Southeast Division Preview
Here is a preview of the Southeast division. a continuation of my previous previews of other divisions. Included is the list of the players each team has at each position, UFAs, prospects, needs for each position (if any), coaches and ratings for each position for each team. Atlanta Thrashers
Forwards: Heatley, Kovalchuk, MacEachern, Kozlov, Stefan, Savard, Brennan, AUbin, Lessard, Petrovicky, Vigier
Key UFAs: none
Prospects: Stewart, MacKenzie, Santala, Slater
Needs: faceoff man, size, grit on wings
Rating: (B-) They have 2 franchise players but also have lots of holes to fill as well. They need another playmaker to feed the 2 stars the puck but also guys who can win the puck battles to get possession in order for Heatley and Kovalchuk to work their magic. There has been talk about Zhamnov but cheaper options include Perreault, Stumpel or Damphousse. guys like Green, Dowd or Weimer would add needed grit to this team.
Defence: Exelby, Havelid, Modry, Majesky, Sutton, Tjarnqvist, Kloucek
Key UFAs: Tremblay, Tamer
Prospects: COburn, Valabik, Urstnul, Rossiter
Needs: Big Stay at home defenceman
Rating: (C) not a real star studded group but adding Modry and Havelid will make them much better. they need Sutton to be healthy because he is a real physical presence. They finally have 2 guys who can run a PP.
Goal: Hurme, Nurminen
Key UFAs: Dafoe
Rating: (C-) They are solid in goal if they are healthy as there are 3 guys who could take the job. but consistency is a bit of a problem with all 3 Finns as they have not yet shown they can run with the no 1 status. Lehtonen is still very young and will be that guy eventually and he should win the job for this year.
Rating: (A-) Hartley is a really good coach. he is a winner, has a strong system, really gets his team to work hard. you cant ask for much more. He is surely making the Thrashers into a better team.
Forwards: Cole, BrindAmour, Vrbata, ONeill, Staal, Brendl, Vasicek, Williams, Murray, Boulerice, Adams
Key UFAs: none
Prospects: Zigomanis, Surma, Bayda, Ladd, Fiedler
Needs: Scoring, grit, leadership, toughness
Rating: (B-) In a couple of years they will be quite good but they just struggle bigtime trying to score. Ladd and Staal are 2 blue chip guys who will be stars for years to come but they are too young right now to carry such burden. They have a nice mix of speed, size and skill but they just dont put up the numbers. Oneill will be good trade bait to get a Dman or 2 and pretty much any need they have will be filled from within. They may bring back Battaglia to form the BBC line again.
Defence: Kaberle, Wesley, Hedican, St Jacques, Ward, Wallin
Key UFAs: none
Prospects: Rourke, Fast, Richmond, Vagner
Needs: toughness, speed, PP QB, size
Rating: (D+) They just lost their best Dman in Hill and were bad to start with as they are filled with journeymen. They have decent size but they are soft, they have guys who can skate but they dont have much skill. This is the main reason for their poor offence as their D cannot generate anything out of their zone. They will not spend money to get a top guy nor do they have a blue chip prospect ready to step in. May be the worst group in the NHL
Key UFAs: Weekes
Prospects: Ward, Peters
Needs: starting goalie
Rating: (C-) Gerber is a good backup goalie but can he carry the starter load? Ward will be that guy soon but not quite yet. They would welcome Weekes back if it came cheap, otherwise Osgood or Potvin will be a Cane soon.
Rating: (C+) he made the Isles into a playoff team but that is as far as he got. He needs to get the Canes back to the playoffs otherwise he will be out of work yet again. He must find a way to generate some offence.
Forwards: Horton, Hagman, Huselius, Jokinen, Kolnik, Weiss, Berglund, Beaudoin, Hordichuk
Key UFAs: Cullen, Messier
Prospects: Stewart, Nedorost, Campbell, Shvidki, Piros, Taticek, Globke, Kreps, Meyer, Olesz
Needs: size, grit, scoring, leadership
Rating: (C+) there isnt enough scoring from this group outside of Jokinen. they have lots of skill but they just havent brought it every night. many of these guys are quite soft as well. So if you dont hit score or fight then what good are you? Horton is the real deal and will only get better, but the rest of the kids need to step up or Keenan will ship them out. Names like Thornton, Guerin have come up in trade rumours. They could try to land a big name free agent but they have options as they have many assets they could deal. it would be interesting to see if they brought in a guy like Kovalev or Palffy as they would give the cats the front line sniper they truly lack. A guy like Shanahan would be the leader that this team really needs.
Defence: Hill, Karpotsev, Cairns, Mezei, Biron, VanRyn, Bouwmeester, Kwiatkowski
Key UFAs: Odelein, Lilja, Trnka
Prospects: Novak, Krajicek, Uchevatov
Needs: leadership, PP QB, size
Rating: (B-) Keenan has made some decent additions in Hill, Cairns, Potsie that fill many needs. finally they have some vets to help out Jay and the rest of the kids. if they play Martin’s system right, then the young Dmen wont get their weaknesses exposed night after night as the forwards are instructed to help out. this group can only get better with age.
Goal: Luongo, McLennan
Key UFAs: SHeilds
Rating: (A) Luongo is spectacular. nuff said
Rating: (A-) Martin is a great coach. He was able to turn around the leagues worst team and make them one of the best. he hopes to do the same in Florida. Yes he didn’t win in the playoffs but this time he has a top notch goalie. and if he can implement his trap system, Luongo wont have to face 50 shots a night. and lets not forget he made Ottawa into one of the top scoring teams as well.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Forwards: Lecavalier, StLouis, Stillman, Modin, Richards, Fedotenko, Dingman, Roy, Taylor, Cibak Afanasenkov, Perrin, Willis
Key UFAs: Andreychuk, Clymer
Prospects: Alexeev, Soucy, Craig, Somervuori, ARtukin, Heinrich, Polushin
Needs: leadership, grit
Rating: (A) they have a great group of forwards. however if they lose Andreychuk the loss will be huge. he brings so much leadership and a calming influence on this young team. look for Stillman to be traded away to cut costs as they have many RFAs to resign. but not much is needed as they have such great balance. they are the cup champs.
Defence: Sydor, Kubina, Sarich, Pratt, Lukowich, BOyle
Key UFAs: Cullimore
Prospects: Dicaire, Holmqvist, Rogers, Egener
Needs: size and toughness
Rating: (B+) they proved that you don’t need a big star to win a championship but you do need a bit of everything. they had it with size, speed, skill, grit ,leadership, toughness and each element helped them win the championship. they should try to bring Cullimore back as he added huge size and strength to a pretty small blueline. they had so much balance that they went with 7 dmen in the playoffs as not one of them deserved to sit out.
Goal: Khabibulin, Grahame
Key UFAs: none
Prospects: Boutin, Eklund
Rating: (A-) sometimes Khabibulin slumps but he is a winner now so he is someone who can be relied on when the games matter most.
Rating: (A) Tort is a really good coach and is the best young coach in the league. His system showed that you don’t need to trap to win. His aggressive hard nosed approach is what this young fast team needed. his presence will ensure the bolts remain competitive for a while as his teams will never be out worked.
Forwards: Halpern ZUbrus, Willsie, Peat, Pettinger
Key UFAs: Miller, Battaglia, Johnson
Prospects: Aulin, Gordon, Sutherby, Semin, Laich, Fleischman, Ovechkin, Bourque, Klepis, Johansson
Needs: size, grit, scoring, toughness, leadership
Rating: (D+) they have their franchise guy in Ovechkin but it is alot to ask for an 18 year old to carry the whole team. They have many good young players but they need to play more consistently in order to prove they belong. This will be quite a young team and though they will have plenty of youthful enthusiasm, they need some more leadership to help them through more tougher times.
Defence: Witt, Doig, Boumedienne
Key UFAs: Berry, Grandpierre
Prospects: Morrisonn, Eminger, Cutta, Green, Schultz
Needs: PP QB, leadership, skill, speed, size
Rating: (D+) they have some really good kids coming up but as of now they are not really deep or talented on defence. Losing 3 or 4 quality veterans over the last couple of years has really hurt them. They will only be interested in signing journeymen to give them depth and will likely not make a big free agent splash for a much needed top blueliner.
Key UFA: none
Prospects: Ouellet, Daigneault, Stana
Rating: (B+) Kolzig is terrific but at his age can he carry this team all by himself? the success of the team depends on how well Kolzig plays but in the end he could be traded for more youth.
Rating: (C-) still raw as an NHL coach but had success in the minors. May be the right guy to help guide this boatload of young kids. they need a solid system to keep this team competitive as they do not have enough skill and experience to get the job done right now.
Well there you have it. The weakest division in hockey. Tampa did well taking advantage of having so many games against non playoff teams to secure home ice. But this year Florida and Atlanta will be much better and should offer some more competition for the Bolts. But this still remains a one team division until some other team proves otherwise.