With the success of the Detroit Red Wings through defensive minded hockey, many teams are trying to build teams with defensive minded forwards, and stay at home defenseman.
There are a few teams that are on the rise, and could be teams to look out for. One of those teams is the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Lightning revamped their roster through solid drafting and free agency. The Bolts drafting of superstar Steve Stamkos gave them another play-maker along with Vincent Lecavalier. The Lightning also reunited with the speedy Vaclav Prospal. With the additions of Gary Roberts, Ryan Malone, and Adam Hall the bolts have added toughness to a finesse team.
Another team that could surprise people could be the Atlanta Thrashers. In no way do I believe their a shoe in to make a playoff spot, but the Thrashers are a young team with good talent. Ilya Kovalchuck will be looked at as the leader for the inexperienced Thrashers. The Thrashers definitely got bang for their buck in the Marian Hossa trade.
Atlanta acquired solid forwards Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen. The Thrasher's prospects were also impressive last year, as Tobias Enstrom became a more than sufficient replacement for Alexei Zhitnik. The Key acquisitions of Ron Hainsey and Jason Williams can't hurt either. In the west there are also some teams possibly climbing out of the cellar.
The Chicago Blackhawks quickly come to mind. There defense is extremely solid, as they pulled off signing Brian Campbell. Along with, in my opinion an extremely underated Keith Duncan and Brent Sopel. This defense should help limit key neutral zone turnovers.
Veterans like Martin Havlat and Robert Lang will definitely need to step up, and add some offense, to keep Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Sharp from having to carry the offensive load.
One other team I see possibly on the rise could be the Edmonton Oilers. The Oilers added excellent two way forward Erik Cole to their lineup, along with Gilbert Brule.
The Oilers already sport solid defense, especially with the acquisition of veteran Lubomir Visnovsky, along with Sheldon Souray and Steve Staios. The Oilers need to get production from their young stars, such as Ales Hemsky, Sam Gagner, and all star Shawn Horcoff.
It should be interesting to see if any unexpected teams surprise the hockey world. Here are my predicted standings and Stanley Cup Matchup....
Eastern Conference Western Conference
1. Pittsburgh 1. Detroit
2. Montreal 2. Dallas
3. NY. Rangers 3. Anaheim
4. Washington 4. Minnesota
5. Philadelphia 5. San Jose
6. Tampa Bay 6. Chicago
7. Ottawa 7. Colorado
8. New Jersey 8. Calgary
Predicted Stanley Cup finals Match up: Tampa Bay vs. Dallas
Outcome: Dallas in 5 games