2 Up, 1 Down, 3 Question Marks, Eastern Conference Predictions

While it is obviously too early to begin making predictions, I’d like to take a look at the Eastern Conference.Two Up:

Clearly, the Islanders have improved their team. They have decent shot at making the playoffs. With the addition of Yashin and Peca, they have added offense and defense in the weaker conference, and in a weaker division.

Obviously, Washington, playing in the weakest division in the NHL is the other team on the upside. After pulling a ‘Deliverance’ move on Pittsburgh (if any of you have seen the movie ‘Deliverance’ and seen the scene with Ned Beatty, you’ll know what I’m talking about), and getting Jaromir Jagr, they are clearly have taken a huge step forward. Now we’ll see if they can get Oates to stick around. Maybe they could sign Brett Hull. Then they’d have the Hull & Oates line…. “Because your kiss is all I miss….” Sorry, that was stupid, but I had to throw it out there.

One Down:

The Buffalo Sabres were officially pronounced dead this morning at 10:38 a.m. eastern time. I don’t see Buffalo making the playoffs for a few years. It’s a shame really. I think they went into the rebuilding shell far too quickly. If they could have kept Dom, and landed a Roenick or Turgeon, they could have been contenders. They had great trade bait with Peca, but squandered it on some prospects. Rieger and Patrick should both be working the drive-thru in Taco Bell for their off-season moves.

Three Question Marks:

You may be surprised to know that any day now, I’m expecting Tampa Bay to break out of their cocoon and become one of the power-houses in the league. As a Kings fan, when the prospect of trades come up, I look at Tampa Bay, and the mouth begins to water. Lecavalier, Richards, Modin, Prospal, Khabibulin. They have great young team, and if they can hold them together, and introduce the right veteran leadership (enter Dave Andreychuk and Grant Ledyard). They may not make the playoffs this year, but I expect them to within a few. Laugh if you want, but this team is going to be scary.

The Pittsburgh Penguins. Many may write them off as dead without Jagr, but they have so many core players (Straka, Lang, Kovalev, etc.) that I think they may fare well without him. I expect the Pens to make the playoffs and make it past the first round.

From Pens to Sens. I think the Senators are actually going to do better without Yashin. I’m curious to see if Spezza plays this year or tunes up on some affiliate team somewhere. Watch out for the Sens, they’re not going anywhere but to the next round of the playoffs.

So long for now. Later I’ll check into the Western Conference. It won’t be pretty Red Wing fans.