1) With all due respect to our readers who are fans of teams in this division, the lofty pre season expectations for the elevation of the division as the annual door mats of the league has not transpired. Despite having two of the NHL's best/most exciting players(above) the division continues to falter. In fact it can be argued that it is as bad as ever. We expected so much more. Perhaps we were expecting more than what was possible? Only the Capitals are where most would expect-3rd overall in the East. The rest of the division after about 10 games is a mess. Of course we caution our readers as was mentioned in FR's early-surprises post, its still early enough that this and other early trends might change, but so far its not pretty.
2) With 4 of the bottom 6 teams coming from this one, oft (deservedly) maligned conference. Some use this as ammo to attack Gary Bettman's/NHL's southern exposure policy. We'll leave that for another day/other blogs, but lets take a look at the teams that make up the so-called South LEAST Division:
- Carolina Hurricanes: We expected so much more from one of last year's Final 4 teams. As was written before, this blog expected them to compete with the Caps for the division. That may still be possible, but only 2 wins after 11 games, (having lost 7 in a row!) and already 9 points off the pace is no way to start a season. Maurice has been in vainly jumbling his lines in an attempt to get their offense to awaken. Too early, but might Paul's job already be in jeopardy if the Canes continue to stumble?
- Tampa Bay Lightning: Few had much in the way of expectations for TB. We expected an improvement, but not a playoff calibre team just yet. So far those expectations are on target. On one hand a 3-3-3 record isn't bad, but 3 wins in 9 isn't all that great either. Alex Tanguay is still looking for goal #1, and captain for life Lecavalier, has one! So we suppose they are poised to improve once that Quebecer-duet get going? Right now the biggest issue surrounding the team is their continued ownership problems (sound familiar?)
- Florida Panthers: Like Carolina, we expected much more from the big Kittys. Not a surprise that they are off to a slow start, but come on this is ridiculous! After 10 games only the Toronto Maple Leafs have fewer points than the Panthers. As was written by FR concerning Coach DeBoer who-gets-axe-first-2009-edition, "the jury is still out" on this guy. If this trend continues however the jury will be returning a negative verdict very soon!
- Atlanta Thrashers: Like Tampa, low expectations coming into the season. Tough break-literally, that they have lost super star sniper Ilya Kovolchuk for a month. Before that the Thrash were a respectable (for them) 4-3-1. Its anyone's guess how they'll do without their best player in the lineup for a protracted amount of time. Will/can Afinoganov/Antropov fill the void? Our guess, based upon past performances, is no. Will they put teen ager Evander Kane on the top line? The kid has shown us a lot early on, but this might be asking a lot so soon.
- Washington Capitals: Only team in the SE that currently appears to be playing as expected/a playoff team. Probably one of about 3 teams in the East that is a Cup contender. Not without their problems, but one can't argue with success, only 2 regulation losses in 11 games thus far. Will be interesting to see if they can unload salary cap anchor, Nylander and bolster an already potent line up.