Wednesday, October 1, 2008

2008-2009:Preseason Predictions-East

1) Its that time of year. While others amazingly posted/wrote their predictions in late July/early August, the folks at FAUXRUMORS decided that we would be better served/more accurate to wait until after the start of training camp when complete rosters could be analyzed, and early trends (as limited as that is for these purposes) could be evaluated. Not that this tactic helped us last year.
As you can see we didn't exactly nail things, although overall we did better than we did the previous season.

2) To simplify things we will do each conference separately. We will rate each team 1-15, placing division winners in their appropriate top 3 ranking. WE believe as its been the last couple of seasons that there will be a huge fight for the last 1-2 spots, with all but 1-2 teams in it until the last couple of weeks/days.

  • Washington-104: Some might be surprised to see The Caps placed as the best team in the East. This has as much to do with their team as it does the relative mediocrity that is the Eastern Conference. By no means are they a shoe-in to be the beasts of the East, but with there being no real elite teams in this conference they have more than enough talent to be right there. Some forget that from Thanksgiving to April they were the 2nd best team in the East. They are not without question marks, starting in goal where Jose Theodore (7 years removed from his Hart winning season) is the new #1 guy in town. With the teams potent offense they will just need Jose to play above average to win on most nights, especially against SE division opponents. On the back line there are also some issues, but in the end we see them winning their division going away, and possibly the East.

  • Montreal- 102 Was and is one of the better skating teams in the NHL. They upgraded their offense with the additions of Lang and Tanguay giving them considerable offensive depth. On defense they have a decent array of talented pairings led by Markov, Hamrlik and Komisarek. Time will tell if the loss of Mark Streit will affect their PP effectiveness. In goal this will be the first full season for whiz kid Carey Price. He had an excellent final 20 games in the regular season, but looked mediocre in the playoffs. The Habs will flounder or flourish on his tending this season. Overall we'd say they are the best of the significantly weaker NE division. What was once the strongest division in the East is now a shadow if its former self. Still, we see the Habs combo of solid scoring and good goaltending getting them a solid top 3 seeding once again this season

  • Philadelphia-101- Went from a bottom feeder to a Cup contender in one short season. No fluke as they had the pieces in place to make this jump. A late season swoon almost cost them a playoff spot. Despite the loss of late season addition Prospal, the cost cutting trade of Umberger, and the signing of under appreciated young defensemen Steve Eminger, the Flyers basically stood pat this offseason hoping their youngsters would continue to develop and Gagne would finally stay healthy. He was a big upgrade over his predecessors in net, but we are not sold on Biron as a solid #1 goalie. Overall we see them having a playoff calibre season, with a modest improvement from last season, and good for a possible 1st place finish (especially with the wounded Pens) in the very tough/competitive Atlantic division

  • Pittsburgh-98. The reigning (playoff) Eastern Champs. Put together an impressive run last spring. The biggest part in our opinion was the 'coming out party' of M-A Fleury, who finally showed why he was drafted so high in 2003. They are as deep as any team up the middle with Malkin, Crosby and Staal, but are just as weak on the wings, prompting some to think they may move Staal to a wing position. Still, overall they possess plenty of offense to outscore opponents. They had an under appreciated defense that is better than they are given credit for. Not in the class of some western powers, but good enough to hold down most East teams. However injuries to their top 2 defenders in Whitney and Gonchar will hurt their regular season position(Both should be back for the stretch drive) Before those injuries they were our pick to win the Atlantic. They will still be tough to beat, but not as powerful

  • NY Rangers- 97 Despite the considerable change in personnel, especially up front, we see the Rangers as neither no worse, or better than last season. Certainly a team that has one of the best goalies in the NHL in Lundqvist can't ever be counted out. While we believe that Redden was overpaid/rated, he certainly still upgrades and already solid defense corps with Girardi and Staal young future stars. We do feel the team will miss Avery's agitation, and we will wait to see if they are going to be perceived as a soft team, especially when the Flyers come to town. Additionaly Zherdev might either b a revelation, or a disappointment, as he was in Columbus. If he and Naslund can produce up front this team could surprise and do even better than we are predicting here. However, we are predicting a solid 3rd place finish in the Atlantic, just behind Phily, good for 5th in the East

  • Carolina-95- After two disappointing non-playoff seasons, including missing the post season on the final day last season, we believe the 'Canes will be back. Assuming no further injuries(Williams who will be missed until March) Carolina still has one of the better set of forwards in the East. We also like their mobile, good skating defense led by new comer Joni Pitkanen and Joe Corvo. They will miss Cole's toughness and scoring touch, but if Samsonov can continue his renaissance of sorts, the Canes will score enough goals to win their share of games. They will need Cam Ward to elevate his game to 2006 playoff levels, not play inconsistent lie last season for the team to succeed. Still, we see enough of an improvement to push the Canes into a 2nd place SE division finish, good for 6th in the East.

  • Tampa Bay- 94- Probably the toughest team to predict in the NHL. Such an overwhelming turnover on and off the ice. Since this time last season they have a new owner, the flamboyant Hollywood producer Oren Koules. A new GM, (although its not official yet) in Brian Lawton, and a new head coach in former ESPN hockey personality, Barry 'Mullet' Melrose(photo here) who replaced John Tortorella. In addition they have added Prospal, Malone, Recchi, Vrbata, Roberts, Meszeros, Kolzig, etc. Tons of IF's, and potential. Returning are solid players/stars in Lecavalier, St. Louis, and underrated defensemen Paul Ranger. Along with wonder kid, first player picked at the 2008 draft, Steve Stamkos, who is assured of a roster spot. There is little doubt that the Lightning will score goals. The question will be can they hold their opponents? Top goalie Mike Smith has never been a starter, and Olie Kolzig hasn't been a backup in 12 years, so it should be interesting if this duo can withstand what will be tons of shots each game. Overall though we believe that Lightning will win more of those 7-5 games than they lose, propelling them back into the postseason with a 7th place finish in the East

  • Boston- 92 From the other reviews we've read we believe we are one of the few who see the Bruins as a playoff team this season. No, we weren't impressed with the silly money thrown at Ryder, but the fundamentals that got this team into the post season last year are still here, and with the addition of Ryder and a possibly healthy Bergeron, the B's might be a sleeper team in the East. There perennial issue in net is still uncertain, but whomever starts, Thomas or Fernandez, the team has a shot to win on most nights. Claude Julian is an underrated coach, who's defense-first approach worked like it did in his previous teams(Montreal/NJ) and we can see him guiding his team back into the post season as the 8th seed, and finishing 2nd in the weak NE division


  • Florida- 90: Instead of rebuilding the Panthers have been in no-mans-land -- just outside the playoffs, but no lottery picks to build around. The Panthers are going to be young, and they’re probably not going to score a whole lot. They have some good young forwards, and the defense should be pretty solid even with the addition of defensive liability Bryan McCabe. Florida needs guys like Weiss and Welch to fulfill their promise, and having Horton, Ballard and Bouwmeester go from really good young players to great would also help. However we can see the Bowmeester issue being a distraction until his contract status is resolved. They will be competitive, but fall short.. again.

  • New Jersey- 89: For the past 3 seasons we have had the Devils finally slipping out of the post season. We have been wrong. However, we believe that we might finally get this one right this time around. The team seems to be looking back (by re-acquiring past Devils Holik and Rolston). Other than Parise, who is a legit star in the league, no other forward appears to be on the upside in their careers. Several including Elias, Gionta and Madden will have to step back to where they were 3-4 seasons ago. The biggest question though is whether the team continues to play now 36 year old Brodeur 75+ games. With apparently no backup that they feel comfortable playing more than a handful of games they have no choice. Marty will have to have yet another Hart/Vezina calibre season to get this team into the post season.. We simply don't see it, but we've underestimated the denizens of Newark before.

  • Ottawa- 87. This placement will probably surprise some, but if one looks at what the Senators did after their initial 15-2 start, go 28-29-8, makes us wonder which is the real Ottawa? We believe its the latter. They still might possess one of the best top lines in the NHL, and overall have a good set of forwards but that alone will not be enough. Our biggest issue with them is in net. Martin Gerber (the worst of the 4 Marty goalies) is not a true starter/#1 in the NHL. Lie the rest of the team, he had a hot start, but fell back precipitously in the 2nd half. Now that Ray has gone to Russia, it leaves ALL the load on Gerber's fragile shoulders, with no reliable back up to take over if he falters. Additionally with the loss of Redden and Meszeros the back line is no longer one of the best in the East. Still not bad, but no longer a dominating force. Unfortunately with Gerber in net they would have needed to have that kind of defense. Therefore we see this as a down year in Kanata, and a playoff miss.

  • Buffalo- 85. Just when it appeared that the Sabres woes on and off the ice were a distant memory comes the past 16 months where they have lost Briere, Drury, Campbell. Were forced to overpay for Vanek, and more recently it appears that their saviour, team owner, billionaire and perennial gubernatorial candidate tom-golisano wants to sell the team. He rescued them from bankruptcy after the Rigas family(now in prison) ran their businesses into the ground. On the front line there is no denying that this team is going to score its share of goals, but we aren't confident that their defense and goaltending are playoff calibre. Miller looked quite ordinary at times, and finished with marginally above average stats. Even more scary is the fact that coach Lindy Ruff intends to play his backup at least 30 games this year to keep Miller more fresh. That backup? Patrick Lalime. Still feeling confident Sabres fans? On the backline the defense looked porous to the extreme, and replacing Kalinen with Rivet won't change that. Overall we see this as a backward stumble season, and possibly Ruffs last behind the bench, and No playoffs again western NY

  • Toronto- 83. It appears the new 'battle of Ontario might be which teams sucks less! Team-turmoil goes into this season with few strengths and many weaknesses. While he's certainly NOT in the top 5-6 of NHL netminders (as per the Hockey News) Vesa Toskala is a solid #1. Unfortunately the same can't be said for many of the guys in front of him. Having a defense-first coach in Ron Wilson wil help, but unless Blake returns to his salad days on the Island, and Antropov can become a true star in this league (or if Sundin returns from his self imposed exile) they will have trouble scoring. The cost saving trade of McCabe for Mike Van Ryn won't hurt them defensively, but their PP might falter. All things considered as of today another lottery pick could be in the leafs future, the playoffs don't appear to be.

  • Atlanta- 78 The poster child franchise on how to NOT run an expansion franchise. We expected a big turn back last year after the teams first foray into the post season, and we weren't disappointed. Don Waddell continues to be allowed to run/ruin this team, despite repeated huge errors(Coburn for Zhitnik), etc. The coach on the block this season John Anderson will have to deal with weakness in almost every category. The lone bright spots are star winger Ilya Kovalchuk up front, and Tobias Enstrom on defense. From past moves both will probably be traded by Wadell at the deadline. ; ) In goal we're still waiting to see if Kari Lehtonen is a true star in the making or not. Between injuries and a bad team in front of him its difficult to assess properly. What isn't difficult is to predict that this will be (another) long season on Atlanta. Perhaps the owners will finally wise up and either sell/move the team, or fire Wadell and allow a real GM to mold this team into a reputable franchise now in its 10th season.

  • NY Isles- 75 As wer're sure our Isles fans readers wil be quick to remind us, we had the isles in this position the past 2 seasons and they have exceeded those expectations each time. Last year they were in the thick of the playoff push until a series of injuries devestated their lineup, pushing them into a lottery pick. They will also tell us that the team has made the post season 4 of the past 6 seasons. That all said, judging the current roster, and new faces, etc, we can't help it but feel pessimistic for this years squad. A team that was dead last in scoring only added aging Doug Weight. Sure key offensive payers were injured, but old guys typicaly do. The lone brigt spots are DiPietro who, if he can stay healthy for the entire season,(he's already nursing an injury in the preseason!) give them a chance to win every night. Can he play a Brodeur-like 75+ games, all 1-0, 2-1, 3-2? We also like youngster Kyle Okposo. he might not yet be ready to score 30+, but he should have an impact up front. On the backline an aray of older guys Sutton and Witt, and new comer Striet to go along with injury prone Gervais and campoli. (Already Campoli and Sutton have apparently serious injuries for the team to troll the waiver wires) It also remains to be seen if the recent over achieving was partly due to fomer coach ted Nolan. New coach Scott Gordon has his work cut out for him, and we see another lottery pick for the Isles this year.
3) Those numbers are of course assuming no major injuries to key players which is always the unknown going in. We welcome our readers who don't have their own blogs to offer up their own predictions. Get 'on the record' so we can all laugh at how badly we did next April! LOL Look for our West Conference Predictions soon, followed by our preseason playoff/Cup champ predictions soon thereafter. As always, keep it here for the latest!!


Frank said...

Thank you for picking the Isles last again. While I know the playoffs are a stretch, I'm sure that they will be just a bit better. Once again putting them in that no mans land of picking 5th or 6th. Still, the kids are playing and that is exciting.


1) The 'playing the kids' and seeing them progress will be the key for considering this a successful season in Uniondale this year.
2) If Dipietro is indeed hurt worse than they are saying, it could be a long painful season, else they will at least be competitive nightly

Mr. Spock said...

As always faux, an excellent read. I do quibble with your underestimating my Senators. I agree they won't be a dominant squad, but I think they can square up against any other team in the eastern Conference. We will win our share of games and can get one of the two final playoff spots.


1) Spock: Great to hear from ya. Its been a while. Hockey season must be back! LOL
2) We understand your points. No team will be dominant in the East this season. So a few wins here and there can be the difference between an 8th and 12 spot.
3) Right now we're not fans of your team's goaltending. If Gerber plays like a #1 goalie ALL season instead of the first two months like last year yes, the Sens can make the playoffs.

Antzmarching said...

Caps first, huh? I would love to see it, Faux... I like the Rangers more than you do, but we are in agreement (once again) with the plight of the other NY team... Wang/Snow just don't get it!!!

Contact the Media