06 Oct 2008 by NHL 2008in
Philadelphia Flyers – The Flyers had a big bounce back year last season, coming from last to making it to the conference finals. The Flyers are deep up front with Briere, Carter, Richards and the return of Gagne. Gagne missed most of last season with concussion problems and could be a major boost to there offense. Philly has a young, but solid defense that should only get better as the year goes on players like Ryan Parent and Brandon Coburn will be looking to prove they belong in the NHL. The key to the Flyers success will be whether or not there goalie Biron plays at the top of his game. If he plays like he did in the playoffs last year, the Flyers will be a good team. If Biron in consistent and they avoid injuries the Flyers will be a playoff team.
Phoenix Coyotes – The Coyotes have been struggling for years, but they went out and improved there young team in the off season. They finally picked up a first line center in all star Olli Jokinen to play along side Shane Doan. That’s not enough in the West they will need contributions from young guys like Kyle Turris and Peter Mueller. They have an excellent goalie with Ilya Bryzgalov and a solid defense led by Ed Jovanovski. This team isn’t very deep yet, but have the talent to make the playoffs. They will play tough hockey and if they avoid the injury bug will battle for one of the final spots in the Western Conference.
Pittsburgh Penguins – Coming off a finals appearance last year, expectations are high on the Pens. They still have two of the best centers in the world with Evgeni Malkin and Sydney Crosby, but the cast around them has changed. They lost some key forwards in the off season and hope guys like Satan, Fedotenko and Cooke can have good years. The injury bug already hit this team losing top defenseman Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney, they will be out for extended periods of time. The Penguins are still very good, but not as good as they were at the end of last season. With the injuries on defense it looks like that will be there weakness and will put a lot of pressure on Fleury in net. Pittsburgh is a playoff team, but I don’t think they will have a run at the Cup like they did last year.
San Jose Sharks – Perennial favorites in the West, they look like a good team again. They have a new coach and a new system that they hope will take them from contenders to champions. They have great goaltending in Nabokov and talented forwards like Thornton and Marleau. They got the puck moving defenseman they needed in Dan Boyle and they rest of the D looks pretty good. We will have to wait and see with the Sharks, definitely a playoff team, but there year will be evaluated after the playoffs. I think if they don’t at least make the conference finals, there season will be a failure.
St Louis Blues – Looks like the Blues are going to struggle yet again and try to build towards future years. They have some solid vets with Kariya, Tkachuk, Brewer and goalie Legace. This year will be about bringing along there young talented players like T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund and Alex Pietrangelo if he makes the team. The Blues are moving in the right direction and with a couple more good drafts they should be set up well for the future. For the fans out there be patient with this team, they probably aren’t going to be very good this year.
Tampa Bay Lightning - This is not the last place Lightning, they have completely retooled there line up. It started when they drafted Steven Stamkos and then signed free agents Ryan Malone, Radim Vrbata, Vaclav Prospal and Gary Roberts. That gives them a solid four lines up front, the question marks will come from defense and goalie. The defense is unproven and the goalie tandem of Smith and Kolzig isn’t great. This team is going to score goals, the question will be whether or not they can stop them. Look for a lot of high scoring games when you watch the Lightning this year. In the East I think they are good enough, there division isn’t very good and I think they will fight it out for the division title.
Toronto Maple Leafs - The Leafs have some of the most die hard fans in all of sports, and this year will test there patience. The Leafs are not good, but at least they some changes. The big problem is goal scoring, they have no true goal scorers or top line players on the team. They still have Toskala in net and he should get them some wins. The defense isn’t to bad with Kaberle and Kubina, but they will have to be excellent for them to make the playoffs. The Leafs aren’t a playoff team and they might not say it, but they hope to get the 1st overall pick in next years draft and grab Tavares.
Vancouver Canucks - They had a great pre season and will look to continue that trend. Luongo there goalie has been named team captain and will lead this team all year. They have a great defense, but are a little thin in the goal scoring department. To make the playoffs they need great years from the Sedin Twins and Pavel Demitra. Luongo is great and will keep them in the hunt for a playoff spot, but they will have to fight it out with a few teams for the final couple spots.
Washington Capitols – Alex Ovechkin is the best goal scorer in the NHL and will lead this team. The Caps will be looking to build on last years success with a good mix of veterans and young guys. The problem might be in net with Jose Theodore, if he is good the Caps will be good. I like this team and I think they will make the playoffs, but there not quite ready for a big run at the Stanley Cup.