Five Teams Set To Climb the Standings in the Upcoming NHL Season
With the 10/11 Regular Season rapidly approaching, us NHL fans continue to make our predictions for the upcoming season. Predictions like, who will win the cup, who will get the first overall pick in the NHL draft and plenty other subjects.
With a new season teams have the chance to improve themselves and better their play from the previous season. Going into this season I think there are already a few teams who are standing out in that area. Teams that have shown promise to improving this season, scoring more points and making the playoffs.
With that being said here is a list of 5 teams to look out for when the 10/11 NHL season kicks off.
Tampa Bay Lightning
For several of the past seasons the Lightning have struggled to move out of the Eastern Conference basement. However, this year things are looking up for the Lightning.
The Lightning are looking like a playoff team going into the 10/11 season. They are stacked with a loads of talent. With plenty of talent on the offensive end such as Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, Simon Gagne, Ryan Malone, etc. they’re offensive looks like it’s ready to explode.
In one of my recent pieces I mentioned that St. Louis and Steven Stamkos are proving to be quite the duo on the team. They both finished in the Top 10 last season for points in the regular season with Stamkos scoring 95 points and St. Louis scoring 94. With the help of St. Louis, Stamkos managed to capture the Rocket Richard Trophy for the most goals in the NHL with 51.
The pairing of Simon Gagne and Vincent Lecavalier should be an interesting one too. When healthy Simon Gagne is as good as any guy out there on the ice. It will be interesting to see how Lecavalier and Gagne work together on one line and whether they will become yet another duo to be feared on the ice.
Add some great defensive players to the mix like Steve Downie and the Lightning offense is looking really good. With the kind of production the Lightning could have, they should be feared every time they come down the ice.
Along with a great offense, the Tampa defense isn’t looking too bad either. With players like Mattias Ohlund, Pavel Kubina, Paul Ranger, Victor Hedman and others they aren’t looking too shabby either.
Hedman, who is still getting better, should be someone the other teams keep an eye out for on the ice. He put up 20 points in his first season with the Lightning, last year. He is built like a tank and his point production should continue to rise with each season that he plays.
Lastly, we take a look at the goaltending. Dan Ellis and Mike Smith will be battling it out for the starting job in Tampa. A goaltending controversy isn’t always the best thing to have on the team, but hopefully at some point in the season the clear starter will be determined.
Throw in a great GM in Steve Yzerman who could make an impactful trade if needed and Tampa Bay is certainly a team that you should be keeping an eye out for.
Toronto Maple Leafs
Leafs Nation rejoice, our team is finally looking like it could make the playoffs. Brian Burke has done a good job of rebuilding the team into a team we could be proud of and he did it fast. He’s brought in some guys we thought we’d never see, got some great prospects and so much more.
Let’s start with the offense. You’ve got some good offensive players on here like Phil Kessel, Kris Versteeg, Colby Armstrong, Mikhail Grabovski, Fredrik Sjostrom as well as some others. Tyler Bozak and Nikolai Kulemin are both looking like they are going to be breakout stars this upcoming season. Of course nothing is a guarantee, but it’s looking very likely.
Nazem Kadri is set to debut for the Maple Leafs this season. When the Maple Leafs drafted Kadri they knew exactly what they were getting. Kadri will develop into a great 1st line center for the Toronto Maple Leafs and will be producing plenty of points for the Leafs for years to come.
Moving onto defense, the Leafs have some incredible depth on the blue line. You’ve got your new captain, Dion Phaneuf leading the group. The Phaneuf deal still amazes me to this very day. The Maple Leafs got the way better deal when they sent Mayers, Stajan and White to Calgary for Phaneuf and Sjostrom.
Along with Dion you also have some good defenseman in Francois Beauchemin, Mike Komisarek, Luke Schenn and company.
With Burke looking to move Kaberle out of Toronto, the Leafs will lose one of the best offensive minded defenseman in the league. But rest assured that Burke won’t deal Kaberle unless he gets someone in return to his liking. Look for Burke to pick up a Top 6 forward for the Leafs. If not, what does it matter? We keep one of the better defenseman in the league.
Finally when you turn to goaltending you got two great goalies in Jean-Sebastien Giguere and Jonas Gustavsson. With Giggy mentoring the young, yet capable Jonas Gustavsson he should turn into a great starting goalie for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Finally someone we can trust between the pipes.
Look for Toronto to sneak into the playoffs as a 7th or 8th seed and possibly play the underdog role when it comes to the playoffs.
From 15th to 8th? Hey it could happen and if anyone can make it happen, it will be the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers are a good, young team with loads of potential. They finished last place in the entire NHL last season, but it let them draft Taylor Hall first overall to the franchise.
Hall is a player who can make an immediate impact in the NHL, maybe even along the lines of Alex Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby. Hall was said to be the most NHL ready player in this year’s NHL Draft and we’ll see this season if that is indeed the case.
The Oilers are a very young team, which means the players will continue to play in the NHL for years to come. There are only 5 players on the Oilers team at this point who are above the age of 30, only 2 of those are 35 and older.
The Oilers have some good scorers on their team along with some adgetators that will help them play in the tough Western Conference. Guys like Horcoff, Hemsky, Gagner and Cogliano have to contribute on the scoreboard for the Oilers to get the win, night in and night out. Meanwhile a guy like Steve Macintyre has to play the adgetator role well and provide some big hits on the ice.
Ryan Whitney, Sheldon Souray and James Vandermeer are going to be key players on defense. With them playing at top form the Oilers should have a solid blue line helping out whoever is between the pipes for the Oilers.
Speaking of which, it looks like we may have a goaltending controversy in Edmonton down the line as well. As I previously mentioned, a goaltending controversy is not the best thing to have for the team, but hopefully a clear starter will be determined upon at some point.
With that all taken into consideration, the Oilers could easily climb up the standings in the west. Look for them to sneak into the playoffs in the final days of the season and show exactly what they are made of in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Next up are the Boston Bruins. I wrote an article about the Bruins not too long ago and how they could easily be a Stanley Cup Contender this upcoming season. I still stand by that to this day. The Bruins are built like a monster for the upcoming season and are looking like they could easily go on to capturing the Northeast Division.
Boston has an explosive offense with guys like Patrice Bergeron, Nathan Horton, David Krejci and others on the team.
Watching Tyler Seguin develop in Boston will be an amazing thing too. Seguin has loads of potential and should have no problems making an impact in Beantown sooner or later.
When it comes to the defense the Bruins are still missing a Top 3 defenseman. They’ve got Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, now they just need one more. As we all know Savard is being shopped around by the Bruins as we speak. Obviously Peter Chiarelli will be looking to pick up a Top 3 defenseman for Savard.
Lastly, between the pipes you have Tuukka Rask who is molding into one of the goaltending elite in the National Hockey League. Rask should do a good job backstopping the Bruins to some much needed victories in the regular season. And if anything they can always go to backup goaltender, Tim Thomas for the game and the win.
With that being said Boston could be a serious threat to the cup as soon as the playoffs kick off.
Check out more about Boston being a contender:
Last season the Flyers proved that anything is possible. A team that had to win in a shootout, found themselves playing for the Stanley Cup. Unfortunately they would go on to lose to the Chicago Blackhawks. Nonetheless, Philadelphia proved they should not be taken lightly.
Michael Leighton was a big story for the Flyers last year in the playoffs. He posted some great stats and played some inspired hockey to help the Flyers reach the final once Boucher went down with an injury. Now it looks like he will be the starter for the Flyers as they look to enjoy some nice regular season success and possibly return to the final.
Brian Boucher provides a good backup for the Flyers and could easily take over for them if Leighton proves to be a bust.
When it comes to offense, the Flyers lost a big player this offseason in Simon Gagne, but not before they picked up someone just as good in Nikolai Zherdev. Seeing Zherdev play along side with someone like Mike Richards will be interesting to say the less. Both could benefit from one another.
Other key players on the Flyers offense will be Jeff Carter, Danny Briere, Ian Laperriere and others.
The Flyers defense is arguably the best in the NHL. I mean just look at some of the guys they have, Braydon Coburn, Andrej Meszaros, Chris Pronger, Kimmo Timonen are just a few big names on the team. Their defenders are both defensively gifted and can get the puck in the net which just makes Philadelphia that much more dangerous.
With that being said look for the Flyers to place much higher than last season and possibly beat out some of the top dogs like Washington and Pittsburgh on their route back to the final.
Well those are the 5 teams you should keep an eye out for when the season starts if you ask me.
Feel free to debate me on some of them in the comment section below.
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