Here it is, Jason Klau's predictions for the play off teams in both the east and the west
1. Detroit Red Wings- the obvious pick and you all know why. I'd be surprised if they don't win the cup this year
2.San Jose Sharks- they are still a real strong team, even though they lost Campbell. Their top D pair will be Blake and Boyle, and they also added Lukowich, but they've kept their offense together. Todd Mclellan is fresh off of a cup win as an assistant with Detroit, and he can definitely step in as a head coach now
3. Edmonton Oilers- They just barely missed the playoffs after an amazing run at the end of the season and fans in Edmonton have a reason to be excited. They've mostly kept the team together, but they also added Visnovsky on defense. Cole should step in and be really good for them, and Brule might have just needed a change of scenery. If so, look for Edmonton to win the division.
4. Dallas Stars- They really impressed everyone last year with their run to the conference finals. With guys like Morrow and Ribeiro leading the way, along with Brad Richards, Mike Modanno up front and Zubov and Robidas on defense, they are going to be really good. They kept their team in tact for the most part, but also added Avery, and Swedish star Fabian Bruunstrom
5. Chicago Blackhawks- The young team just lost Robert Lang to a trade, but they still have a real solid team. They didn't miss the playoffs by much, and remember, Johnathan Toews was injured for a while. Now, Toews, along with Kane, and defensemen Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith are a year older and ready to pounce. Expect Jack Skille to try and grab a spot this year and contribute as well. They really over payed for Brian Campbell, but it might prove to be worth it. It's a solid investment that showed they were ready to play and play seriously. Expect them to have a real good year.
6. Anaheim Ducks- They have some of the best defenseman around, and with young fowards like Ryan Getlaf, Chris Kunitz, and Corey Perry leading the way, they are sure to be a solid playoff team this year. They kept their team together, and maybe a full year of Neidermayer, along with the addition of Brendan Morrison, they will be just as good, if not better then last year.
7. Minnesota Wild- They won the division last year, but they lost some key guys. Rolston and Demitra are both gone, but they still have Gaborik and that has to count for something right? Gabby has lost some of his supporting cast, but he still has guys like Mikko Koivu, and P.M Bouchard, along with the addition of old fan favorite (I believe he scored their first every goal, as well as scoring series winners in 2 playoff series in 2003) and that should be enough to get them in the playoffs. Defenseman Brent Burns just had elbow surgery and might miss the start of the season, but should be back and putting up good numbers from the blueline, along with newly acquired defenseman Marek Zdlicky
8. Columbus Blue Jackets- Finally, they get their first playoff appearance. They made some key additions, with Umberger and Torres along with Huselius, Commodore, and Tyutin. Pascal Leclaire showed that there is a reason to have confidence in him, and if he wasn't hurt last year, the Jackets might have been closer last year. If he isn' as good, prospect Steve Mason is also waiting to take over. If Fredrik Modin can stay healthy for a full season, and Umberger keeps up his playoff form of last year, the Blue Jackets may surprise some.
close but no cigar:
Phoenix Coyotes-They have a real goalie for a full year, and some young talent with Mueller and Turris, who will be led by big trade acquisition Olli Jokinen. But when THN lists your 2nd line winger as Todd Fedoruk, you are in trouble. They don't have the depth to be a real good team, at least not yet.
Calgary Flames- They added Cammalleri which might help, but they also lost Tanguay, and Huselius, who was really good with Iginla. Their top line is lethal, and they have a pretty good D (Phanuef is pretty good isn't he?) but I don't think they have enough scoring after their top line to get in the playoffs. I don't think they are better then they were last year. They might make the playoffs, but I don't think so
1. Pittsburgh Penguins- I hate them, but there is no doubting their talent. They lost a few guys, but they kept some key players that led them to the cup finals. If Crosby is healthy for a full year, then they win the conference
2. Montreal Canadiens- They just added Robert Lang to a team that is already full of talent. The brothers Kostitsyn are leading the way o young talent, on a team with guys like Higgins, Latendresse and Kyle Chipchura who are all looking for new contracts after this season. Saku Koivu and Alexei Kovalev are both really good players that give the Habs some great skill up front. Their glaring weakness was their toughness, but they addressed that by signing the best fighter in the league, Georges Laraque
3. Washington Capitals- Ovie is ready to show that he can lead his team to be a real serious threat. A full year with Sergei Fedorov along side him will help. Michael Nylander put up good numbers before his injury. If Chris Clark can stay healthy as well, then Washington will be a real good team. Ovechkin is the most dangerous player in the league with the puck, and don't expect that to change. They've kept the team together, but added goalie Jose Theodore, who at one point was one of the best goalies around. His play has slipped since then, but he's still a good goalie who is capable of taking a team to the playoffs. Expect defenseman Karl Alzer to make a serious bid for a spot on the roster, and Ray Bourque's son Chris is also a candidate. Playing in the south east won't hurt the Caps chances this year either
4. New York Rangers- Ok the homer pick is in. While some people aren't as optimistic, we are still a good team. We are very defensively responsible, and expect us to be among the top teams in that category again. Zherdev only needs to up his output a little bit to be the legit first line winger we need him to be. Scott Gomez finally has someone who can keep up with him, and Naslund put up real good numbers in an offensively challenged system in Vancouver. If Prucha finds his old form (and he should, with more playing time as he enters his contract year) then expect the Rangers to be a better offensive team then most expect.
5. Philadelphia Flyers- They shocked everyone with a great year last year, going all the way to the conference finals just one season after being the worst team in the league. They need Lupul to stay healthy, and if he does, they will have a very potent offense. One knock on them would be their defensive depth. They have a real good top pair with Coburn and Timmonen, and Randy Jones is not bad either, but can Derian Hatcher stay healthy and play like he has played before? Can Ryan Parent do it in his first full season? Will Ossi Vannanen be able to step up? Either way, they'll be a good team, but there is a lot riding on their defense this year
6. Ottawa Senators- They traded Meszaros and lost Redden, so they have some holes to fill on defense. They still have what was widely considered the most dangerous line in hockey with Heatly, Spezza and Alfredsson. They also added Jarko Ruutu up front, but are they to reliant on their first line? They can finally put the Ray Emery days behind them, but will their goalie situation be better? Gerber will be the starter, but can he keep it up for a full year? Will Alex Auld be a solid enough backup? We will see. They are a playoff team again, but this season, they will not have the expectations they did to start last year
7. Boston Bruins- Losing Patrice Bergeron to an injury last year seemed like a hit to hard for them to overcome. Still, they got in to the playoffs as an 8th seed and gave the Montreal Canadiens a run for their money. Their only real addition was Michael Ryder, and if he can get back to his old 30 goal self, should be a real good signing for the B's. They still have Savard, who is one of the most underrated centers in the league. I think it isn't so hard to rank him right near the top, but he never gets credit. He finally got in the all-star game, because an injury bumped him in late. In goal, the Bruins have 3 possible starters. Tim Thomas led them to the playoffs, but can Manny Fernandez stay healthy enough to be the starter? Or will prospect Tuuka Rask steal a spot?
8. New Jersey Devils- They were a mediocre team that relaly over achieved last year. This year, they'll have familiar faces Bobby Holik and Brian Rolston. While Holik shouldn't do to much to the offense, Rolston is a really good 2-way foward that should give them some of the offense they were desperately lacking last year. They will live and die by the paly of Martin Broduer though. If he doesn't play well, they have absolutely no shot. If he goes down with an injury, expect them to be in the Hedman/Tavares sweepstakes. If either of those happens, expect one of these two teams to take their spot as the 8th seed
Close but no cigar:
Carolina Hurricanes- They haven't made the playoffs since their cup win, but they do have some talent. Brind'Amour is still a top player, and Eric Staal is an elite forward. They improved their defense by getting Pitkannen, but have they improved enough to get back to the playoffs?
Buffalo Sabres- They finally showed that they would shell out money for a player they need to keep, when they signed Ryan Miller to a big extension. They also showed they'd give Miller some rest with the signing of back up goalie Patrick Lalime. They added Craig Rivet to get a physical defenseman that they needed. Expect guys like Sekera and Weber to step up to take a roster spot. If Vanek can improve, they will have a good set of forwards, with guys like Pomminville, Roy, Hecht, and Stafford. They will be close, but still, I don't think they are a playoff team, not yet. Some of their younger players are still improving though, and they aren't that far away
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