Friday, October 03, 2008

Eastern Conference 2008-09 Overview

Okay, the new NHL season is only but a few days away, so I'll analyze the Eastern Conference today and the Western Conference tomorrow. Here is my "stock reports" as who is getting upgraded or downgraded for the year compared to last season.

Atlanta: Once again, the rocky ownership issues and the viability of the franchise is still in question. They weren't very active on July 1, but they did keep their core talent in tact. I don't think they are going to make a run for the Southeast Division like a couple of years ago. Downgrade!
Boston: Finally, the Boston Bruin management have seen what the Boston sports fan community can do for a franchise when management actually provides a competitive team. The Bruins took steps to upgrading their roster by signing Michael Ryder away from their nemesis in hopes that he can turn around a slumping career in a new city. Yelle is a great addition to a short-depth with center position.Upgrade!
Buffalo:Well, they re-signed Ryan Miller, their franchise goalie, but what about the players in front of him? None. No active FA signings that would make a significant splash. Only Patrick Lalime to provide a quality backup.Downgrade!
Carolina: The strong re-structuring of the Hurricanes came when the realization of missing the playoffs two years in a row was like beating their heads against the boards repeatedly. The Hurricanes needed to break down their team and rebuild last season. So, this year the new-look Hurricanes should be Upgrade!
Florida: Getting veteran leadership on the blue line and finally solving the Oli Jokinen drama improves a team that has been struggling the past few years in irrelevancy. But a few tweaking moves to get them to the salary floor has a bit of the "team to watch" situation going. Getting veteran Brian McCabe from the Leafs ads a veteran to show the young Panther players the key to a long NHL career. Minimal Upgrade
Montreal: A strong team that fizzled out in the playoffs needed to get that veteran consistency in scoring. The #1 seed in the playoffs just got more dangerous with adding Tangay and Laraque. Now, Price knows he is the man in goal and will prepare himself for the long 82 game schedule. Severe Upgrade!
New Jersey: NJ Devils never retool, they just reload. Getting back Brian Rolston was a great move knowing that he worked well in the Devils system. upgrade.
NY Islanders: Given the drastic fallout of a promising team and a rookie GM, the Islanders were once poised to make a playoff appearance but only fall out down the stretch because of the DiPietro injury. Garth Snow, I guess, didn't feel the need to add any free agents, so, he will give it another go around with the Islanders in hopes that everybody will stay healthy. Even
NY Rangers: In the transition of an experiment by trying to make the NY Rangers into the Czech Republic national team, the Rangers have made a few moves with "addition by subtraction". Gone is Jaromir Jagr and his friend Martin Straka. They have also let aging forward Brendan Shanahan lingering on the FA list. The Rangers are going to build around Drury and try to get younger in hopes of a deeper playoff run.upgrade!
Ottawa: Content with tweaking a few players, the Senators still look the same up front with Alfie-Heatly-Speeza. They brought in a new coach that will keep the players accountable. They didn't make too much of a splash in FA signings. So they didn't really do much to stop the trend of fading away after the season ends. Downgrade
Philadelphia: The Flyers may be waking up to the idea that too many grinding forwards only get you into trouble against high-scoring teams. Upgrade!
Pittsburgh: The defending Eastern Conference Champions were robbed of any chance of repeating their success when Hossa decided not to resign. That left Pittsburgh to scramble through the "reduced bin" of FAs. Slovak Miro Satan is a good player against the Penguins and I am glad they got him. Fedotenko will make a good third liner. But watching the rest of the team walk out the door to insure cap room is not the way to go here. I do not recognize the Penguins anymore.Downgrade!
Tampa Bay: Just call them the TB Penguins. That is just what they are. Last year, they were a good team built for speed (fitting because they are the Lightning.) But starting with the new acquisition of head coach, Barry Melrose, will get a new mindset into the team. Recchi, Malone, and Roberts will provide a much needed muscle to a quick-strike team not used to playing defense.Upgrate
Toronto: With a new GM and Coach to try to start building a team over again, it is a good start. Ron Wilson is a great coach who can turn around clubs wherever he goes. But the fact that they flubbed the Sundin FA is pathetically laughable and the incompetence to overpay for Jeff Finger suggests they are trying for the #1 draft pick next year. Downgrade
Washington: The Capitals look poised to develop their own talent. The Capitals got that opening taste of the playoffs and will sure be hungry for more. Look for Ovechkin to click with his fellow Russians. Upgrade!
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