2) With that in mind here is our list. Keep in mind this is only our interpretation of who has the best shot at the Cup. Anything can happen, and we wouldn't be shocked if ANY of the top 8 teams in the East were in the Finals.
First the East:
- Boston- Not much to do here other than to Get/stay healthy. They currently have all the ingredients to win: Solid scoring from multiple lines. Solid defense and good goaltending. In addition they have enough 'muscle' to withstand any possible intimidation. In fact they might intimidate some of their opposition. If they are healthy going into the deadline we see no need for any meaningful moves here
- New Jersey- The Devils are an enigma to many, including us. If ever there was a team greater than the sum of its parts, its NJ. That said, we'd feel more comfortable if they could possibly add another forward. Sure Shanahan may have made that somewhat less necessary, but another sniper could put them over the edge. Also, and more obvious get Marty ready. One good thing/silver lining of his injury is He's rested! In the past few seasons he's looked tired come playoff time. With a month to get sharp Marty might be ready to propel the Newark boys to another Cup run
- Washington- No team with the Hart and Norris favourites can be discounted, but the Caps need to make a couple of changes to become serious Cup contenders. For one, they rely entirely too much on Ovechkin. A playoff opponent would wisely do all they could do agitate/key on he and the rest of their players, as beyond Brashear they aren't a team known to be abrasive. Therefore we believe that they would be wise to bring in another agitating forward like a Chris Neal and perhaps a like defender like former Cap Brendan Witt. With both, we would say the Caps could go against and beat any East team, and make a run of it in the Finals, else they will win a round then go home.
- Philadelphia- Have been an up and down team thus far. Looking unbeatable for a few weeks, then ordinary the next. The elephant in the room (one which is NOT new in Philly) is that they need A new goalie! Neither Marty Biron or Antero Niittymaki are good enough to win it all. They have all the other pieces in our opinion other than that. Perhaps they can get Chicago to give up Nikolai Khabibulin for Danielle Briere or a package of picks/Biron? If they got a legit #1 goalie, the Flyers would have to be one of the favourites in the East. Never mind the silly Bouwmeester rumours. He wouldn't be the answer there!
- Rangers- Lots of issues here, but we have to start with, Fire Renney! Is he the sole reason for their malaise? No, but nothing is easier/costs less/ gets results faster than bringing in a new coach. (Ask Lou Lamarello) We don't understand why its taking Glen Sather so long to pull the trigger and put Renney out of his misery. In addition to that they BADLY need a reliable Scoring forward. It will be tough to find with their cap issues, but if they can somehow change coaches and improve themselves up front they have the goalie who can steal a round or two.
- Pittsburgh- When we first made the outline for this blog entry our Penguin line started with "Fire Therrian". Obviously Ray Shero made the move that Glen Sather up to now, has avoided. It was necessary. This will not be enough however. Pitt needs to add a scoring wing. Everyone knew that was their weakness before the season, and its hurt even more than many thought. Despite excellent seasons from co-#1 centers Crosby/Malkin the Pens are still out of the playoffs. We also are NOT sold on Fleury in net, but doubt that Shero will make a change here. With Gonchar's return, a new coach and a new forward we could see the Pens doing some damage if they can sneak into the playoffs.
Next The West
- San Jose- Much like Boston the Sharks seem to possess all that a team would seem to need to excel in the post season. Their number one priority therefore would be to get/stay healthy. That said, and we know we will get grilled for saying so, we think they would do better letting Claude Lemieux go and see if they could somehow get Sean Avery. We feel the Sharks are missing some team toughness/abrasion that we like to see, and although Avery isn't a fighter, he does bring that X factor that previous Sharks teams have been missing. Certainly another quick playoff exit would not be good for SJ. Expectations are sky high!
- Detroit- The Wings are having another excellent season. Albeit not quite as good a their previous seasons, but still good enough to be considered one of the top Cup contenders(again). This team has no holes other than in goal. Last season they were able to get by with a pair of aging vets (Hasek/Osgood) and were good enough to win despite them. This time they have put their repeat hopes on Osgood and Conklin. Conklin has been the better of the two, but has only played 1 NHL playoff game in his life! Clearly an upgrade here would be a very nice trade deadline coup for the astute Holland.
- Calgary- A bit of an enigma in reverse. Despite a first place position they are not as good as they should be. They give up way too many goals to be team seriously for a Cup chance. They have a +12 goal differential. (SJ has a +55, Detroit +47, and Chicago a +46) Pheneuf (Dion) is a horrendous -11! With little to no cap space any deal that Sutter makes will have to involve significant salary going the other way. They need to shake things up in our opinion if they want a chance to compete with the tough West
- Chicago- Are having quite a nice rebound season. As we expected they are one of the more exciting NHL teams. That said they might want to add another defensemen to round things out. Perhaps also a veteran forward who has playoff experience. They have Khabibulin who they could dangle, or retain as goalie insurance. If they make the right deadline deal they could surprise a few teams. Speed kills!
- Anaheim- Some may ask why did we place them on this list? Any team that has most of the components that won only 2 years ago can't be discounted. Sure, they don't seem to have any consistency and currently don't even have a playoff spot, but never count out a championship team until they are dead. Rumours thus far have centered around who they might trade (Pronger?, etc). It will be interesting to see if new GM Bob Murray decides to be a seller despite being in playoff contention. If he decides to take another run they will have to add some offense!
- Dallas- What seemed to be a lost season has seemingly been salvaged. The Stars have clawed themselves back into the playoff picture and would seem to have the edge on gaining one of the final 3 spots out West. However the recent wrist injury to Brad Richards could damper those hopes and/or spur GM Brett Hull to make a deal for a forward. Regardless, they DO need a puck moving defensemen with Sergei Zubov lost. If Hull/the Stars are serious about making a statement this spring. (Note Captain Brendan Morrow may be ready for games by late April!)