Battles in the East

With the free agency market dwindled down, teams now have a better idea of what their rosters will look like come October. Obviously each team will still make minor adjustments, but looking and additions & subtractions in the past few weeks, here’s how I see things playing out in the East.

First off, let’s look at last years’ standings

Buffalo
New jersey
Atlanta
Ottawa
Pittsburgh
NY Rangers
Tampa Bay
NY Islanders
——————
Toronto
Montreal
Carolina
Florida
Boston
Washington
Philadelphia

Now then, Let’s look at each team and see if there has been improvement or

Buffalo: Still a strong team, but with the losses of Drury & Briere, how can anyone possibly expect them to be as dominant? Look for Buffalo to be a playoff team, but slide a few spots in the East

New Jersey: same as Buffalo. They still have Brodeur & Elias, but with the losses of Gomez & Rafalski, I just can’t see them being as strong. IF Brodeur misses any significant playing time, Jersey could miss the playoffs.

Atlanta: Havn’t really got better or weaker. Similar team from last year. The fact that they are in the weakest division should help them out. They should be able to win the division again, which would seed them 3rd in the East.

Ottawa: Again, not much weaker. Comrie is gone, and so is Preissing, but they have oodles of talent. Will be interesting to see how they bounce back from the cup loss and how they play under a new coach. SHOULD be able to win their division.

Pittsburgh: The young guns should be even better with a full year under their belts. Crosby will lead the way and with the additions of Sykora & Sydor, they will be a more balanceed team. It’s up to Fleury to really step up and lead. Pittsburgh should be able to win their division, and COULD win the entire Eastern conference.

NY Rangers: I’m not all excited about this squad. Gomez & Drury are good, but not superstars, and to tie up over 14 mill on the 2, will hurt the Rangers long term. Gomez replaces Nylander (not much of an upgrade). Drury is a solid addition. With Shanny re-signing, their top 2 lines will be deadly. Their defense is average at best, and goaltending could be great, but still unproven. NY should have no problems making the playoffs and will fight Pittsburgh for first place in the division, BUT they still have to fill out the rest of their roster and have no cap room left. Changes will need to come to this line up at some point.

Tampa Bay: Same story as last year. Great top line, everythjing else is average at best. I look for Tampa to fall out of the post season as several other teams have become a little stronger.

NY Islanders: Sorry folks, All the Guerin’s & Comrie’s in the world won’t fill the holes left by all whole departed. NY will be much weaker than last year and will fall 5-7 spots in the East

Toronto: It pains me to write this, but toronto made good moves to get better. Look for more consistant goaltending from the tandem of Raycroft & Toskola. Defense should be healthy and ready to go. Still not great, but not bad either. Offense will be fine. Adding Blake will be a help. There still seems to be something lacking, but these guys have lots of character and I think they’ll still be playing hockey come the spring

Montreal: This is a tough one to call. Last year Montreal look great through the first 3rd of the season, then the wheels fell off. Huet went down, the whole team got the flu etc etc etc. montreal seems to have all the excuses in the world. They are basically the same team minus Souray. They will HAVE to get better in 5 on 5 situations, they will HAVE to stay healthy and they will have to do something they havn’t done in a few years. play a full 82 games schedule. Last year they took too many nights off, and this team just isn’t talented enough to compensate for too many of those. I think Montreal will come up short again, and drastic changes will need to be made in the organization

Carolina: whatever, more of the same. I can’t see them going anywhere. All they did was get a little older.

Florida got much better just by adding Vokoun. They will make a run at the post season, but may fall just short again.

Boston: Still weak. Fernandez won’t help enough. No defense here and not ample depth up front to compete. A few key injuries, and these guys are toast.

Washington: they should be a little better with Nylander, but still not quite there yet.

Philly: Only one way to go, and that’s up. Don’t look for Briere to rack up the points he did last year. He is great, but not a 100 point guy, and certainly not worth 8 million a year. Philly will come up short again, however, this year they’ll at least be in the hunt.

All this having been said, here is where I think everyone will p-lace in the East for 2007/08.

Pittsburgh (along with another scoring title for Syd “the kid”)
Ottawa
Atlanta
Buffalo
NY Rangers
Toronto
Montreal
Carolina / Florida
——————–
Florida / Carolina
Philadelphia
New Jersey
Tampa bay
Washington
Boston
NY Islanders

What do you think??