Monday, October 03, 2005


NHL Brainstorm! Part 4

Intros, preamble and Part 1 are here; Parts 2 & 3 are here and here; or, just scroll down. Here is query #4:

A) Pick one team who you think will break through, and B) pick one team who has been good recently who you think will be bad this year.

A) Florida should do a lot better this year under with Jacques Martin at the helm. As a coach, he's awesome with a young undisciplined team - he nurtured the atrocious Senators into contenders, and will do the same with the Panthers.
B) Toronto won't make the playoffs. The salary cap has gutted their line-up and they are now forced to rely on a haphazard collection of injury-prone old guys and untested rookies. To complicate matters, the Leafs' defense has always taken advantage of the lax referees in the past - but this year's enforcement standards will deprive them of even that crutch.

A) The Oilers--duh.
B) Maybe it's wishful thinking, but I make this the year Colorado's bubble bursts. David Aebischer is the new Hardy Astrom.

A) I think this will be a breakthrough year for Ottawa. They've got Heatley, Spezza, Hasek. I like their chances.
B) Philadelphia. Their major acquisition (Forsberg) just had surgery, I think Gagne is over-rated, Kapenen is injured, and Primeau's getting pretty long in the tooth. 4 of 5 of the last season's top scorers are gone. This is a completely different team. (Yes, I am going far out on a limb here given their 5-0 preseason record. I'm going with my gut.) [Ah, the old 'gut on a limb' - bold! -ed.]

A) The Nashville Predators. Bank it.
B) The St. Louis Blues. This one is a no-brainer. The Blues lost Chris Pronger & Pavol Demitra in the off-season, and Keith Tkachuk came to camp very, very out of shape.

A) Tough to argue against Pittsburgh, as just being in the playoff hunt after last season is a major breakthrough, but the Eastern Conference still has some monster clubs whereas the West looks somewhat weaker outside of the Northwest Division, so I expect the Anaheim Mighty Ducks to put up a lot of wins for new Coach Randy Carlyle.
B) The Detroit Red Wings won't be at the top of the West like we're used to, but the St. Louis Blues are not only going to drop out of playoffs, but well down the standings. Were the Washington Capitals not looking so bad, I would suggest the Blues for worst team in the league.

A) & B) Every year it seems another dark horse makes it to the finals (Calgary, Ducks, 'Canes) -- I'll go with Nashville and Vokoun this year. As for teams on the "outs" this year, St. Louis' consecutive playoff runs will come to an end [insert Keith Tkachuk fat joke here][ed. - OK, Yo Leftwinga's so fat, his Extreme Makeover was shown on "Home Edition"].

A) I think Florida might win the Southeast. They lost no one of any consequence while bringing in Martin Gelinas, Chris Gratton, Joe Nieuwendyk, Gary Roberts and "Coconut" Jozef Stumpel up front. To say they picked up experience is something of an understatement — that's seven Cup rings added to a team that had only two in 2003-2004. A goaltender of Luongo's calibre should be able to carry a mediocre team all by himself, and he won't have to.
B) It'll take some great coaching — or some very bad seasons by some very decent hockey clubs — for St Louis to make the playoffs.

A) Ottawa. This is finally their year to put away TO and make a Cup final. If they were already too good to be considered a breakout team then I go with Columbus. Sure Adam Foote is ancient, Nash has a high-ankle sprain, Klesla is out for 4-6 weeks with a stress fracture, Berard only has one eye, their GM is certifiable, and their goaltending is suspect at best; but they have Manny Malhotra. Besides, in 2003/04 they were the second worst team in in both Goals Against and Goals For - are you telling me they can't improve on that?
B) St.L is the obvious choice; but, I also think that the Leafs will buckle faster than a Stampeder quarterback.

A) I think the Rangers are going to make the playoffs. I say this for two main reasons. First, I want to be the only person who predicted it - or put another way, the level of unanimity about how crappy they’re going to be is ominous. Second, I think Jagr has some elite hockey left in him. There is a heart in there; I've witnessed it, if not recently. If the Blueshirts can get off to a start that’s better than dismal, I think the momentum could really build.
B) Much like I can’t bring myself to count out Sakic, I also can’t write off the Avalanche. I think that makes Vancouver the odd team out. Besides the loss of depth on D and the ongoing problems, I think they’ll miss Brian Burke – anyone think they would have kept it together as well as they did after the Bertuzzi deal without him? I’m guessing that the Canucks won’t deal with adversity very well, which is bad news for any team (a shaky start could perpetuate itself). This prediction is probably one year early, but what the hell.

Come back tomorrow for the fifth and final installment, where our correspondents pick the champs, and tell us how their own teams will fare.


The Florida pick is interesting - I'm half convinced, although the fact that Mike Keenan is still involved is a con, not a pro.

Great quote from Nieuwendyk on the TSN Panthers preview page:
"The young guys will be forced to come along. They have no other choice because we are going to win a lot of hockey games."

Well, jeez. Now I feel stupid for not picking the Oilers. I was looking for somebody who wasn't already obviously a terrific team.

[Ignoring previous comment]

John at Boltsmag reports on the final FLA-TB preseason game, and bolsters Selley and Anderson's pick:

"At least this time the Lightning were able to muster more than a handful of shots — notching 32 during the game and guess what? They were re-introduced to the brick wall known as Roberto Luongo.

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