I'm Baaaaaaaack!

I’m back and I’m loving this game!You’d think that I would be a slacker living in Florida, with pina coladas and just hanging loose on the beach, and you’d say “that’s the reason why this guy is not showing up!”

That’s not me…… sort of….

Anyway, I have been without my computer, which died completely, for almost a month. But, I have watched games and so far I’m a happy customer.

First of all, I want to thank the Season Preview Staff for writing great previews and showing a lot of effort. I enjoyed working with all of them and they gave HTR one of the best season previews ever.

I will also apologize to all of you HTR members. My goal was to have a complete Season Preview and it was incomplete. I did not finish writing a preview for the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues. I did not write my own column as part of the preview, and we were also supposed to have other columns. My schedule got busy, but when my computer went dead there was not much to do.

But, it was a good season preview nonetheless.

BACK TO HOCKEY

So far I like the game and the new rules. The two line passes are effective and the penalties have been handed out correctly thus far. Some surprises, some disappointments in teams. These are my first impressions of teams:

New York Rangers: I must give credit where it is due, and it starts from management. Finally Glen Sather gave up on the mercenaries in the off-season and concentrated on his youth program. Aside from solid young players, Tom Renney and the coaching staff are turning the organization completely. Yes, Sather takes responsibility for missing the playoffs, but in the meanwhile he changed the scouting staff (so far so good), hired Renney, and did well in the firesale of 2004.

The Rangers have lost three straight, but they showed up each game. The players work hard and Henrik Lundqvist has been quite a show. The Marcel Hossa trade is looking good. Kondratiev was definitely the better choice over Carlo Colaiacovo in the Leetch trade. Dominic Moore, however, has been the most oustanding youngster. Jason Ward was a very good solid addition.

The Rangers future is bright, and in the minors, draft picks such as Montoya, Holt, Jessiman, Dawes, Immonen, and Graham are starting to emerge. This team has a decent chance to make the playoffs if they continue to work hard each game. Tom Poti may be on the way out soon as he has been a healthy scratch for two games. The Rangers are moving in the right direction, and credit is due to Sather, Renney, and all 18 skaters.

New Jersey Devils: How could this team lose to a struggling Atlanta Thrashers team? The Devils had a 3-2 lead and were shooting at a rookie goalie coming out of college. As I mentioned numerous times about a month ago, the Devils lack the offense and Marty Brodeur will not be the same goalie. Brodeur played with a Grade A defense in front of him, and now he plays with a Grade B defense. He is facing a lot more shots, and just gets beat. Ever since losing 4-1 against a young Rangers team, with a rookie goalie, the Devils show their weakeness. They are in desperate need of Patrick Elias, but once he returns, the Devils need to slash salary, which will further weaken their depth. Also, the Devils have a weak minor league system, which will not help them throughout the season.

San Jose Sharks: I expected this team to be better. Why? Because it is the SAME team. The Sharks PP is horrible to look at. The defensemen are as good as Swiss cheese, and when on the PP, they allow the penalty kill unit to be a threat. Something has to be done in San Jose.

Edmonton Oilers: Yes, they are struggling, but this team needs to pull itself together and shake it off. I still like this team. I like the goaltending, I like the offense and defense. It may take them a while to get back on track after a 3-0-0 start, but Oilers fans should not worry too much about the team’s six straight losses. Give them time. They have Pronger and Peca, give them time.

Florida Panthers: I enjoyed going to their home opener and the game versus the Lightning as well. I must admit that besides Roberto Luongo, Rostislav Olesz is one of the most NHL-ready rookies I have ever seen. People mention Crosby and Ovechkin, but Olesz is showing the offensive goods, but best of all is his readiness in any situation. He plays a lot of minutes, kills penalties, plays on the PP and has a wicked shot. He is not the kind of forward a goalie would like to face on breakaways. Jay Bowumeester has been decent, not showing much. I can see Mike Keenan run out of patience and shop him around if he does not step up his play during the season.

Ottawa Senators: Well, I’m shocked. This team is perfect thus far. Still, it is early in the season and it will take a team to bring these guys back down to earth. No flaws so far, though. This team is near perfect.

Other teams I like to mention are the Calagry Flames and the Nashville Predators. The Flames have Dion Phaneuf, who I believe to be the best defenseman I have ever seen in ages, at his young age. No young defenseman in past years that I have seen comes close to this guy. Outstanding in almost every area. His shot is a blast, his physical force is present and skates quite well too. I believe we’re looking at the NHL’s top defenseman in the league, possibly, in a few years. The Predators have also been a cool team to watch. They work hard, and Sullivan makes a big difference. Sure, Kariya was an excellent addition, but without Steve Sullivan this team goes nowhere. What a horrible loss for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Which brings me to say, Chicago is the worse owned team, and managed team, in the league.

Thank you for reading, and it’s good to be back (of course I got a hurricane coming my way now)!

Micki Peroni


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