Analysis of the Northeast

The Northeast has been a very interesting story this year, be it the overhaul of Montreal’s forward core, or the Kessel trade that never was between the Leafs and the Bruins, the Northeast is looking very different.

Boston Bruins –
Offense – Boston has a forward core which boasts Patrice Bergeron as a 3rd line center. That statement alone speaks to the depth of the Bruins. They have grit, goal scoring, sublime playmaking, and some good defensive guys. After this year they will have to worry about resigning Marc Savard, but even if he does go David Krejci should step right into his place.

Defense – Beyond Zdeno Chara and Dennis Wideman the Bruins defense does not have any big names on it, however they play a solid defensive system, so that will not matter in the least. With Lidstrom getting old Chara is poised to become top d-man for the nest 3 or 4 years.

Goaltending – They have a Vezina winner in Thomas, and a solid goalie of the future in Tuuka Rask.

Prospects – Rask should be a #1 soon enough, and if Colborne fills out he should add to Bostons ridiculous depth and center. Zach Hamill is another one who should make the jump fairly soon. Caron and Marchand are also ones to look out for.

Overall this team is exceptionally well built, and although they are in a bit of cap trouble, should dominate this year. I see them finishing 1st in the east.

Buffalo Sabres –
Offense – A top line of Vanek, Roy and Pominville is good, and the 2nd line is not too bad either. They should OK offensively, not great, but good enough to be in the top 15 in the league in goal scoring.

Defense- This is where the team is lacking, there defense has 0 star power and although all the defensemen have been effective at one point in their careers, they do not boast a top pairing guy.

Goaltending – Ryan Miller is excellent. However he has not shown an ability to stay healthy for long periods of time. Lalime can be effective as a stand-in, but not for long periods of time.

Prospects – Tyler Myers boasts a very rare skill set and has a chance to demonstrate that this year. Zach Kassian is one tough SOB and I cannot wait to see Sabres vs. Bruins games when he is put on the ice against Lucic.

Overall the team is decent, they wont finish in the lottery and they wont have home ice advantage. My bet is that they finish 8th.

Montreal Canadiens-
Offense – A total overhaul of the forward core has left the Mighty Midgets of Montreal with mountains of question marks over it. Should Gomez, Gionta and Cammalleri click they could be magic, however my bet is that they are too small, so they have to put a policemen on that line. Travis Moen is not a 1st line guy, but he could protect the smaller guys, and maybe put up 35-40 points.

Defense- This summer continued a rich Montreal tradition of letting a top defensemen go to free agency. Markov and Spacek should be money on the power play, but both need improvement in their own zone. Hal Gill is a great guy to have when your down 5 on 3, but watching him try to move the puck out of the zone makes you cringe.

Goaltending- Should Carey Price live up to his potential, then the sky is the limit. If he doesnt, expect another sub-par finish.

Prospects – Pacioretty, Subban, and Leblanc should be good for top 6/top 4 guys. Trading Ryan Mcdonagh hurts though.

Overall they did not really improve their team, they did not get any worse, but it is hard to argue that they got any better. I see them finishing 7th.

Ottawa Senators
Offense – It may be too early to comment on the Senators as the Dany Heatley saga is far from over, but I will anyways. As of now, with Heatley on the roster, they still have that line. However once Heatley leaves, Spezza maybe a bit lost on the ice. Alfredsson is in the decline, and Kovalev is a prolific goal scorer, but he isnt the same as Heatley. Kovalev is more of a puck carrier, and Heatley is a pure trigger man. If Foligno replicates last years proudction and Fisher bounces back, they should be OK offensively.

Defense – Chris Phillips and Anton Volchencov both need to regain 06/07 form into to save the team defensively. Filip Kuba was overpaid, and I do not expect much out of him this season. If Karlsson makes the roster they should be able to move the puck better, but if he doesnt then they will struggle.

Goaltending – Pascal Leclaire has shown that he is capable of being a #1 guy, but he has not shown it for long period of time. He is very injury prone. Brian Elliot was pretty good at times last year, and needs to continue that play as Leclaire will likely miss some time with injury.

Prospects – Having Karlsson and Cowen amongst their defensive prospects makes them the envy of most of the league in that regard. However none of their forward prospects have high end offensive potential. Ilya Zubov may have an offensive impact some day, but he has a lot of work to do, other than that most of their forward prospects will develop into bottom 6 guys at best. Robin Lehner, is one of their goaltending prospects from the 09 draft, his large frame makes him intriguing, but it is too early to say whether he has high end potential.

They are not the team they were a few years ago, that is for sure. If Kovalev rounds into form, then who knows. Right now, I will say they finish 10th, due to shaky goaltending.

Toronto Maple Leafs
Offense – The Leafs offense is not star studded, to put it nicely. Now it was not star studded last year and they still managed to score, but with a more defensive system that will change. Should Grabovski improve into a 60 point guy, Blake put up 25 again, and Poni do the same then maybe they could do some damage. Tyler Bozak will be looking to crack the top 6, hopefully he will have success there.

Defense – Here is where Brian Burke sank most of the cap space into. Getting a tough-ass defense. If Brian Burke is right and Kaberle excels without having to pick his teeth out of the glass then they might be able to have a decent puck moving defense as well. With Beauchemin and Komisarek adding maturity and veteran presence, they will be able to make opposing forwards think twice about dancing across the blueline with their heads down.

Goaltending – Toskala enters the season as #1, but if all goes as planned he will have tremendous pressure from Gustavsson all season long.

Prospects – The Leafs prospect core is still a work in progress, it is vastly improved, but not there yet. Kadri should develop into a 1st liner, and if he doesnt he will still be very useful because he is a work horse who can play any forward position. Mikhail Stefanovich and Viktor Stalberg both had excellent seasons in their respective leagues and should star for the Marlies this year. Once Didominico recovers he should also play with the Marlies.

The Leafs are headed in the right direction, but unfortunately I think Brian Burke may receive another kick in the groin next spring as I do not see the Leafs making the playoffs. I will say this, if they do, the team they face will not make it past the next round as they will spend the entire series getting beaten up by the Bay St. Bullies.


20 Responses to Analysis of the Northeast

  1. bbruins37 says:

    1. boston
    2. montreal
    3. buffalo
    4. ottawa
    5. toronto

    i think the top 3 will make the playoffs. the sens are the biggest wildcard. alot depends on the heatley situation. they now have a bit of extra scoring punch with kovalev, and leclaire was a nice pick-up.

    i can only see the bruins as capable of winning a round though.

  2. hockey_lover says:

    i can only see the bruins as capable of winning a round though.

    What wonders never cease.

  3. cam7777 says:

    Buffalo will not place higher than the Leafs this year, if the rosters stay as is.  That team deflates when Vanek or Miller goes down, and who are we kidding, they will go down at some point.  The defense on that squad is going to be terribly mediocre.  The whole squad is just too unpredictable.  Connolly, Miller and Vanek could all be gone for long stretches this season.  What is the team after these three?  An overpaid Pominville, and an underpaid Roy.

    Montreal will do fine in the regular season with the new coach preaching defense and special teams, but they will not make it past the first round of the playoffs with Hal Gill as their number one enforcer. 

    Ottawa could easily be the joke of this division this year.  Alfredsson is having a harder and harder time staying consistent with all the injuries he suffers.  If Heatley stays, the team will suffer for it in the dressing room, and ultimately, on the ice.  If he goes, well, it depends what kind of package they get back for him.  They should be looking for heart-and-soul in return for their sniper; they need it.

    Boston will obviously dominate, but could struggle out of the gate with high expectations, and some kinks to work out.  Remember, they will start without Krejci and Kessel, and rookies in their place (most likely Colborne, Hamill or Sobotka).  They will have to find a new guy to lead the penalty kill efforts with Axelsson gone.  Ward is out and Morris is in.  Could be some work in making it all come together right off the bat.  They will find their stride soon enough though.

    If the Leafs manage to score the same way they did last year, they could easily be the surprize of the Eastern conference.  It's true that such an occurrence would be reliant on a lot of "ifs" falling into place, but none of those question marks involve massive leaps in logic.  It's not absurd to think that Blake will continue to put up points, or that Grabovski, Kulemin, and Mitchell will see growth in their play as the year goes on.  There's hope, but ultimately, the Leafs will be trading away UFA's for picks as the year rolls on, and will struggle to stay in playoff contention with rookies like Bozak and Hanson taking their spots. 

    Boston
    Montreal
    Toronto
    Ottawa
    Buffalo

  4. cam7777 says:

    Today's trade should be a huge indicator to any disbelievers, of just how valuable cap space has become.  Patrick White and Daniel Rahimi are not special prospects by any means.  To put it in prospective, this is like the Leafs trading Carl Gunnarsson and Robert Slaney for Erhoff and Lukowich.   That's actually being generous compared to what the Canucks just gave up. 

    If I were Boston, this trade would be shooting off warning signs to me.  No one will give up anything of value to take any decent players off your hands, just to help you acquire, or sign a superstar (in their respective cases, Heatley and Kessel).  If teams like Boston and Chicago are under the misguided opinion that assets will always have value, regardless of cap concerns, they should think again.  If guys like Sharp and Bergeron are forced to be made available in order to squeeze more important players in, they will not have good value.

    This trade may have established a precedent.  It isn't as though Erhoff and Lukowich are nothing players, and highly expensive.  Erhoff, at only 3.1 million, has averaged about 33 points a season over the last 3 years, with a career year last year at 42 points.  He isn't all that old either, seeing as he just turned 27 in July.  Lukowich is also fairly affordable at 1.567 million, and has won a Cup.  He's as good, and as experienced a stay-home defensemen as you're likely to find anywhere. 

    At this point, it's unlikely that either White or Rahimi even make the NHL, much less have decent-strong careers like Erhoff and Lukowich, and yet, the trade has gone down.

    I expect this to be the domino effect for a Marleau to Ottawa trade….

  5. i_know_hockey says:

    Buffalo: Sure much of the Sabres success depends on their best players Miller and Vanek but i doubt they will go down.  Vanek played in all 82 games his first 3 seasons and took a freak puck to the jaw last year.  I think he was 2nd in goals behind Ovechkin before the injury..  He is actually quite durable. Connolly is the player made of glass, but with unreal skills. It's miller that probably needs some rest.  Ruff rides him as a work horse as he has little confidence in Lalime.  This team is definately unpredictable as you said but i do see them making the playoffs (or its Ruff's head) and they are not a team I'd want to play.

    Montreal: Many new pieces, but i do not feel as if they went up or down.  It was more of a lateral change.  If Price and Halak can hold down the fort they're a playoff team… just not sure how far they will go. 

    Ottawa: When the Alfie-Spezza-Heatley line is firing on all cylinders, they put the Sens on their back and carry them.  However, can they really carry them through another season?  The Heatley situation does not help and I don't see Kovalev filling his shoes the same.  This team's problem for a long time has been depth.  Fisher needs to contribute more and Foligno needs to continue his development.  If they resolve the Heatley problem and he stays,Kovy can provide some much needed support.  It'll definately be the wild card team.

    Boston: The Bruins are back with awesome scoring depth, a Vezina winning goaltender, and a solid defense corps.  They are coming off an amazing season which they could come close to duplicating.  They should top the division, but perhaps by a slimmer margin.  I think PJ and Ward were underrated and the loss of Kessel (if it happens) will hurt.  They need wheeler to take the next step and Krejci to show he can soon be a #1

    Toronto: Another year of retooling and rebuilding is in order for the Leafs… Packaging up UFAs for picks/prospects at the deadline.  The major problem, which seems to have been addressed, was the defense.  Allowing the most goals against in the league is not going to lead to a playoff berth.  And for a team without any stars, Toronto put up a respectable amount of goals.  It'll be interesting to see with the defensive woes maybe resolved and maybe a tighter checking game style if the goals scored category will take a hit.  Even so, i do not see the Leafs in the post season.

  6. cam7777 says:

    No sooner had I posted that, then a trade goes down that looks like dominoes falling into place for San Jose to acquire Heatley.  If something like this went down:

    to Ottawa
    Marleau, Cheechoo, 1st round pick
    to San Jose
    Heatley, Smith

    then I think the Sens will be a vastly improved team, that will probably finish 2nd in the division. 

    Foligno – Spezza -Alfredsson
    Shannon – Marleau – Kovalev
    J. Ruutu – Fisher – Cheechoo
    Winchester – Kelly – Neil

    (Bass)

    Phillips – Kuba
    Volchenkov – Campoli
    Karlsson – Lee

    (Schubert)

    LeClaire – Elliot

    CAP HIT – 56.8 million

    Like a glove…

    This team has two bonafide scoring threat lines, and can actually tell Fisher and Cheechoo to take it easy, and play a solid checking game, instead of trying to force them to be secondary scoring threats.  The defense isn't great, but it's not poor either.  A solid addition at the deadline could really bolster the back end crew.  Moving Kelly out would really free up some space, and he has really lost his place in that lineup with Clouston favoring Bass, Winchester and Shannon.

  7. Kramer says:

    The goalie equipment needs to be smaller to make them fight better.

  8. muckies says:

    I'd say Boston is clearly the class of the Northeast, and after that it is a complete free for all.

    I do think the Leafs will be the most improved team, but their goaltending – having a backup learning on the job and a starter who isn't really a true 82 game warrior will hurt them the most.

    Buffallo, Montreal and Ottawa are all equal in terms of potential. Buffallo has the best golie, Montreal has the best skating team and Ottawa has the most potential for players to improve on previous seasons – but also has the most question marks in the league.

    1. Boston – Playoffs
    2. Ottawa – Playoffs
    3. Montreal
    4. Toronto
    5. Buff

    Montreal may suck harder, but I think Price will be solid this year. If Leclaire is healthy and is what HE says he is, Ottawa will be good, unless Heatley fucqs it all up.

  9. reinjosh says:

    i was surprised how much of a steal the canucks got
    and erhoff is a great offensive dman
    this could spell trouble for other teams with cap problems

  10. cam7777 says:

    Leclaire is going to have little to no effect if they can't sort out the locker room problems in Ottawa.  Everyone that leaves there tells of how horrid the situation is there.  Ottawa's downfall has never had anything to do with lack of talent.  Adding more talent (Kovalev) was not the answer, and Gerber's goatlending was never as bad as Sens fans made it out to be. 

    Unless the imminent Heatley trade brings some quality dressing room guys over, who are also highly skilled, then I don't see how the Sens fortunes can possibly improve over last year. 

  11. cam7777 says:

    it's actually hilarious, because if that trade was propsed by Leafs fans, we would have been bashed to death on these boards.  It's no different than the salary cap trades Leafs fans were proposing back when Sharp was rumored on the move.  But everyone said "Oh no, you'll still have to give up Tlusty and at least your next three first round picks!!"

    Ha, I'm glad we didn't go after anyone like that.  The situation for all those teams is only going to get more dire.  And this was Doug Wilson that just made this trade.  It's not as though he didn't call around.  That was the best deal anyone offered for Ehrhoff – nothing prospects.

  12. muckies says:

    Say how horrid it is?  I think the total opposite is true, Vermette was very disapointed when he got traded, Redden didn;t want to leave Ottawa and invoked his NTC, Chara when he signed in Boston said he would like to come back and play in Ottawa, Comrie wants to sign, Meszaros liked it in Ottawa. Same wiht Patrick eaves and Joe Corvo, they didn;t want to be traded they said, even though the press called Corvo out on his trade request, he said he did ask at the beginning of the season but thought he wouldn;t be traded once the season began.

    And Gerber's goaltending was the most horrid thing I have ever seen. he was the worst goalie in the league the ast  2 years. I don;t think you watch Sens games so you would have no idea. They brought in a rookie to replace him and put him on waivers he was that bad. He isn;t even in the NHL anymore

    And lot's of teams go through funks, Carolina didnlt make the playoffs the last two seaosn and come back gang busters with a new coach. Same with Vanocuver. Ottawa has the most potential to bounce back and I think they will, but of course they could tank.

    But theur biggest improvement is in goal, and thta will be what makes them competative again, the addition of Leclaire, and not Kovalev will be the biggest impact on the team.

  13. cam7777 says:

    Well, Commodore bashed the hell out of Murray and the whole team.  Lapointe told the media that the Ottawa dressing room was "a complete joke".  Mezsaros liked it in Ottawa so much he demanded more money than he knew Murray could afford to pay.  Comrie wants to sign because no one else wants him.   The team was much different when Chara said that.  Of course Redden wanted to stay – they let him snort rails of cocaine and still give him his fat 6.5 million dollar paycheck.  I can't comment about Vermette, Corvo or Eaves – I don't recall hearing them say anything.

    Gerber had basically a 900 save percentage with you guys last year, and a 2.86 GAA.  Yea, he had a pretty bad year, and he clearly wasn't the guy to lead the charge forward, but he wasn't by any means the sole reason the Sens were losing games.  He was pretty middle of the pack as far as the stats go.  The problem is, that the Sens weren't scoring goals like they normally do.  Fisher, Vermette, Kelly and Neil all had sub-par years; the big three had consistency issues, and they didn't get the big push from Foligno and the young guys early on.  With a 2.86 GAA, that means the Sens really only had to have Goals For Average of 3.00 in order to be successful.

    I'm just saying, improve the goaltending all you want, but that dressing room has to get serious, and the 2nd and 3rd lines have to start contributing.  Leclaire is for sure going to make a difference, I just don't think it's fair to hang last season on Gerber, when you clearly had Heatley running around whining like a *****, Spezza under-performing, and the whole tier of secondary guys having bad years.

  14. muckies says:

    Lapointe never said that, and if he did it was at the end of the Emery/McGratton saga. And once Paddock was fired (Commodore was a direct Paddock request) Commodore was slammed by Murray for not being able to play their system consistently or play the role they asked him to play. Remember, beofre trading for him, Murray traded Commodore away twice, so they obvioulsy have a very bad history and Murray is not a fan.

    But Stillman said good things, Meszaros trade worked out amazing for us and Tampa gave him a 6 year contract the same summer thye gave out all their horrible contracts and their owners became the laughing stock of the league.

    Gerber sucked, if he was at all decent he would be in the NHL. he sucked and there is no argument there. Goaltending is the most important thing in hockey as you know, Ottawa has had none of it the past 2 seasons. We'll see how they do when Leclaire gets between the pipes, I say they'll do way better and make the playoffs.

    Not hanging anything on Gerber, but look at their winning record once they put him on waivers and broght Elliot up. If a rookie goalie can come in and play with a winning record on the exact same team with the addition of Chris Campoli, then that says something about Gerber's game.

    Elliot 16-8-3
    Gerber 4-9-1
    these stats say a ton.

  15. hockey_lover says:

    Just a little eye opener on Elliots numbers …. most of those wins came at the end of the season when they were already mathematically eliminated.

    Its a lot easier to win when you have nothing to lose. There is no pressure.

  16. reinjosh says:

    yep
    there are going to be many more deals like this in the coming months and year

  17. muckies says:

    It's never easy to win in the NHL, especially at the end of the season when teams like Buffallo, Florida, Carolina, Montreal, NYR are all fighting to make it into the playoffs.

    Teams like Toronto, everybody is playing for a job.  I'd say it's harder to win at the end of the season then in the beginning.

    And watch a Gerber game and an Elliot game. Elliot is 100 times better then Gerber, the Defence played with more confidence in front of him, they battled in front of the net harder instead of looking for loose pucks at their feet Gerber was giving up and not being able to cover up.
     
    the entire team played better in their zone because they weren't panicked all the time the puck would be in the back of their net. they could concentrate on being in position, and making plays with the puck instead of always having to just scramble it to clear the zone. The team attacked from their end a million times better, he just settled the entire team down, gave them confidence and loosened them up, not the fact  they were eleimnated.

    that and of course Coach Clouston's system.

  18. cam7777 says:

    Gerber played just fine in Toronto.  He's not in the NHL because there's simply too many goalies who are decent right now.  Biron ended up lowering his asking price from 5 million to 1.5 million (on the worst team in the league).  I don't think the fact that he is in Europe right now is a great indicator.  We will be seeing a crap load of goalies over there in the next few years. 

    Is Gerber great?  No, obviously not.  His numbers were middle of the pack though.  I obviously don't want the Sens as religiously as the Leafs, Ducks, or some of my other favorites, but being Canadian, I still caught a number of games.  I seem to recall a few games thinking that the team was really letting Gerber down.  It goes both ways.

    Elliot's numbers also came with a coaching change, and a system change.  Clouston gave big roles to hard working nobodies (for now) like Winchester, Bass, and his AHL squad.  The whole team performed better around Elliot because of the style they played.  You can say that is a reflection on Elliot, but I really don't think so.  Otherwise, why did Murray go out and get Leclaire? 

    Anyways, I really don't know what we're arguing about anymore.  I was just saying, there are clealry issues beyond the net in Ottawa.  If those are sorted out, the team could be dynamite. If they persist, it doesn't matter who stands between the pipes…

  19. muckies says:

    for sure, despite the optimism they still finsihed the season 4-5-1, so they we'rent on the winning end of things despite the turn around.

    i think they'll be better, they have a very experienced squad with some good rookies mixed in their. They need speed at trheir forward position, at least a top 6 guy who can fly.

    The Sens are a slower team, on D and in the top 6 especially wiht the addition of Kovalev. They can get by, but they will certainly not be a very fast team by any means.  Their bottom 6 they are solid, but if their is one major concern besides chemistry, it has to be speed all over the ice.

  20. cam7777 says:

    Someone like Upshall, to play with Fisher on the 3rd line would be highly effective in that regard.  I heard another rumor floating around that LA might be willing to take a shot on Heatley now (or again).  Maybe something like Frolov, Handzus, Hickey.  Frolov would add some nice speed to that top six.  Then send a pick and a prospect PHX's way, and see if you can't nab Upshall.

    Frolov – Spezza – Alfredsson
    Foligno – Handzus – Kovalev
    Shannon – Fisher – Upshall
    Winchester – Kelly – Neil

    (Ruutu)

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