NHL Southeast Division Looks to Rebuild: Capitals, Thrashers, Panthers, Lightning

Josh ClarkCorrespondent IApril 1, 2008

The Southeast Division is one of the worst in the league so far.  Well, in three to four years I'll want you to stop complaining and start thinking about how strong the division has become.

Look how far Carolina has come.  The Hurricanes had a great season back in '02.  They made a run to the Stanley Cup, but lost to a superior foe in the Detroit Red Wings.

In the two years following that loss the team struggled, but with a very good rebuilding period through the lock out, they eventually became the Stanley Cup Champions.

So why can't the other teams do that?  Well, the other squads have already started to rebuild.

The Washington Capitals finished 15th or 16th in the Eastern Conference last season.  In one year the team improved, and is just four points out of eighth spot in the conference.  Look out for the Capitals in the next two years.

The Atlanta Thrashers, who are out of contention this year, have a very strong team but struggled this year.  With a high draft pick they can select a very strong player.

Also, this team is young.  As they grow up they'll gain more maturity and will soon exhibit power in the league.

The Florida Panthers are another team already out of contention.  They have always been an average team, but with high draft picks they could soon follow the Capitals' example and make a run for the conference.

The Tampa Lightning only started to slip after the Stanley Cup.  After trading away one of there better players in Richards, they slipped even further.

They have goaltending problems that must be solved, but with a high No. 2 overall draft pick they could pick up a strong player to go along with Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis.

My point here is that the Southeast Division could be a very strong division in years to come.  Look for the Capitals and the Hurricanes to wield real power sooner rather than later.