Thursday, September 28, 2006

NHL Eastern Conference Preview + quick NFL picks

Hey all...

Well, Hockey is back starting next week. I don'tknow about you, but I'm pretty freakin' excited. 2005-2006 turned out to be the best hockey year in a long long time. The scoring was up, the play was much more exciting and the game just simply looked better. We had great playoffs, headlined by the Oilers magical run. This year, some teams, like the Boston Bruins reloaded in a big way. The Canadiens made some subtle changes that could pay big dividends. The San Jose Sharks added Mark Bell of Chicago to an already potent offense. The Canucks changed their coach (Alain Vigneault is in for Marc Crawford), their goalie (Roberto Luongo replaces Dan Cloutier) and their whole philosophy, really. The Oilers traded their unhappy MVP, Chris Pronger, to the Ducks (who have ditched the "Mighty" from their name), for young sniper Joffrey Lupul, and then lost 2 more starters on their blue line.. And so a team that took the Stanley Cup winners to 7 games by playing great defense will now look to win games by outscoring the opposition. Dominik Hasek is back in Detroit (what are they thinking?) while Brendan Shanahan left "HockeyTown" for "The Big Apple", Evgeni Malkin has arrived in Pittsburgh and the Lightning may have found a goaltender. These are just a few of the biggest storylines we'll be looking at this year.

Now, before we get to our preview of the Eastern Conference, let me announce that I will be adding another segment to this blog next week. Indeed, joining "The Dwarf's Tuesday NFL Musings" and "Friday NFL Picks" will be my new NHL column, "Between the Pipes". It will be available every thursday. In it I will discuss what's going on around the league. I will tackle 3 topics per week, along with my "5 things I liked about last week" and my "5 things I disliked about last week" segments. And, of course, there will be a dedicated section for our Hockey Pool.

Speaking fo the Pool, the draft will take place next Wednesday, October 4 (opening night in the NHL), at 8:30pm (Montreal time). The participants look to be Veillotron, Nick the Dick, Sweet LP, Huy, The Dwarf and our good friend Mat Robillard. The draft will be done online, and the address for the chat room will be sent to you in the coming days. If you can't be there, please have a draft list sent to me via email by Wednesday at 8pm. Now, onto the predictions...



1. Ottawa Senators: Even after losing Zdeno Chara, they are still the class of the conference. Martin Gerber, who comes over from Carolina, might've struggled mightily in the playoffs last year, but he had a great regular season and is an improvement over Dominik Hasek. Their offense shouldn't miss Havlat too much, and Tom Preissing and Joe Corvo will help lessen the blow of Chara's departure.

2. Tampa Bay Lightning: Marc Denis is the new goalie in town, and he should do very well. Denis is a workhorse, and he always had good seasons for a bad Columbus team. The loss of Modin hurts, but if Lecavalier and St. Louis improve on last year, the Bolts offense will be more than fine. Losing Pavel Kubina will hurt the defense, but overall, the acquisition of Denis will count for more.

3. New York Rangers: The Rangers look really good right now. King Henrik Lundqvist is already a star in net. Jagr is back to his MVP form, and the addition of Brendan Shanahan will only help an already potent Power Play. Ex-Hurricane Matt Cullen comes in to center the 2nd line and D Aaron Ward solidifies a defense that includes a returning Darius Kasparaitis and futur star Michal Rozsival.

4. New Jersey Devils: The Devils could wind up anywhere depending on what happens with Alex Mogilny. If the league accepts to put Mogilny's salary aside because he can't play, then the Devils will be able to resign 48-goal man Brian Gionta and defenseman Paul Martin. Otherwise, a big trade might be in the works because the Devils are too close to the cap. If Gionta resigns and the team stays as it is, they will be very strong. Brodeur is still an elite goaltender, the defense is strong even if it still lacks the departed Niedermeyer, and the offense is exlosive, led by a returning Patrick Elias, Gionta and Scott Gomez.

5. Montreal Canadiens: I really like this edition of the Canadiens. i think Guy Carbonneau will be a great coach. The goaltending duo of Christobal Huet and David Aebischer will be a very good one. The defense is ok at the 6 starting spots, but it lacks depth. On offense, this team is deep. Saku Koivu and Alex Kovalev will again lead the charge, but this is the year Micheal Ryder and Mike Ribeiro have to explode. Sergei Samsonov was a nice addition (he should contribute for about 25 goals). Getting Mike Johnson might've been their best move though. If their top guys stay healthy, look out.

6. Carolina Hurricanes: Look for the Stanley Cup Champions to fall a little. Aaron Ward is gone, and Frantisek Kaberle is out for 1/2 season. There are still questions regarding Cam Ward's ability to carry the load in nets all year as well. Still, they will have an explosive offense again, led by Eric Staal and the returning Erik Cole.

7. Buffalo Sabres: The Sabres won't sneak up on anyone this year, but they are still good enough to end up in the playoffs. Their star is Ryan Miller, so look for him to have a great year. Tim Connolly comes back after missing a huge chunk of last year, although he might miss the start of the year. Still the Sabres do it by committee on offense, and it works. Jay McKee is a significant loss on the back-end, but he will be adequately replaced by ex-Oilers Jaroslav Spacek.

8. Atlanta Trashers: This is the year they finally make it to the playoffs. Look for Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa to once again fill the back of opposition's nets. Kari Lethonen will have to stay healthy, but if he can, he will reveal himself as one of the league's best.

9. Boston Bruins: The Bruins have one again retooled. This time, though, they are starting to look good. Their defense is now lead by Zdeno Chara and ex-Shark Brad Stuart, as well as ex-Coyote Paul Mara. Their offense is now the domain of budding stars Patrick Bergeron and Brad Boyes. Joining them are 1st round pick Phil Kessel, ex-Trasher and 97-point man Marc Savard, as well as Marco Sturm. Glen Murray is another big name you can add to the mix. The problem for the Bruins is in net, where Toivonen has yet to prove he can carry the team. Boston will be in the hunt until the end, but they'll miss out by 1 or 2 points.

10. Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers are in a bad place right now. Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Kyle Calder, R.J. Umberger and Simon Gagne will take over this team in a year or two and make it theirs. But they are not ready for that just yet. Peter Forsberg is the centerpiece of the offense, but he misses too many games. The defense is a mess, with Derian Hatcher, Mike Rathje and Denis Gauthier all too slow for the new NHL. Robert Esche is a good enough goalie not to lose games, but he won't win any for you either. Niitymaki will miss the first 2 months with an injury.

11. Toronto Maple Leafs: The Leafs have started to jettison some of the old guard, but they don't seem to be getting any better. Adding Pavel Kubina to the defense was a good move, and I think that Andrew Raycroft should regain his rookie form. Still, the offense is a mess. There isn't enough talent, and the talent they have is too old. Matt Stajan, Alex Steen and Kyle Wellwood will become good players in this league, but they aren't ready to lead this team.

12. Pittsburgh Penguins: Sidney Crosby will improve on his 106-point rookie season and will challenge for the Art Ross trophy. Evgeni Malkin, who will miss the start of the season, will probably wind up with about 60-70 points as a rookie. Yes, he is ready for the NHL. Getting Mark Recchi back after lending him to Carolina was a good move. He provides good leadership. Look for Sergei Gonchar to play like he did in the 2nd half of last season and reclaim his spot as the league's best offensive defenseman. M-A Fleury will continue to get better. This is a young team on the rise, and they will get better as the season goes on.\

13. Washington Capitals: If there ever was a one-man team, this is it. Alexander Ovechkin is this team. Ovechkin won the Calder as the league's best rookie, but if there was a trophy for the most explosive player, he would've won that too. The Caps are a very young team, one lacking talent as well, but look for themto rally around their star and improve on last year. In nets, Olaf Kolzig not only provides a safety blanket to a team that needs one, but he is also very loyal and a true professional.

14. Florida Panthers: As you will read in my next column, I think that the blockbuster trade that sent Roberto Luongo to Vancouver will backfire for both teams. The Panthers thought they could sign Ed Jovanovski on top of getting Todd Bertuzzi in the trade, but they lost him to Phoenix. Big Bert should improve on his totals for the last 2 seasons, and he joins an already pretty good offense that includes Olli Jokinen, Nathan Horton and Stephen Weiss. But after Jay Bouwmeester, there isn't much too like on the blue line. And the goaltending is a mess, with a too old Eddie Belfour challenging Alex Auld.

15. New York islanders: They have the stupidest owner in hockey. Usually, something like that trickles down an organization, and it does here. There is somet talent on the team: Miro Satan, Mike Sillinger, Mike York and Jason Blake are all pretty good fowards, and Rick DiPietro, no matter how stupid the contract the team gave to him is, is a pretty good goalie. But Alexei Yashin is the ultimate cancer. On top of that, their defense is a bit of a mess. Oh, and did I say their owner is just plain dumb?

I'll see you tomorrow for my NFL Picks.

Dwarf out


Arizona vs. Atlanta

Minnesota vs. Buffalo

Dallas vs. Tennessee

San Francisco vs. Kansas City

Indianapolis vs. NY Jets

New Orleans vs. Carolina

Baltimore vs. San Diego

Miami vs. Houston

Detroit vs. St. Louis

New England vs. Cincinnati

Cleveland vs. Oakland

Jacksonville vs. Washington

Seattle vs. Chicago

Green bay vs. Philadelphia


At 8:16 AM, Blogger Veillotron said...

Hey you loosers - the Dick and Veillotron are chilling in London.
Chelsea 1-1 Aston Villa yesterday...
Lampard didn't score, but appaently played well.

I still haven't heard back from Dave Krieg - I don't know who he think he is, but he at least doesn't answer back to my email, then I'll be very disappointed...

The Dick and I are anxious to start a fight for the bottom place in this year's pool... The Dick will be sleeping whne the draft takes place - if he forgets to send in his list, then maybe he has a chance of winning this thing (pretty much like Patrick did last year...)

I will not choose Malhakov this year.

At 8:17 AM, Blogger Veillotron said...

The Dick thinks my house is sehr beautiful.
I am good, and you are loosers.

At 8:29 AM, Blogger Nick the Dick said...

Well the house is nice indeed... a lot bigger than the tiny flat... nice kitchen and plasma tv (we watched SW3 revenge of the shit - are you surprised?). Anyway, for a million and a half canadian dollar house, it a real bargain. The same house will cost probably 55K in Baie-Comeau!

Yeah the pool logistics is not easy this year, but who knows what the technology can do for me this year... it's funny how the date of the pool is always chosen based on the Shitness availability and not the other people... this is really shit!

Anyway we have to get the BBQ going, come to London there's a big guestroom for you now!


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