Welcome back to part two of by “Fear or Not to Fear” articles. This time we are going to look at teams 16-30. Once again this is just my opinion please do not be offended if I do not wet my dungarees at the mention of your team. Just because I am not afraid of your team it does not mean they are a bad team and by the same token if I am afraid of your team it does not necessarily mean you are going to win the Stanley Cup or even make the Playoffs.
Montreal- Afraid. The part that really scares me is how the “Canadians” have three of the four players in the NHL from Belarus. In all seriousness this is an underrated team and with multiple lines that score every night backed with whatever amazing young goaltender they may want to start. The Kostitsyn brothers are double threat and Alexei Kovalev is just sick. I could see this team going places in the Cup Finals with one or two more pieces.
Nashville- Afraid. Before you start yelling listen to my point. I already explained that the Central division is a bunch of pissed off children with the exception of Detroit and they are about to have amazing seasons (Detroit is not an exception here). Nashville is no different than Chicago or Columbus in that regard. They have this never ending pit of good players. Three different starting goalies in three years and they all had winning records except Chris Mason this year. They keep losing players then snagging under the radar players. This is another team that is built with pieces rather than superstars so there are not any particular names to be that afraid of individually.
New Jersey- Not Afraid. You heard me. Hopefully someone in Newarkheard me too because you should not be afraid of this team and that needs to change. They lost four top tier defensemen and have only really added Johnny Oduya, who you should be slightly nervous about. This was another team built on role players and it seems to not fit that well anymore. Zach Parise, Patrik Elias, and John Madden are your scary guys for this team with Martin Brodeur always lurking in the background.
New York Islanders- Not Afraid. I just do not get this team’s identity. I think they are in a limbo area between rebuilding and making a playoff run. They are still not a bad team I just do not see them making waves any time soon as a team. Several of their players will be making waves however, guys like Jeff Tambellini and Kyle Okposo should be on your players to watch list.
New YorkRangers- Afraid. I can not tell you the hell I will get from my fellow Devils fans about this, but it is true. They have several players fading out while several fear prospects like Ryan Callahan, Nigel Dawes, and Brandon Dubinsky are fading in. The most feared of all should be Henrik Lundqvist and not just because he actually has a “q” in his name that is not followed by a “u”. He is a top three goaltender and he is only 25. I think the Rangers still have some distance to go before they lift Stanley but they seem to be on the right track.
Ottawa-Afraid. They have a high powered offense (and the payroll to prove it) and a good puck moving defense. I think they lack stability in net and seem to be a little weak on the defensive side of the puck. Fix a couple things and stop choking in the playoffs and this could be an even scarier team. Oh, Heatley, Spezza, and Alfredsson in case you had been living under a rock and did not know to fear them.
Philadelphia-Afraid. If the Rangers comment did not black me then this definitely will. I can not help but be afraid. This is a young talented team that plays with a very nasty edge. Watching them is starting to give me flash backs involving stories about the Broadstreet Bullies. They finally got a starting goalie after looking for years. The only knock I really have against them is their defense might be having walker fights with Anaheim’s defense. Simon Gagne and Mike Richards are your big fear guys possibly with Jeff Carter and R.J, Umberger in the wings. Briere was a -22 during the regular season and until he improves that I am not the least bit afraid of him.
Phoenix- Not Afraid. They have a great captain in Shane Doan and some really frightening young talent in Peter Mueller and Kyle Turris. What a great pick up Ilya Bryzgalov was and for nothing! Now that is scary. This team is on the down side of the rebuilding hill and the only thing they can really do is sit back and wait for their players to grow and mature.
Pittsburgh- Not Afraid. I think a team with 4 good lines is better than a team like Pittsburgh that has 2 great lines. I think the defense needs work and they need some cheap third or forth line guys (which should not be too hard to find). Malkin is amazing in my opinion and he does not need help he just needs to get more comfortable in the spotlight. Crosby could be so much better if the Pens find a guy he has amazing chemistry with that is a finisher and I am sorry to say that guy is not Hossa (although you should fear him where ever he ends up). Crosby can set up a million people with perfect passes but if none of them can finish then it is useless. Keep an eye on the Pens since they will be a drastically different team next year.
San Jose- Afraid. The only thing this team is lacking is some second or third line scoring. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau are amazing players and this should not be breaking news but you should fear them. They have a very nice blend of age and I think it shows they will stay this way for awhile. Michalek and Cheechoo are forwards to lookout for and Matt Carle on defense should make you a bit weak in the knees.
St Louis-Afraid. The final Central Division team in my list and it really should not surprise you. However, I will say this; the Blues are the least scary of the Central teams right now. They have some age issues and goalie issues but they have a really underrated defense and a ton of prospects. T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund, Lars Eller, David Perron, and Erik Johnson are this team’s future and they could all play now if the Blues wanted. Keep veterans Keith Tkachuk and Paul Kariya on your fear list because they should already be there.
Tampa Bay-Not Afraid. Not even the thought of Steven Stamkos putting on a lightning bolt can make me afraid of this team. They fixed their goalie problem (they hope) but are lacking some serious depth on both ends of the ice. It would make sense to me for the Bolts to trade their pick to a team like Columbus who has two first round draft picks and lots of third and forth line guys rather than get a #1 center, which they already have. If they can fill some gaps and Lecavalier, St Louis, and Boyle continue to play like they do, then we can look to see if the Bolts are scary.
Toronto- Not Afraid. This team as is stands now will not have to try to win the Tavares contest because they will come in dead last without any thought. They have the depth guys that other teams are looking for like Steen, Antropov, and Ponikarovsky, but outside of Sundins they have no real top line quality guys. They actually have an inflated salary defense, but I would say they are good. They have a couple options for goalie. All things considered it could be worse, not much worse, but still worse.
Vancouver- Not afraid. The Sedin Twins are a pretty amazing thing to watch if you have never seen them before. Ryan Kesler and Taylor Pyatt are good up and coming players. Luongo is Luongo and if you do not know anything about hockey that means you should be afraid of him. That is about all I can say about the Canucks. They have a lot of work to do to fill in holes and add more star power and make me afraid of them.
Washington-Afraid. I had them as my dark horse this year in the East and it turns out I was right. The Caps have lots of offense and a solid defense that will only get better after Karl Alzner joins. Nicklas Backstrom, Alexander Semin, and of course Alexander Ovechkin (best player in the league in my opinion) make up the bulk of the offense with some second and third line contributions. Mike Green and Tom Poti are your fear-inspiring defensemen. They also have a pretty good French non-Canadian goalie in Huet. Young with a hint of veteran and deep while being solid at both ends of the ice, I am willing to bet that Washington will no longer be a dark horse and will be bringing some serious fear for years to come.
Most Afraid (not necessarily the best teams): Philadelphia, Montreal, San Jose, Colorado, and Minnesota
Least Afraid (not necessarily the worst teams): Tampa Bay, Toronto, Vancouver, New York Islanders, and Atlanta