expect a new long term contract for Rick DiPietro. When not playing they'll be going with Wade Dubielewicz between the pipes. It's hard to imagine any scenario in which the Islanders compete any time soon. Grade D-

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