Surprises and Disappointments
I’m not going to try and predict the final standings and points for every team in the league. Instead, I’m just going to give my opinions on who may surprise everybody and who could disappoint in the upcoming season based on their off-season moves.
This is not a comprehensive list, merely the ones that have the most chance to surprise or disappoint. If I didn’t mention somebody, its because I expect to be right around where you would expect them to be. The Flyers and Devils will be good teams, thats not a surprise. Anaheim will suck. Thats not a disappointment.
Tampa Bay Lightning: Their biggest move was the deadline. Nikolai Khabibulin is a goalie who could turn alot of ties into wins, and losses into ties. And even steal games they should have just simply lost. They are starting to have quite a few guys who can score with Lecavalier, Richards and Modin. Their defence is suspect, and prone to mistakes that younger players make, but a stellar season by Nikolai could hide alot of those. I don’t think they will make the playoffs, but its possible they could make a run at it. And considering their recent history, that would be a helluva season in Tampa.
Phoenix Coyotes: Again, they likely won’t make the playoffs, but they could still make things interesting. It all depends on how quickly this team can come together. If the Desert Dogs gel quickly, they could be a tough team to play against. Speed and grit can frustrate a lot of regular season teams built for the grind of the play offs.
Montreal Canadiens: Saku Koivu looks like he is gone for the season with a cancer. But the Habs are used to that. If they can keep the rest of the team out of the infirmary, they could sneak into the number 8 spot. Watch Richard Zednik. He might become a player.
NY Islanders: With the big moves they made, they have the biggest potential to make noise. They are shaky in net, yes. But they have the biggest potential to make a big jump in the standings.
NY Islanders: Unfortunately, after all the big moves Milbury made, alot of improvement is going to be expected. If the team doesn’t come together quickly, and stumbles along the way out of playoff contention, it will be a disappointment, and Mike could be gone.
Detroit Red Wings: Older players are prone to injury, and the Wings core is fairly old. A streak of bad luck could hurt the Red Wings in a big way. They’ll be in the play-offs, for sure. But if key players go down, they might not be as high up the standings as people think. Hasek has had a mystery illness, and its not that long ago that he was fighting groin injuries. Overplaying him could lead to bad news.
St. Louis Blues: Braithwaite didn’t have that much pressure in Calgary. He could put up good numbers and lose with the Flames and he’d get congratulated. With the Blues, winning is going matter more than anything. Thats a change in attitude. If neither him or Johnson are ready for a number one job, the Blues could disappoint.
Toronto Maple Leafs: The Leafs are very strong on paper, but they have made alot of off-season moves. They may not fit together as a unit as well as everybody thinks. Plus, they are in an increasing unfriendly extention dispute with Cujo. So much for no distractions this year. They are not guaranteed to be one of the best teams in the East. They have the potential to be, but after all these moves, if they are sitting in fifth or sixth again, well behind the conference leaders, it will be a major disappointment.