Preview: If Coach Bruce Boudreau is ever going to get his team to buy into playing better in their own zone it will be this year. If he is able to get that accomplished then the Stanley Cup is not an unreasonable expectation. With Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom, the Caps have the best player in the world and one of the best young forwards in the NHL. So scoring will not be a problem,with both Ovechkin and Backstrom scoring 100 points or more this year.
Why they won’t win: If they shut out the voice of Boudreau and in turn, not make a commitment to playing in their defensive zone, then this team will come up short one more time. If the team falters again this year then changes throughout the organization should be expected in the offseason.
Prediction: 1st in Division; 1st in Eastern Conference
Preview: New GM Dale Tallon comes in with the resume of building the Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks and he hopes to duplicate that feat in SouthFlorida. The rebuilding process is underway, with underrated goaltender Tomas Vokoun along with forwards Stephen Weiss and David Booth, the Panthers have a couple of key pieces.
Why they won’t win: Not enough proven players with enough talent to get the job done. In Chicago, Tallon drafted a very talented group of defensemen to go along with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, so until Tallon can bring in those kinds of players, it will be tough times down on South Beach.
Prediction: 5th in Division; 12th in Eastern Conference
Preview: No team relies more on their stars then the Hurricane, they need Eric Staal and Cam Ward to produce like elite players if they are going to compete for a playoff spot. The team is also changing to a more mobile defense group and if they play well, and get some secondary scoring from guys like Jussi Jokinen and Erik Cole then this team could find some success.
Why they won’t win: However if the blue line makes consistent mistakes and the secondary scoring fails, then it will be a long year in Raleigh.
Prediction: 4th in Division; 10th seed in Eastern Conference
Tampa Bay Lightning
Preview: The Tampa Bay Lightning will be fun team to watch this year. The team has an outstanding group of forwards in Steven Stamkos, Vinnie Lecavalier and Marty St Louis, to go along with new addition Simon Gagne, the Bolts should have no problem lighting the lamp. If Dan Ellis or Mike Smith can have success in net, this team has a chance to make some noise in the Eastern Conference.
Why they won’t win: The Lightning will not take steps forward during this season because of goaltending, if either Mike Smith or Dan Ellis does not step up and grab the reins as the number one guy then this team will miss out on the playoffs once again.
Prediction: 2nd in Division; 7th Seed in Eastern Conference
Preview: If not for the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Atlanta Thrashers would be the talk of the NHL after the offseason they put together. GM Rick Dudley made a trade with the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks, which netted the team Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd, Brent Sopel and Ben Eager. This trade instantly improved the team in every aspect. So the young and talented roster will make the Thrashers very difficult to play against this year.
Why they won’t win: If the talent is not ready for prime time play and makes the mistakes a young team typically make; then the comparison to the Blackhawks of a couple of years ago might be a bit premature.
Prediction: 3rd in Division; 9th seed in Eastern Conference