The Eastern Conference
It’s time for another preview on the Eastern Conference, considering I didn’t agree with the last one done.The elite four in the conference are definitely the Devils, Caps, Leafs, and Flyers. The Devils did lose Mogilny and O’Donnell to free agency, but they have such a deep team that it won’t affect them too significantly. The Caps rose to contender status instantly with the acquisition of Jagr. Imagine him and Bondra on the same team – well it’s a reality! However, with Adam Oates requesting a trade the Caps will be very thin at the center position. Who will set up Jagr and Bondra? Expect Hrdina to arrive in return for Zubrus to play with Jagr. Moving on, how can you not like the Flyers? They now have three great centers with Primeau, Roenick, and Dopita and plenty of offense on the wing. The only question marks here seem to be goaltending (can Chekmanek have another all-star campaign?) and defense (not very mobile). The Leafs will also be strong this season with their acquisitions of Reichel, Renberg, Mogilny, Green, and Eriksson. These players definitely have improved the talent of the club at least on paper. Now they just have to play like we all know they can. Looking downwards, it seems that teams battling for the final four playoff spots will include Carolina, Pittsburgh, Boston, Ottawa, Buffalo, NY Islanders, and Montreal. Carolina has some good young players such as O’Neill, Willis, and Tanabe, but Irbe needs more rest this season. Maybe Barrasso will be able to help there. Pittsburgh will be in tough without Jagr – I guess we’ll see what Lemieux can really do now. Boston wouldn’t be included here; they would be a shoo-in for post-season play if they sign all their players and Dafoe remains healthy, but the Allison situation is getting ugly. Ottawa will fall-off at least some this year. With no true second line center behind Bonk, they are in trouble barring Spezza doesn’t fill that void. Buffalo no longer has all-star Hasek between the pipes so they may be vulnerable, even with the talented Biron in the nets. The Islanders really strengthened themselves this off-season by adding Peca and Yashin. This should be enough talent to battle for the playoffs as long as DiPietro is not a dud in goal. Finally, Montreal had a good off-season, picking up Juneau, Perrault, and Quintal. All 3 players will help and may finally lead the Canadiens back into the postseason. As for the NY Rangers, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, and Florida there’s always next year. The standings for the conference should be as follows:
10. NY Islanders
13. NY Rangers
Please give me some feedback on these projected standings and my comments.