A Minor Preview of the Eastern Conference, After One Fine Day

One Fine Day is a song written by one of my favorite poets, Dexter Holland. One Fine Day describes of how his fine day would be like, and it would be one fine day for me too. To open up the fridge and have a tall boy. To then meet up with my friends, and head out to the game again, yet we really don’t care who wins. My favorite part of that song is Drinkin`, fightin`, going to the game…in our world is the way to stay sane, and if you’re asking me, to have it my way, I’d say that’s a One Fine Day.A One Fine Day like that would give me the patience and time to write an article about my favorite sport. The off-season isn’t over yet, we know that…I know that. But, what is really happening right now? What can we really talk about? Who is left and where is he going? Flase trade rumors? Articles about how a team will do next season for sure, almost like a prediction, yet training camp hasn’t even started? The past two days, I haven’t stayed on HTR as long, because minor trades and signings are happening.

So, after a fine day…I wanted to stop concentrating on finding info about trade rumors and so on. I just wanted to stop everything that’s going on right now in thehockey world, and look at what we see right now. This is not a complete and full preview of the Eastern Conference, but it is jus an idea at where teams stand right now. I realize this is my view on the Eastern Conference, but join in…add comments that should have been added. Debate on something I’ve said (with respect and mature comments). Also, no need to read this in a day. Take a day or two to read it. It’s summer time, this article won’t diappear.

So, enjoy…

Atlanta Trashers

Finally the Thrashers are building quicker. Adding Uwe Krupp is an improvement for the defense. He adds depth, and will get a lot of ice time. Smehlik was the better defensive addition. He spent many good seasons in Buffalo, and he adds depth as well. In the offense, the addition of Kozlov and McEarchen will only make Kovalchuk and Heatley much better. Kozlov should have a great come back season, and McEarchen will add offensive speed, probably even scoring. I will be shocked if their number one pick, Lehtonen, will enter the NHL. They shouldn’t rush him, and it is very difficult for Scandinavian goalies to adapt the NHL game. GM Waddell is making key moves, and he filled in holes that were missing. This team is finally heading in the right direction. I doubt they will make the playoffs this upcoming season, but they will be a lot closer.

Boston Bruins

So this will be the first season without Billy Guerin and Byron Dafoe, interesting. The Bruins failed to replace Guerin’s position, but they have enough forwards to score the goals. GM O’Connell was interested in signing Temmu Selanne, but he has to spread his options. They Bruins made one key acquisition, Steve Shields. I like Shields, he is a solid goaltender and his name makes him a goalie. I see no real worries with the goaltending. Shields and Grahame complete a solid goaltending tandem. The Bruins didn’t add much, and I think they will add another player…maybe Theo Fleury? Naaa, I doubt it. But, the Bruins will still remain a solid team, without a doubt. They have enough depth, and the defense looks solid. Dealing McLaren will help this team; obviously it all depends on the trade O’Connell pulls. One thing I can’t accept though, is the fact that Lapointe was given a $5.25 million dollar salary per season, yet he the Bruins can’t spend that kind of money for a true forward?

Buffalo Sabres

I really feel sorry for this team. The only good news so far for the Sabres is that they had an excellent draft, and the acquisition of Jochen Hecht. Sabres are a good team with young talented players. Believe it or not (opinionated statement), the only real problem I have with this Sabres team is Lindy Ruff. I am not calling him a bad coach, but this team has Dumont, Afinogenov (wonderful skills), Tim Connolly, and Taylor Pyatt and they are not putting up the numbers that they could put up. I disagree with the defensive style game when a team has this much young talent. Let these kids skate, give them the ice time, and make them use their offensive skills. I like Martin Biron and even if he doesn’t have a solid season, the Sabres have two good future goalies. Both Noronen and Ryan Miller will be NHL goalies, so not much worry there. The Sabres could still pull a smart minor deal. They can make the playoffs, but it won’t be easy. Unfortunately, what it was once known as a great playoff team to watch, a few years ago, it is now a team struggling to stay in Buffalo, and having a hard time making the playoffs.

Carolina Hurricanes

The Stanley Cup Finalists will face a tougher season. Teams in the East have improved, and the Canes will face a lot more competition from the Lightning, Penguins, Thrashers, and Buffalo. They still face an easy Division, but it won’t be as easy as it was this past season. The Canes have not added any players, but they don’t need to. They can score and Cole, Vasicek, and Svoboda will only improve. The defense remains the same, as does the goaltending. Expect Carolina to definitely make the playoffs, though the possibilities for a Cup finalist to miss the playoffs a year after are always existent. This is also a well-coached team, and Paul Maurice is getting better himself as well. I’d like to see more articles on this team when the season starts.

Florida Panthers

GM Rick Dudley is doing a much better job with the Panthers than he did with the Lightning. The Panthers could have one of the best defenses in a few years. With a tougher, younger, and improved defense, Roberto Luongo will play much better and add more W’s for his team. It’s a no-brainer that the Yushkevich trade was a steal. They traded an unofficially retired defenseman for a 30-year-old defenseman with good defensive skills. What was Pat Quinn thinking? I know what was Rick Dudley thinking with a nice smile! The Panthers will be tougher to play against, but the only problem left with this team, in order to make the playoffs, is the offense. The scoring power is very weak, and Dudley will have to pull a couple of trades. No Panthers fan should be upset, this team has a very bright future, so sit back and enjoy your young prospects grow.

Montreal Canadiens

The best team in NHL history is coming back and building its way up to be a dominant team in the NHL again. This team has depth, and every hole is basically filled. Trading Aaron Asham, a player who will spend much time in the AHL (as he already has), for Mariusz Czerkawski was a key improvement. Czerkawski has the skill to score, that’s what is important for the Habs. All four of the Habs lines are fairly strong, and can be easily rolled. Though a player like Temmu Selanne would’ve been a great addition for the offense, the Canadiens can still score and play solid hockey. Jose` Theodore has yet to re-sign, but assuming it will happen, he should have a better season, with less pressure as well. GM Andre` Savard isn’t finished yet. Jeff Hackett will most likely be traded, as Stephane Fiset is willing to be a back up. This team has a great future.

New Jersey Devils

So what if they lost Bobby Holik, well…it does matter since he gave a lot to the team, but the Devils are heading into a new direction. Acquiring Jeff Friesen and Oleg Tverdovsky was a smart move by GM Lou Lamoriello. Sure Petr Sykora is a good player, but things have to change. The Devils have a new look, and they picked the right player, Jeff Friesen. Friesen belongs in the Eastern Conference, and he could have the same success as Jason Arnott had. I’d choose Friesen over Arnott, he is younger and appears to be more of a team player, showing more dedication. Tverdovsky adds more scoring power and skills in the defense. He makes other defensemen more expandable to trade as well, not that Neidermeyer will be traded, but surprises may come. Pat Burns is the right coach for this team as well. He will bring a good system, possibly more exciting, and Patrick Elias is freer to play his game. The player to watch this upcoming season is Scotty Gomez. He will step up as the 2nd line center and elevate his skills and talent. Can he do it? We will see. The defense doesn’t even need to be discussed, it stays the same…. solid and strong, with awesome skating skills. I am upset at GM Lou Lamoriello for not giving chances to Ari Ahonen (I guess he is not ready for the NHL yet?) or Clemmensen. Make these kids back up goalies, and let Brodeur teach them. Corey Schwab was a good acquisition since he is one of the best back up goalie, but why not Ahonen? Devils still remain a strong team, but they are a new team, with a new coach as well.

New York Islanders

This summer didn’t go as well as people thought it would for the Islanders. So many rumors and analysts were sure that the Islanders would at least acquire Darius Kasparaitis or Tony Amonte, yet nada happened. The Isle’s end up losing their 1st/2nd line winger (Czerkawski) and they are now seeking a winger to compliment Yashin’s game. Come on Mad Mike, pull another crazy deal! The Islanders have a good core of players, but they can’t afford to face chances of missing the playoffs again. The defense needs a defenseman to help Aucoin’s and Hamrlik’s stamina. Peter Laviolette did a good job as a rookie Head Coach for a team that missed the playoffs for seven straight seasons. Milbury isn’t done yet, so I’d be surprised if this is the roster for game 1 in the upcoming season.

New York Rangers

The Rangers have a new look as well. Finally the Rangers have two top of the line centers (something they’ve lacked). It doesn’t really matter how much the Rangers are paying Holik, the Maple Leafs made an offer that was close to $9 million dollars a season, so what’s the big deal? Holik brings size to the Rangers, strength, and he is also a perfect player to use on the penalty kill and power play. This is the kind of center Bryan Trottier appreciates coaching. Holik never scored 30 goals before, and your point is? He is 31 years old; does it mean he will never score 30 goals? With the scoring power the Rangers have, Holik could score 30 goals. Bottom line is, Rangers needed him, and they got him. Then comes Darius Kasparaitis. The Rangers needed this kind of defenseman. He is annoying, tough, and competitive. He won’t let the opponents skate with their heads down (a blind man could have skated through the Rangers defense last season). These two are character players, and they improve the Rangers. Sather won the goaltending situation with Mike Richter. Joseph receives $9 million dollars a season. Belfour receives $6.5 million dollars a season. Richter receives $4 million dollars a season. Get the picture? Rangers could add a defenseman, but more in need is a left-winger. A puck digger would be a smart addition, and Ulf Dahlen could be a good acquisition. Also, why is it such a big deal when a rookie Head Coach comes in the NHL? This is Bryan Trottier here, he knows what to do and his assistant coaches have the same philosophy as he does, which is “tough and fair”. The way I see it is like this: If the Rangers succeeded to lead the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division in the first half of last season, then they can definitely do it again, with more success, with the additions of Holik, Kasparaitis, a better PK and PP, and a full season with Pavel Bure.

Ottawa Senators

Not much changed for the Senators, besides assigning a new general manager and trading Shawn McEarchen for Brian Pothier. GM Muckler should do a pretty good job with the Senators, so not much worries there. Brian Pothier is a solid defenseman though not so big in size. The Senators should do just about the same, but they need a playoff performer. They are a team that can definitely reach the Finals (if Carolina did it, so can the Sens). They have young players who are getting better each season and experiencing the playoffs. Jason Spezza could make the team and should be a significant player, and if he does not make it…oh well! He is still 19 years of age and there is no reason to rush him. Expect the Senators to be as good, or even better, next season.

Philadelphia Flyers

This is one of the few teams that made the best move. The best move for this team was to make none. They had a good regular season and a pathetic post-season. Bringing in a new coaching staff is always a good move (not all the times), and Hitchcock will make this team better. Though his resume` is good, I just don’t like his attitude with his players. How will Keith Primeau handle it this time? He had a horrible regular season, and look for him to have a comeback year, if not then he will be traded. It could be either Bruno St. Jacques, or Woywitka, to make the team on the defense. Maybe Pavel Brendl can make it, but that depends on Hitchcock. Brendl is a one-dimensional player with little speed and poor work ethic. It’s not like Simon Gagne who could be a one-dimensional player, but because of his speed he can work Hitch’s system. I’d like to see Brendl change his game as a power forward, which would be a great fit for the Flyers. One thing I want to tell Flyers fans. You can hate Clarke all you want, but he built a good solid team that could possibly be the number one team in the East. He pulled good trades, he signed good character players, and his young players are great for the future of this team. It’s not easy to win the Stanley Cup, and I am pretty sure Clarke is close to winning it, and very close to play in the Finals. By the way, I can’t help not saying this…but the Flyers got the best defenseman in this years draft pick. Pitkanen will be more valuable than Bowumeester…it’s just my opinion, but I believe it is a darn good one.

Pittsburgh Penguins

Super Mario’s team is going the opposite direction. The Penguins are losing their starting players. Robert Lang was a pretty big loss, and it was a given he was going to sign with the Capitals. What can the Penguins do now though? It’s time for Operation Rebuild. They lost Jaromir Jagr. They lost Robert Lang. They lost Kasparaitis. They lost Straka due to an injury. They will probably lose Alexei Kovalev as well due to money issues. Where is this team going? Mario Lemieux will not play every game, how will this team do without him? This team will depend on Hedberg, Lemieux, Kovalev, Straka (when he returns), and their young players. It’s time for these youngsters to step it up, especially Kraft, and push this team forward. The off-season isn’t over yet, and possibly Craig Patrick could pull a key deal. It will be interesting to see where this team will end up, but it certainly doesn’t look pretty now.

Tampa Bay Lightning

If the offense can produce scoring, then the Bolts have a good chance of making the playoffs. The defense is set with Khabibulin, Kubina, and their heavy trap system. Probably Ruslan Fedotenko was the player they were looking for, and maybe he could complete Lecavalier’s game. This team has young players with skills (Lecavalier, Richards, Willis, St. Louis) and veteran players like Andreychuck, Prospal, and Ledyard. The Bolts can still add offensive depth by signing Theo Fleury or acquiring a player via trade. I hope Head Coach John Tortarella won’t play the heavy trap of this past season. It was a shame to watch one player, like Richards, skate up to the red line a dump the puck with a one-goal lead. They made some good changes, positive changes, and I think they are not done yet…but close.

Toronto Maple Leafs

Face it, this team didn’t get that much worse but it definitely didn’t get better. GM Pat Quinn is facing his last two seasons as a Maple Leaf, unless they win the Cup or reach the finals….and what are the chances of that happening? Let me get this straight, and I mentioned this before, Joseph receives $9 million a season, Richter $4 million a season, and Belfour $6.5 million a season (after finishing one of his worse seasons, age 37, and known to have a horrible attitude). What is the improvement there? Signing Fitzgerald wasn’t such a bad idea. He fills in a hole, especially with the absence of Roberts. Trading for Svehla was a good move, and a great idea, but the way it was done was seriously idiotic. Yushkevich is 30 years old, and a solid defenseman…how can you trade him for an unofficially retired defenseman? I think Yushkevich should have been signed and then traded. Svehla’s rights are worth a minor leaguer and a later draft pick. The Leafs missed out on too many players, and they should bring another scorer, possibly Theo Fleury. Forget about Cassells, I doubt he will go there. Bottom line is, this team is great for the playoffs, but they need to improve…. not remain equal. This team either makes the playoffs, or it doesn’t.

Washington Capitals

Let me get this straight, this team is far improved because of one center? Robert Lang changes a whole team? That’s a first one. The Caps remain the same roster basically, only they have a first line center for Jaromir Jagr (you have to get him something to make him happy), and Kip Miller. Lang completes the first line, but what about the 2nd? The big time offensive forwards for this team are Lang, Jagr, and Bondra. The defense basically remains the same. Oh, and since when is there such a big fuss when a rookie head coach enters the NHL? Funny thing is, there are four rookie head coaches next season. Cassidy, Trottier, Babcock, and Tippet are the rookies, and if you noticed the only head coach to be “worried” about is Trottier. Why? Out of those four coaches, who would you pick? Rookie head coaches are the future head coaches. There can’t be the same ole` head coaches we all know forever. Bring the rookies out! Cassidy will bring a new style for this team, and all a hockey fan can say about this is good luck to the coach! But, is Cassidy better than Ron Wilson? We will see. Also, why was Wilson fired after he lead this team to the Cup finals once and made them a threatening team to play against? Hmm…Jagr comes in my mind. Anyway, the Capitals improved by adding Lang, but adding Lang is not such a huge improvement, and losing Dahlen wasn’t the best thing to do.

Thank you for reading this. The off-season isn’t over yet, but as of now…nothing is happening. I just wanted to take a good look at how these teams look so far.

Micki Peroni