Who's gonna take Lord Stanley

Dildeep SinghCorrespondent IMarch 27, 2008

There are currently 6 franchises that have never made it to the Stanley Cup finals. They are the Atlanta Thrashers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, Phoenix Coyotes, and the San Jose Sharks. Only two of these six are currently sitting in a playoff spot. These two teams also sit in first place in their divisions. The Minnesota Wild hold the division leaders spot for the Northwest Division and the San Jose Sharks hold the division leader position for the Pacific Division. The rest of the teams are in the hunt or are still working towards a position.

This season is full of teams that have what it takes to win the cup. Some of these teams bulked up at the deadline and filled certain positions their team has been lacking in.

These are my reasons for why the following teams will not compete:

Carolina has been putting on a strong push to maintain their stranglehold of the Southeast division. They have gone 8-2 in their last 10 and have a great home record but a soft away record. They have also been on the receiving end of many goals. I don’t believe this team has a strong enough roster to last through the playoffs. Joe Corvo and Patrick Eaves were huge pick ups, though. Eric Staal has replaced Rod Brind’Amour. Injuries to David Tanabe, Ray Whitney, and Justin Williams will hurt the strength of this team through the long drive of the playoffs.

Ottawa has been the biggest surprise for everyone this season. They had a great start and looked unstoppable. They hit a few roadblocks and aren’t looking strong. They have huge goaltending and defensive issues. They still score alright, but not as easily as before. Cory Stillman and Mike Commodore aren’t looking like such great additions to their team. Even I thought Bryan Murray would help this team become what it once was. Their problems are much bigger than we see. Ottawa really needs to look to their leadership for their woes. Their team needs to have some sort of intervention.

Boston and Philadelphia have similar problems going on. They both were having a great season until they crumbled. Their defences have fallen apart and they have received sub-par goaltending. Both are now at risk of seriously losing their playoff positions, let alone contend.

Minnesota has a good team and good goaltending. Their coaching from Jacques Lemaire has been excellent and probably one of the biggest reasons the Wild have remained competitive. The problem is they have slowed down big time going 4-2-4 in their last 10. The reason why they were a threat (if not beaten by the Ducks) last season, was their defense and they haven’t held their own defensively. You must be good in the back end to compete and they simply are not.

Vancouver has Roberto Luongo, who has solely helped them stay alive. Ryan Kesler has done his best to keep this team competitive, but it looks like the Sedin twins (Daniel and Henrik) and Markus Naslund didn’t really like the playoffs last season and plan on going home this spring.

Colorado is good but their roster is constantly depleted. This season has been about the 4 S’s for them; (Ryan) Smyth, (Joe) Sakic, (Paul) Stastny and (Marek) Svatos. They’ve been performing really well but you can’t have your best players always injured and expect to win.  They’ve also only received decent goaltending but never exceptional.

Now the Competitors:

Detroit has a great team. It’s built well all around. They have great young talent and great veteran leadership. They have a ridiculous home and away record. The only thing I’m a little skeptical about is the number of shots their goalies face. If their goalies see a lot of shots in a night, they seem to struggle. They usually don’t, which is why they have the least goals allowed. Teams may find some way to put pressure on old goaltender combo of Chris Osgood and Dominik Hasek.

Dallas is another great team with young talent and veteran leadership. This team hasn’t been tested much, in my opinion, or done well enough against tough competition. They’ve also not had a good run recently. It’s important to finish strong towards the end of the season so that you can build some momentum going into the playoffs. They have 7 games left to build some momentum.

Calgary is a team I think has a great chance this season. Their current position of 7th is mostly describing their struggle of a start to the season (especially Kipper’s (Miikka Kipprusoff) horrible start). They found their stride and have applied great pressure to Minnesota to hold their lead on the Nortwest. I’m sure by the end of the season though Calgary will have taken it over. Their defensive core is great with Robyn Regehr, Adrian Aucoin, and Dion Phaneuf. They also have amazing leadership in the great Jarome Iginla.

New Jersey was a team, at the beginning of the season, that many saw to struggle. They lost a great puck moving defenseman in Brian Rafalski  and goalscorer, Scott Gomez, on a team that doesn’t play a style where they put many away. They still have a great defensive system in place in NJ and their best defensemen by far is Martin Brodeur. You don’t even need defense when you have this guy. He moves the puck up to forwards, he clears the zone on the penalty kills, and he keeps the puck out of his net. Zack Parise has really developed into the scorer that NJ wanted out of him and he’s still reliable on the defensive end. He’s gone from -3 last season to a ridiculous +21. Talk about accountability!!

Montreal has been a great story for rebuilding. Last season they were 10th place. This season they are 2nd in the East. Alex Kovalev has really stepped up and at the same time raised the game of Sergei Kostitsyn and Tomas Plekanec at the same time. On the back end, Andrei Markov has performed at an exceptional level and Mike Komisarek has been one of the better, tough defenders in the league, shutting down the best of lines. I just don’t think this team has a line that can shut down the top lines of any team and at the same time score goals. Gainey will also be judged on the Huet move this post-season depending on Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak’s play.

Pittsburgh has a great team and they’ve done so much without Sidney Crosby. Evegni Malkin, Ryan Malone, Ty Conklin and Marc-Andre Fleury have taken this team to the heights it’s seen. Conklin led this team while Fleury was out. Malkin did great to replace Crosby. For a while, I forgot Crosby was even on this team. Alright, I’m lying, but still Malkin is on fire. Fleury came back when Conklin went a little soft.

New York has been on fire lately. 7-2-1 is a great record with an amazing home record. Their away record isn’t so good which may harm them while they are not holding home ice advantage. Their two losses in their last 10 were against Florida and Tampa Bay on the road. Henrik  Lundqvist is great, their goalscoring is clicking except for Jaromir Jagr, but their D is still missing a great puck mover and the threat of a  powerplay.

My Champions:

Toronto Maple Leafs:

Hahahahahahhaha, ohhh man I had fun doing that. But seriously it’s the San Jose Sharks for me.These guys have great young players in their system. Joe Pavelski, Devon Setoguchi, Ryane Clowe, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Milan Michalek, and Matt Carle are going to be studs in the future while still making a huge impact on their current roster.  Joe Thornton has done his part and continues to play on fire. He’s got 84 points on the season and 11 points in March. Patrick Marleau has also found his stride with 8 points in March and 4 in his last 4 games but he’s got to be more responsible defensively.

They also filled a HUGE gap in their team which has probably kept them out of the finals in prior seasons. They found a great puck moving defensemen. Well, they probably got the best one in the league right now in Brian Campbell. He’s got 11 points since joining the Sharks with 9 of those coming in March and a 4 game point streak in there.

But what can you say about Evgeni Nabokov. He’s played 70 games including a 10 game winning streak of his own. He’s got 42 wins on the season, 6 shutouts, a 2.15 GAA and a .910 save percentage. He doesn’t need to play exceptional every single game. But when his team is out of it and has no reason to win, he finds a way for them to squeeze one out.

They have a great home record but what is absolutely shocking, is their road record. They are 26-8-3 which is almost equivalent to Detroit’s home record!!!!!!! In their last ten games they are 9-0-1. They are on a great pace and are building lots of momentum which will carry them into the playoffs.

In my opinion, this team was built for the playoffs. I knew the Campbell deal would put this team over the edge. I talked about it after the deadline and they have been over the edge lately. They are my cup winners and I’ll call the Conn Smythe Winner right now too, Nabokov. Who, I think, should also seriously be considered for the Hart with Ovechkin and Malkin. The all-Russian affair, lets do this.

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