Ike's 2008-2009 NHL Season Preview
Anaheim- it seems a while ago now that Anaheim won their first Stanley cup. They are still reeling after a shocking first round exit to Dallas. And I have to say, don't expect Anaheim to set the world on fire this year. Sure they'll make the playoffs, but their veteran core is getting older and older, so I see them finishing around 5th or 6th in the conference. Expect a big year from Ryan Getzlaf though.
Atlanta- Atlanta is still laughing from the deal they pulled of with Pittsburgh at the deadline last year. But with no support, don't expect Kovalchuk to be able to get it done by himself. This is still a young team, who I see finishing near the bottom of the east. Look for a big year out of Tobias Enstrom, though. Also Atlanta needs to figure out who is going to be their dependable no. 1 goalie, otherwise they will be going down the drain real fast.
Boston- I really like this team's toughness. They pushed the powerhouse Canadiens to a 7th game last year, and expect the same kind of effort this year. My only issue with them would be goaltending. Tim Thomas is not the guy who will get you to the cup finals. They better hope that Fernandez can come through for them. I like this team, especially with a healthy Bergeron, and expect them to finish around 6th or 7th in the conference. Look for another big year for Savard, and a great sophmore season from David Krejci.
Buffalo- This team has been devestated over the last few years, because it seems that no one wants to play there, or Buffalo can not afford them. Expect this young team to score a lot of goals, but don't expect them to make the playoffs, mainly because of their defense. Expect a big year from Derek Roy. I think they will finish around 9th in the East.
Calgary- I really like the way this team is going. If Kiprusoff can solve his problems with Mike Keenan and post numbers similar to the ones he posted in 04, expect the Flames to be a cup contender. Expect Iginla to mesh nicely with Cammeleri, who will benefit from having larger linemates who can do some of the dirty work. I expect the Flames will win their division and finish 2nd or 3rd in the Conference. Expect a big year from Mike Cammaleri and a Norris-worthy season from Dion Phaneuf.
Carolina- No one really knows what happened to this team. They really came out of no where to win the cup in 06, and have fallen back into obscurity. I don't expect they'll make the playoffs, unless Ward does something spectacular. I expect them to finish 9th or 10th in the east. Expect a nice season from Patrick Eaves.
Chicago- Many new NHL fans (or old ones for that matter) have fallen in love with the young, talented, Blackhawks. This team has a dynamic young core that includes the likes of Toews, Kane, Barker, and Seabrook, along with capable veterans like Campbell, Sharp, and Havlat, who are still relatively young themselves. Now don't expect Chicago to be able to compete with Detroit for the division title, but expect them to make the playoffs, probably around 7th or 8th in the West. Expect a big year from Toews as he bounces back from an injury, as well as a good campaign from Nik Khabibulin.
Colorado- This team could be good, or they could be terrible- it really depends. It depends on whether Sakic and Forsberg play, it depends on whether this team can play defense, and it depends on whether Peter Budaj can be a solid No. 1 goalie. This team has too many "ifs". Now if all these "ifs" turn out the way the Avs want them, expect them to make the playoffs, in the lower half of the conference. But I don't see that happening. I see there being more unsolved "ifs" than solved, so I see the Avs sitting just outside of the playoff picture at years end, around 9th or 10th. Expect a big year though, from Marek Svatos.
Columbus- Will this team ever make the playoffs? This is the one question that many Jackets fans must have. This might be the year, but I doubt it. Last year the Jackets' main problem was a lack of scoring. Leclaire and the defense managed to keep the other teams in check, but Columbus couldn't score. The question really comes down to whether Umberger and Huselius can provide the extra offense that Columbus so desperately needs. I don't think they will. Expect Umberger not to even come close to the pace he set in the playoffs last season, and expect Huselius to have a decent season, but not a great one. I see Columbus finishing anywhere from 9th to 11th in the West.
Dallas- This is a team to watch out for. Marty Turco finally proved that he could perform in the playoffs, and I see Dallas having no trouble getting there. With the scoring touch of Richards and Ribeiro, the leadership and heart of Morrow and Avery, and the goaltending of Turco, expect this team to be one of the toughest in the league to play against. Also expect them to surprisingly win their division over San Jose and finish 2nd in the Conference. I believe the Dallas Stars will be definite Stanley Cup contenders. Expect a big year from Brad Richards.
Detroit- I don't think there is much doubt that Detroit is the class of the NHL. With the addition of Hossa, they only added to their already stacked lineup. I see Detroit running away with their divison, but not as easily as they did last year, because of an improved Chicago. Expect Detroit to finish 1st in the West and to be a Stanley Cup Contender. Look for a MVP calibre season from Henrik Zetterberg.
Edomonton- Everyone thought that Edmonton would be a cellar dwellar last season but they surprised most people in accumulating enough points to make a stab at the playoffs. Unfortunately for them, it was not to be, but expect that to change this year. Edmonton has done nothing except build a strong nucleus of quality young players that can skate. The only question is whether Roloson can play up to the calibre that Edmonton needs, as he is getting older. However, expect this team to have a lot of flair this season, and to finish around 7th in the West. Expect a big year for aquisition Erik Cole, as well as another great season from Sam Gagner.
Florida- Don't expect big things from this team. I don't know if this team will ever climb back up to respectibility. When I look at their roster I only really see 3 decent player- Horton, Bouwmeester, and Vokoun, and with Bouwmeester possibly gone soon, the team will be only getting worse. I expect this team to finish near the bottom of the East, between 13th and 15th. Expect a good year from Horton, though.
Los Angeles- While LA is clearly building a bright future with the likes of Doughty, Hickey, Bernier, and Teubert, I don't expect they'll make much noise in the West this year. They are in a very tough division which has the likes of Anaheim, Dallas, and San Jose. No, Los Angeles won't make the playoffs, but has a bright future. I think they'll be near the bottom of the West again, and in the running for a very nice draft pick. Expect a nice rookie season from Drew Doughty, as well as a stellar campaign from Anze Kopitar.
Minnesota- I believe it is safe to say that this team is going downhill. With the losses of Demitra and Rolston, and now possibly even Gaborik, Minnesota is lacking the quality players that a playoff team needs. They have decent goaltenders, which don't have to do much under Jacques Lemaire's system. The biggest problem for Minnesota this year will be goal-scoring, as I don't see Gaborik and Bouchard being able to produce enough for this team to make the playoffs. I believe that Minnesota will finish last in their division, and out of the playoffs, around 10th in the West.
Montreal- Although this team will be missing the finesse and playmaking of Mark Streit, I see the Canadiens being contenders again in the east. I believe they are certainly the class of the Northeast divison, and should win it quite easily. Montreal has built a team around those who are great skaters, just like the Montreal teams of old. Expect this team to win their division and finish 2nd in the East. Look for great years from Andrei Kostitsyn and Carey Price.
Nashville- Although this team squeaked into the playoffs last year, don't expect it to happen again. They got considerably worse when Radulov skipped town, and are lacking the quality players that a playoff team needs. As well, their goalie situation is not an enviable one, as I'm not sure Dan Ellis is the man. Expect this team to finish well out of the playoffs, near the bottom of the west, as they will get beat up by Detroit and Chicago. Look for nice years from Shea Weber and Martin Erat though.
New Jersey- It seems that the Devils are perennial contenders in the east. While I don't think they'll win the Atlantic, I do see them having a good season and making the playoffs, because of Brodeur, and because of a potent offense including the likes of Parise, Elias, and Rolston. I expect the Devils will thrive once again under the defense-first system of Sutter, and finish anywhere from 4th to 6th in the east. Expect big years from Zach Parise and Elias (if he can stay healthy).
New York Islanders- I believe that the Islanders are truly one of the teams going downhill in the NHL right now. Their top forward is Mike Comrie, along with an aging Bill Guerin. I don't see their offense being good enough to contend in the east, nevermind the stacked Atlantic division. I honestly feel that the Islanders will be the worst team in the NHL this season. Expect nice years though, from Blake Comeau and Mark Streit.
New York Rangers- I truly believe that the New York Rangers are a Stanley cup contender. With a dynamic offense bolstered by new-comers Nik Zherdev and Markus Naslund, as well as a young, mobile defensive corps bolstered by the aqcuisition of Wade Redden, expect the Rangers to be a contender in the east. And who can forget the all-world talent of Henrik Lundqvist. One thing that will hurt them for sure though, is the loss of Sean Avery. Everyone knows that with him in the lineup, the Rangers one a lot more games than when he was out of it. So we'll wait and see. I however, think that the Rangers will get past the Avery thing, and finish anywhere between 4th and 6th in the conference. Expect nice years from Marc Staal and Nik Zherdev.
Ottawa Senators- Still reeling from their late season melt-down last year, many Senators and Hockey fans are wondering if this team will make the post-season. Rest assured, the Senators will make the playoffs. Now that distraction box Emery is gone, I think it can be fairly said that Gerber can just play now, and not look over his shoulder all the time. I think that Ottawa will have a good season, and finish between 4th and 6th in the east. Expect a big season from Heatley, possibly the Rocket Richard trophy, as well as a good year for Anton Volchenkov.
Philadelphia Flyers- On the opposite end of the spectrum than the Islanders, we have the Flyers, who just recently finished one of the biggest 1 season turn arounds in history. When I look up and down the Flyers roster, I get the feeling that Paul Holmgren is a genius. His team is absolutely stacked. And expect a healthy Simon Gagne to more than fill in the loss of R.J. Umberger. With Marty Biron proving that he can be the guy, I feel that the Flyers are a true contender, and will win their divison, finishing ahead of Crosby's Pens. Expect big years from Kimmo Timmonen as well as Mike Richards.
Phoenix Coyotes- Is another good, young, team. I don't expect them to make the playoffs though. The aqcuisition of Jokinen will help but they are in too tough of a divison to compete in the West. Anaheim, Dallas, and San Jose will make short work of them. Expect them to finish out of the playoffs, arund 11th in the West. Look for a big year from Peter Mueller though.
Pittsburgh- Is one of the best teams in the league, and destined to be a contender, but I believe they will fall victim to the runner-up jinx. They will be tired, and will fall prey more easily to good teams like Philly, and the Rangers. That being said, they will obviously make the playoffs, but I don't see them winning their division. Expect big years from Crosby and Ryan Whitney.
San Jose- Another great team in the West, who will be a definite contender. I think they will have a little difficulty at the start of the season adjusting to the style of a new coach, but will have a smoking second half, finishing just behind Dallas for the division win. I expect this team to be Stanley cup contender though. Expect big years from Thornton and Boyle.
St. Louis- Is still laughing after trading aging vet Weight for young the young lightning bolt Andy McDonald. With a great offense anchored by 40 goal man Boyes, McDonald, and Kariya, I don't think the Blues will have any trouble scoring goals. However, I'm not sure if their defense is good enough, and I feel that they will have trouble with Detroit and Chicago. Expect the Blues to finish just outside of the playoff picture, but one of the teams to look for in the future. Expect big years from Erik Johnson, and David Backes.
Tampa Bay- Was one of the busiest teams this offseason and added great talent with the likes of Stamkos, and Malone. However, I don't believe the Lightning's defense is good enough, and I believe that it will fall prey to the Southeast division snipers like Ovechkin, Kovalchuk, and Staal. I believe that Mike Smith is the goalie for the Lightining though. I expect they'll finish just outside of the playoff picture, and if they can aqcuire a good d-man, they will be a team to watch out for in the future. Look for a calder-calibre season from Stamkos, as well as a great season from Vinny.
Toronto- Don't get your hopes up too high, Leafs fans. Although Toskala's a good goalie, I'm not sure that he'll be able to carry the leafs to the playoffs. The Leafs are simply lacking quality players, what a team needs in order to make the playoffs. The Leafs are full of average players, with the exception of Tomas Kaberle and Vesa Toskala. I expect that they will finish well out of the playoff picture, near the bottom of the east. Expect good years though, from Nik Hagman and Anton Stralman.
Vancouver- This team could surprise a lot of people this year. With Luongo, a team always has a chance, and I believe that the aquisitions of Bernier and Demitra will help their offense. I don't think their offense will do anything spectacular though. The big question though, is can their d stay healthy. If they can, the Canucks should make the playoffs, although the won't win their division. I think they'll finish anywhere from 6th to 8th in the West. Expect big years from Luongo, Edler, and Kesler.
Washingon- This team put on a spectacular show near the end of the season last year, and surprised a lot of people by making the playoffs after they won only 6 out of their first 20 games. I expect that the Caps will be the class of their division again, and will thrive under Boudreau again. With their dynamic offense led by Ovechkin and Semin, and a budding star on the blueline in Mike Green, expect the Caps to win their divison, and finish 3rd in the East. Expect big years from Green and Ovechkin.
And that's my preview.
Thanks for taking the time to read it.
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