Scott will be here shortly, everyone!
Thrashers outlook as bad as they've looked in the preseason?
Yes, it may in fact be worse than what we've seen so far. This is a team that missed its chance at building a competitive, contending team, a la the Penguins, and now is back at the bottom of the cycle, of having to rebuild again. In some ways they are worse than an expansion team. The base has grown weary of watching underachieving teams. They do have interesting elements: Zach Bogosian should be a terrific young player. It should be interesting to see what will happen before he reaches the 10-game threshhold. Their goaltending remains in a state of flux. There are reports this week that Ondrej Pavelec is unhappy with this treatment with the team, and there are some who believe he may be the best in the system. This is a team that remains in a state of flux. I think John Anderson has the makings of a fine NHL coach, but he has precious little in his toolbox for his first-ever gig.
How good can the Blues be this year??
Let's put it this way--this may be the last time you see "Good" and "Blues" in the same sentence. Unfortunately for Blues fans reconnecting with the franchise, this looks to be another long season in St. Louis. It started with the loss of Erik Johnson in a freak golf cart accident. He will miss all of the season with a knee injury. It is a huge loss to a team that is trying to rebuild with a talented roster of young players. We talked a bit about Bogosian in ATL--St. Louis has another blue chipper in Alex Pietrangelo, who will start the season in the NHL, but will likely go down to junior before he plays ten games. This is a Blues team which was terrible in the second half last season. They will need Paul Kariya to have a huge bounceback year. They will also need to see more from David Parron, and are asking a lot from rookies T.J. Oshie and Patrik Berglund. All in all, a lot of question marks, a lot of potential, but a lot of heartache for the coming season.
Are the Blackhawks be able to get rid of Khabibulin before Friday?
That's a good question. Certainly Tallon would like to. It seems there is a perfect fit in LA, where the Kings could use some steady NHL-style goaltending and could absorb his cotntract, but that has yet to materialize. There are rumors that Khabibulin may end up in the CHL in Russia. But either way, it does seem that his days in Chicago are done.
Scott, Great article about the Rangers. Do you think Dubinsky and Staal are going to really break out this year?
Thank you for the kind words. I think Staal has already broken out. He may break out further. He is a tremendous talent. Young defensemen take a little bit longer to mature, but he showed in the playoffs that he's ready for that. As for Dubinsky, if what we saw in Prague was any indication, it will be his job to unleash that talent that ish Zherdev, whom the Rangers acquired in the offseason. Dubinsky, who scored the winning goal in Game 1 in Prague, is a mature, solid two-way player who should thrive under Tom Renney.
Are the Dallas Stars going to be playoff contenders?
Yes, and at the risk of scooping myself, they will be my preseason pick to win the Cup. They showed last year in going to the conference Final that they are the real deal, with Sean Avery and a maturing young blue line. I think, in a conference where four or five of the NHL's best teams would reside, they are poised to take the best step forward.
How good are the Blackhawks going to be this year? Do they make the playoff's?
If they don't, heads will roll in Chicago. Really, they should. This is a talented young team that is ready to make the step into a playoff team. They added Brian Campbell to help move the puck out of the Blackhawks' zone and beef up the power play. They added Huet to solidify their goaltending. they have the defending ROY, a Steve Yzerman-like leader in Jonathan Toews. In short, there is a tremendous buzz around the team. The pressure is on the team not just to improve, but to make the playoffs. I think they are headed there.
Do you think the 4 teams that went to Europe are at a disadvantage with all the players going through waivers the past couple days. Im sure Ray Shero would have loved to pick up one of the defenseman released.
The cellphone reception is pretty good, and they have internet connections all over the place! Not to be cute, I don't think it puts you at any disadvantage. TB traded Nick Tarnasky and began a deal with the Canucks to trade Shane O'Brien all while they were in Prague. I don't think it's an issue in terms of making roster changes.
Rumors had the Bruins trying to trade for a top 4 defenseman ... any truth to that and who are they trying to move?
I certainly hear rumors that they might move a top-line center. Marc Savard's name has come up. I find it hard to believe given that the Bruins are a team that looks to struggle a little bit offensively. I find it difficult to believe that they might move the centerpiece of their power play, along with Patrice Bergeron, the top two centers on the team. They already posess one of the best defenseman in the NHL, Zdeno Chara, and while every team would like two elite defensemen, I don't see that the Bruins would disrupt their lineup to make such a move.
Scott - I don't see how any team can beat the Detroit Red Wings. What are your thoughts?
There is no question, when you look at DET's lineup on paper and you compare every other team, it's hard to imagine they won't win the Stanley Cup. History shows that winning back-to-back Stanley Cups is incredibly hard. This is to take nothing away from the Red Wings, but the combination of defying history, the injuries to key players, the Cup hangover, is going to be too much. The fact that there are three or four elite teams in the Western Conference will make repeating difficult. That said, if any team can do it, these Red Wings can.
Scott, do you think the Avs have a shot to make some noise in the Northwest? I think it is clearly their goaltending that needs to be good.. thanks!
I'm afraid that most of the noise that will follows the Avs will be boos and groans. You've hit on the key problem- I don't think there is a team in the NHL that has worse starting goaltending. Given the team that isn't blessed with a magnificent defense, and isn't blessed with three potent lines, getting to the playoffs will be a difficult task, unless Peter Budaj or Andrew Raycroft can pull the proverbial rabbit out of a hat this season.
Will Olli Jokinen be able to handle the tougher Western Conference and lead Phoenix to the playoffs?
That's certainly why Don Maloney brought Jokinen to Phoenix. People feel strongly about him--he has never played in a playoff game in a career that spans a decade. Some people believe that is no coincidence. Others believe that is a function of playing on terrible teams in a terrible market in South Florida. I'm in-between. I think he's a fine player. He will help younger players on the team, and the Coyotes felt they were pushed around by more physical teams in their division. Jokinen balances these scales. If the Coyotes make the playoffs, he will be a huge part of that achievement.
How will Barry do with Tampa Bay? Will he wish he stayed in the booth?
He was thinking about it after watching his team lose two straight in Prague, and he certainly wasn't shy to rip his team after a lackluster performance in the second game. But I was surprised about how comfortable he looked and how in his element he seemed in Europe. I don't know how good the Lightning will be--they certainly have the parts to be a playoff team--but it won't be dull with Barry.
Do you think the Blue Jackets are worth watching this season? I get discounts on my tickets and i was wondering if they'd be good enough for me to want to catch a game. Can they contend for at least a winning record and the 8 spot in the West?
This is a much different Blue Jacket team than fans in Ohio have seen in the past. This team will be a Ken Hitchcock team. They will be bigger and faster and more difficult to play against. Having added defensemen like Mike Commodore, they are going to be fun to watch in their own zone. I still think they lack an elite center to play with Rick Nash, although RJ Umberger, who played his college hockey just down the street at Ohio State, is another Hitchcock player--tough, skilled, and committed to winning. That couldn't be said about players on previous Blue Jackets teams. So yes, get your butt down to Nationwide Arena as fast as you can.
Should the leafs tank this year? Go for a 0-82 season and get Tavares? Or will Ron Wilson get in a way of these plans and make the Leafs "respectable" (ala. 11th seed-ish)
If the Leafs plan on tanking this season, they would probably make the playoffs--nothing goes according to plan in Toronto. It would be a surprise if they weren't among the worst teams in the league. If they aren't in thirteenth, fourteenth, or fifteenth, it would be a major surprise. Really, the future does not look much brighter looking ahead to next year. If you are in Toronto, you know this all two well.
There were a bunch of rumors around draft time of Jay Bouwmeester trade talks to the Flyers. Did these just evaporate or are the Flyers waiting to see how their shaky blue line holds up?
I'm not sure where Bouwmeester will end up, but the fact that he signed for just one season in FL and can become an unrestricted FA at the end of this season suggests he will be somwhere else before the deadline passes. Whether it's Philly or a Western Canadian team, the prevailing thought is that he is tired of playing in a bad franchise in a bad market. If the Panthers get off to a roaring start under new coach under Pete DeBoer, perhaps that will change his thinking, but that is a big if.
Thanks, we've got our toes in the regular season now. It will be interesting to see what will happen when the rest of the teams catch up!