Move Over Blackhawks, It's My Turn: 2010-11 Candidates For The Cup
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This offseason has been quite a rush. We have had blotched deals, talks of Vodka and loads of money, shocking trades sending familiar faces in different places but one question is on every hockey fanatic's mind.
Who will win the Stanley Cup in 2010-2011?
Here is an odd list of six teams (3 from the East and 3 from the West) who might just wing it and win the Stanley Cup next year. These are teams which have either a very constant level of play in the past years or a complete makeover for next season, and their time to shine just might be now.
And Chicago is not in it.
Eastern Conference: Washington Capitals
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Ok, let's face it, almost no one outside Washington likes Ovechkin. Many think he's cocky and some hockey players have even called him a douche.
But that douche resembles a raging bull. The angrier he gets, the bigger the threat he becomes. I mean, losing in the 1st round and being embarrassed in Olympic hockey? He's got a big chip on his shoulder and that will raise his game even further. (Either that or his season will be a complete flop, and that's unlikely.)
They have other young players who have been proved and approved by the NHL level of play. Backstrom, Semin and Fleischmann have all developed properly into threats every time they hit the ice.
The reason why they are here is simply put talent. They are a well rounded team, with good head coaching, veterans who provide leadership, talented defensemen and a very, very powerful offense.
Before any Bruce Boudreau haters came calling, let's face it, he knows how to lead the team into a good performance. That they met against the Great Wall of Halak is another thing. (Just ask the dumbfounded Penguins).
Every team, however, has its flaws and here's one right off the bat: Goaltending. There something about Jose Theodore that tells me he has never been able to pick up his game in later years and Varlamov has not completely developed into an NHL level Goalie.
This is a year in which we could see Ovechkin finally lift the Cup.
Eastern Conference: Ottawa Senators
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When will the Senators finally win?
Gonchar is a great addition to a team that changed very little offensively but signed four defensemen to finally tweak details in a team that needed just a small push to become a feared opponent.
Offensively, they don't lack talent but must further work on a faulty powerplay, something last year's play has helped in. Jason Spezza seems to be back in form scoring nearly a point per game, even though he missed 22 games last season.
Then there's the Cap'n Alfredsson. Alfie is alright by me, I like the way he plays and the heart he puts into the game. His production remains constant though not impressive, but his leadership is invaluable.
Finally, the topic of interest, and usually overlooked in this team, is the goaltending. I think Pascal Leclaire is an underrated goaltender who will perform as expected next season and he will find the form which earned him a spot in Ottawa.
This is a team in which very little players are current superstars. Names like Kovalev are no longer are impressive but still maintain their production and that's why their a threat in the league; all around, they have productive players bringing a constant level of play throughout the season.
Expect Ottawa to go far this season.
Eastern Conference: Tampa Bay Lightning.
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Ok, work with me for a second before you go: huh?
Stamkos, Lecavalier, St. Louis, Gagne, Downie, Clark, Ohlund and Kubina. Right there you have talented scoring, veteran leadership, a physical style of play in Downie and gritty defensemen who can bring their A Game day in and day out.
The Lightning are a completely reworked team for 2010-2011, with a new GM, Head Coach and many players brought in. This is the key to their future success; having such a great change is sometimes great for a franchise and this team is, in my opinion, not in rebuilding mode. They want to go back to their Stanley Cup form.
And they can do it.
Dan Ellis was brought in to provide veteran expertise and, though he has been criticized for his play, I think he'll work just fine in Tampa and take off the load that was excerted on Mike Smith, a player that will excel as a backup.
Steve Yzerman has confidence in his team and Tampa natives should too. They are definitely a force to be reckoned with and the race in their division should be a fun one.
Eastern Conference: Teams That Didn't Make The List and Why
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Here are teams in the East that didn't make the list:
New Jersey Devils: Last year's playoff loss indicated, amongst many things, that Martin Brodeur is no longer the great goaltender he once was. They brought in Johan Hedberg as a backup to help lower the load on Brodeur but Hedberg is 37 years old and hasn't played great as of late. They will reach the playoffs but are not in Stanley Cup form.
Pittsburgh Penguins: There really isn't a reason against them to win the Stanley Cup, but then again, there is no reason for them to win it. It's a talented team, just as they were last year. And they didn't win. Perhaps, the team needs a special element to be added so they become champions again.
Buffalo Sabres: This team is pretty much the same as last season. Last season they didn't win, when many said that it would be the year Ryan Miller would finally lift the Stanley Cup. It won't happen this year because they haven't worked hard on bringing players which can help in elements like the powerplay and faceoff win percentage.
Philadelphia Flyers: Don't rely so much on a young goaltender like Leighton if you're a Flyers Fan. He still has a lot to prove and saying that they will reach the finals is a farfetched decision if one hasn't seen the way he can handle a full season. Their goaltending is the clear question mark here; Boucher hasn't been healthy lately and Emery is way overrated, if you ask me, so the weight is going to fall square on Michael's shoulders.
Western Conference: Detroit Red Wings
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Someone once said that the Detroit Red Wings are like Red Wine (no pun intended), they get better with age. I hate saying this but, once again, Detroit is a threat for the Cup.
A very dangerous threat.
Jimmy Howard will play just like he did last season, and that's good. He's young, eager to play and, just in case he falters a bit, the team has veteran Chris Osgood as a back up. He's won before and he can do it again; there's still gas left in his tank.
With players like Bertuzzi, Zetterberg, Datsyuk and Filppula, their offense is pretty much complete. Now, add Mike Modano to the mix so he can help the lower lines (3rd and 4th) and you will see players like Helm get the little push they need to increase their play to Stanley Cup level once again.
After all, Babcock said Helm is the best player from start to finish his team has.
Defensively, I don't think there's much explanation needed, as these defensemen DO get better with age. Just look at the list: Lidstrom, Rafalski, Stuart, Kronwall and now, they have added veteran Ruslan Salei.
With players like this, and many of them with the yearning for one last Cup, Detroit can once again lift Lord Stanley.
Western Conference: Vancouver Canucks
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Yet again, as an Avalanche Fan, I am talking out of sense and not out of passion.
Vancouver will finally get his break. I say his and not its because it pretty much sums up the player which has been under great scrutiny by many eyes in the hockey community: Roberto Luongo.
He has been largely criticized for the amount of money he gets, the performances he has had in the playoffs and whether he simply is good enough to win the Cup or not.
Well, he is. He did win a gold medal after all, and that's not easy.
The team has offensive talent and added key players that will provide the necessary push for Lord Stanley.
If you just look at this roster, you will see a very complete team: Sedins, Ehrhoff, Luongo, Salo (although after that injury, I doubt any man can play the same), Kesler, Malhotra (Key in faceoffs), Ballard and Samuelsson.
I might've once said that them winning the Cup is farfetched but, thinking about it, I take back those comments.
This can be your year, Roberto.
Western Conference: San Jose Sharks
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Truth be told, I had a really hard time deciding over which team would take the third spot in this list for the Western Conference.
And this is why I believe this team can win this season; they have changed a major position in their roster. Having decided not to offer Nabokov a contract was probably the best thing the team could've done.
Yes, I know I've said it's not good to rate goaltenders with just one (or half in this case) good season, but face it, Niemi is good. He will have less of a load, since they also acquired Antero Niittymaki, who is a good, but not great, goaltender. The latter has also proved to be a good backup.
It's a great combination if you ask me.
Offensively, there hasn't been much doubt, I believe, that they are talented.
That won't change this year, in fact, they will only get to be more comfortable.
Defensively, it's a sound team with very little improvement needed.
Look at the team, and you say: the only thing that has changed is the goaltender. And that's why this team will perform very differently this year. It's not that Nabokov wasn't a good player, he was, and San Jose is talented, but it's not mandatory that they were to work well together.
Western Conference: Teams That Didn't Make It and Why
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Los Angeles Kings: They are talented, very, but lack depth and playoff experience by most of their players. Give this team a couple of years and we can be seeing them lifting Lord Stanley, but not yet. Jonathan Quick is a great goaltender and he will be good in the years to come, so Kings fans rejoice.
Phoenix Coyotes: This is a syndrome similar to Los Angeles, they had a great season, but lacked the depth and unification other teams have. Their latest additions will eventually develop into great players, like Wolski (you can thank Colorado for that) and other veterans are meant to provide the necessary leadership for a great team, but this season, they still have a long way to go. But with Coach Tippet on the helm, fear not, Coyotes fans, they will be good.
Colorado Avalanche: I'll make this quick. They are TOO young and inexperienced to be able to provide the necessary depth. Defensively, they still need improvement from last season, since they were one of the worst in that department. Anderson has proven he can play, but he can't do it all.
Chicago Blackhawks: The reason why Chicago won't make it to the Cup finals is very simple. They might maintain their core players, but they have lost key players responsible for providing those points that eventually add up into wins. Turco is not the goaltender he once was and they are facing a very tough division. They will make the playoffs (the talent in the roster foretells they will) but won't be repeating as Cup Champions.
This has been a ranking of posibilites, which are endless. Please, let me know who you think will win the Stanley Cup. Thanks for reading.