Off-season predictions

Alright, I, for one, am really really really really really really really really really really bored.....so I'll go out on a limb and make predictions of all sorts. I'll go team by team so it doesn't get too confusing.

Anaheim Ducks: Conference Standings: 7th. League Standings: 13th. Leading Scorer: Corey Perry, 85 points. Playoff Finish: First-round loss. The Ducks will take a surprising fall in the standings due to a freak injury (undisclosed) to would-be-leading-scorer Ryan Getzlaf (61 points in 52 games). In the 30 games following Getz's injury, Anaheim goes 10-15-2-3, and just manages to make the playoffs, losing in the first round.

Atlanta Thrashers: Conference Standings: 9th. League Standings: 17th. Leading Scorer: Ilya Kovalchuk, 94 points. Playoff Finish: Doesn't qualify. Atlanta comes painfully short of the playoffs, as usual. Despite the maturation of Tobias Enstrom (45 points, tops in ice time for Thrashers), the emergence of Eric Perrin (Career high 25 goals, 60 points), the arrival of Zach Bogosian (39 points, plus- 12 in rookie season), and the continued steady play of Ilya Kovalchuk (48 goals), Atlanta simply can't achieve their main goal.

Boston Bruins: Conference Standings: 6th. League Standings: 12th. Leading Scorer: Marc Savard, 102 points. Playoff Finish: Second-round loss. Boston takes another step towards becoming a solid team with the underrated addition of Michael Ryder. Boosted by a skilled passing center (Savard), Ryder takes a Jonathan-Cheechoo-leap and hits 45 goals. Dennis Wideman and Zdeno Chara anchor a defense that leaves goaltenders Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez bored in the crease. Unfortunately, the playoffs are still a challenge and the second round is the limit.

Buffalo Sabres: Conference Standings: 10th. League Standings: 20th. Leading Scorer: Derek Roy, 90 points. Playoff Finish: Doesn't qualify. The Sabres fail to reach the playoffs for the second straight season, inviting rumors that the entire team needs to be remade. Derek Roy and Jason Pominville (86 points) are still catalysts and leaders, but even the help of Craig Rivet on the blue-line and Ryan Miller in goal cannot carry the team to the promised land.

Calgary Flames: Conference Standings: 3rd. League Standings: 5th. Leading Scorer: Jarome Iginla, 106 points. Playoff Finish: Second-round loss. Calgary chooses the good side of the rumor mill for 08-09, topping the Northwest division. Led by Iginla, Matthew Lombardi (71 points), Todd Bertuzzi (surprise 33-goal season), and Dion Phanuef (69 points), the Flames take the Western Conference by storm, and reach the second round of the playoffs.

Carolina Hurricanes: Conference Standings: 15th. League Standings: 29th. Leading Scorer: Eric Staal, 70 points. Playoff Finish: Doesn't qualify. There's always a casualty when a team improves. Carolina is the casualty of Boston. Struck by the injury bug and stronger conference rivals, the Canes miss the playoffs once again. Fortunately, they get a closer chance at John Tavares.

Chicago Blackhawks: Conference Standings: 9th. League Standings: 18th. Leading Scorer: Jonathan Toews, 87 points. Playoff Finish: Doesn't Qualify. The Hawks continue their transition to one of the stronger young teams in the NHL by coming tantalizingly close to making the playoffs. Jonathan Toews redeems his incomplete rookie season with a strong sophmore season, while Patrick Kane continues to shine, scoring 30 goals and 85 points. Jack Skille and Nick Hjalmarsson are the next generation of skilled rookies, while UFA-signee's Brian Campbell and Cristobal Huet have solid seasons.

Colorado Avalanche: Conference Standings: 8th. League Standings: 15th. Leading Scorer: Paul Stastny, 84 points. Playoff Finish: First-round loss. The Avs make it to the playoffs again, this time with all stars intact. Joe Sakic returns for one last season, scoring a highly-respectable 61 points. The team, however, fails to mount a succesful playoff run, falling victim to the San Jose Sharks.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Conference Standings: 15th. League Standings: 30th. Leading Scorer: Rick Nash, 77 points. Playoff Finish: Doesn't qualify. The Blue Jackets unfortunately do not attain the rise to the playoffs that many are predicting. However, when brutal injuries come at random to key players such as Kris Russell, Mike Commodore, and R.J. Umberger, the Blue Jackets suffer a catastrophic fall to the bottom of the league. However, the idea of Derick Brassard, John Tavares, and Michael Peca as their top-3 centers provides hope for next season, as does rookie Nikita Filatov's 65-point performance.

Dallas Stars: Conference Standings: 4th. League Standings: 7th. Leading Scorer: Mike Ribeiro, 91 points. Playoff Finish: Third-round loss. The Stars have a strong season once again, largely bolstered by the strong performance of a full season from Brad Richards (86 points), and the surprise adjustment to the NHL of Fabian Brunnstrom, who scores 60 points as Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow's right winger.

Detroit Red Wings: Conference Standings: 2nd. League Standings: 2nd. Leading Scorer: Henrik Zetterberg, 101 points. Playoff Finish: Second-round loss. The Red Wings remain among the top teams in the NHL, although they fail to defend the Cup. Marian Hossa provides a solid 35-goal season playing alongside Pavel Datsyuk for the majority of the year. Jimmy Howard is not a spectacular back-up, but Chris Osgood proves that last season's solid record was not because of a lighter schedule.

Edmonton Oilers: Conference Standings: 6th. League Standings: 11th. Leading Scorer: Ales Hemsky, 83 points. Playoff Finish: First-round loss. The Oilers are another team whose youth pays off with a return to the playoffs. Led by Andrew Cogliano, Hemsky, and Sam Gagner, the Oil has a succesful season, only to be flattened by Calgary in the playoffs.

Florida Panthers: Conference Standings: 12th. League Standings: 24th. Leading Scorer: Nathan Horton, 70 points. Playoff Finish: Doesn't qualify. The Panthers must once again suffer from a season of mediocrity. After losing captain Olli Jokinen, the Cats improve slightly on defense, but weaken on offense when talented but inexperienced Shawn Matthias is essentially the only replacement for Jokinen. Cory Stillman does help a weak left side, though.

Los Angeles Kings: Conference Standings: 13th. League Standings: 25th. Leading Scorer: Anze Kopitar, 84 points. Playoff Finish: Doesn't qualify. The Kings tried, they really did. However, the promised land cannot be reached. Drew Doughty makes the team easy, as expected, and surprise rookie Justin Azevedo (I just know this guy is going to be awesome) does himself justice as well.

Minnesota Wild: Conference Standings: 10th. League Standings: 19th. Leading Scorer: Marian Gaborik, 88 points. Playoff Finish: Doesn't qualify. The Wild unfortunately return to the land of the playoff-less following a season in which offense is lacking. Pavol Demitra, Brian Rolston, and Mark Parrish's offense is essentially replaced with the untested skills of Colton Gillies and Benoit Pouliot, and second-year man James Sheppard. Still, it likely won't be difficult for Minnesota to return to the upper-echelon of the NHL.

Montreal Canadiens: Conference Standings: 3rd. League Standings: 6th. Leading Scorer: Alexei Kovalev, 85 points. Playoff Finish: Third-round loss. The Habs prove that last season wasn't a one-year wonder by advancing to the Conference Finals. Led by the outstanding play of Kovalev and the Kostitsyn brothers (76 points for Andrei, 50 for Sergei), Montreal has another strong season.

Nashville Predators: Conference Standings: 11th. League Standings: 22nd. Leading Scorer: Jason Arnott, 76 points. Playoff Finish: Doesn't qualify. The Preds just can't jump to even the 8th spot in the conference, this time falling to 11th. A lack of star-power on the roster is a spot of worry, but Nashville continues to believe that winning doesn't come from names alone.

New Jersey Devils: Conference Standings: 7th. League Standings: 14th. Leading Scorer: Zach Parise, 78 points. Playoff Finish: First-round loss. New Jersey continues to be an example to the league, showing that offense is just as important as defense if you want to win a championship. Free-agent arrivals Brian Rolston (30 goals, 65 points) and Bobby Holik (40 points) help somewhat, but it's clear that the Devils need to make a solid free-agent offer to a big scorer on the market.

New York Islanders: Conference Standings: 14th. League Standing: 27th. Leading Scorer: Bill Guerin, 62 points. Playoff Finish: Doesn't qualify. The Isles continue to suffer as they lack the appeal for big free agents, and have a lower quality of youth ready to play in the big leagues. Rookie Kyle Okposo impressively finishes with 53 points, but a lack of offense from the team dulls the valiant efforts of goalie Rick DiPietro.

New York Rangers: Conference Standings: 8th. League Standings: 16th. Leading Scorer: Scott Gomez, 75 points. Playoff Finish: Doesn't qualify. The Rangers manage to squeak into the final playoff spot in the East, despite losing Jagr, Straka, and Avery, and essentially replacing them with Nikolai Zherdev, Aaron Voros, and Patrick Rissmiller. Offensively, the team struggles, but a finally solid defense led by Wade Redden, Paul Mara, and Dan Girardi shows improvement.

Ottawa Senators: Conference Standings: 13th. League Standings: 26th. Leading Scorer: Dany Heatley, 97 points. Playoff Finish: Doesn't qualify. The most phenomenal and surprising change in a team's status is the result of the Senators' 08-09 season. For nearly unexplainable reasons, Ottawa tumbles from the top of the league all the way to the cellar. However, it appears that injuries, even short ones, can lead to a total collapse. Daniel Alfredsson, Martin Gerber, and Chris Phillips are among the players on the Sens who are injured for short periods of time, although combined, the team slips horribly.

Philadelphia Flyers: Conference Standings: 4th. League Standings: 8th. Leading Scorer: Daniel Briere, 94 points. Playoff Finish: First-round loss. Some things never change. Others change for only a season. Only two years removed from their historic collapse, the Flyers are back atop the league, this time smartly using offense rather than suspension-provoking physicality. Six players score 20 goals, but more impressively, 8 players have over 50 points.

Phoenix Coyotes: Conference Standings: 12th. League Standings: 12th. Leading Scorer: Olli Jokinen, 74 points. Playoff Finish: Doesn't qualify. The hoped-for rising of the Phoenix Coyotes is at least another year away. The offense has solidified, featuring Jokinen, captain Shane Doan, and youngsters Peter Mueller, Martin Hanzal, and Daniel Carcillo. However, it's the defense's turn to slightly remodel and strengthen. Ilya Bryzgalov stays a solid goalie.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Conference Standings: 1st. League Standings: 3rd. Leading Scorer: Sidney Crosby, 115 points. Playoff Finish: Cup Finals loss. The champion of the East returns nearly the same, replacing players with players, and the names make little difference to their playoff finish, which is exactly the same as last season. Crosby and Malkin are stars once again, and Miroslav Satan slightly redeems himself with a 29-goal season playing alongside Crosby.

San Jose Sharks: Conference Standings: 1st. League Standings: 1st. Leading Scorer: Joe Thornton, 107 points. Playoff Finish: Stanley Cup winner. The Sharks have every hockey fan in North America (and beyond) saying "About time!" San Jose storms the NHL, winning the President's Trophy and the Stanley Cup, as they've been on the verge of since the millenium began. Strong performances from every player, obviously.

St. Louis Blues: Conference Standings: 14th. League Standings: 28th. Leading Scorer: Brad Boyes, 70 points. Playoff Finish: Doesn't qualify. The Blues continue to dwell at the bottom of the league. Offense continues to be an issue, although the development of Alex Pietrangelo inspires some hope. The draft will be key to the Blues' success this year.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Conference Standings: 5th. League Standings: 10th. Leading Scorer: Vincent Lecavlier, 103 points. Playoff Finish: Second-round loss. The Lightning's last place finish sure paid off. Ryan Malone (65 points), Steven Stamkos (72 points), and Jeff Halpern (43 points) give Tampa an offense that shatters throughout the league and makes a Tampa-Pittsburgh game worth paying 100 bucks for a good ticket. The goaltending of Carey Price stumps them in the playoffs, though.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Conference Standings: 11th. League Standings: 21st. Leading Scorer: Jason Blake, 64 points. Playoff Finish: Doesn't qualify. The Leafs miss the playoffs once again, but several bright spots occur in the season. Jason Blake returns as a legitimate scorer, finishing with 27 goals among 64 points, while rookie Luke Schenn only takes a few AHL games to adjust to the NHL, where he scores a modest 21 points, but is solid defensively.

Vancouver Canucks: Conference Standings: 5th. League Standings: 9th. Leading Scorer: Daniel Sedin, 92 points. Playoff Finish: First-round loss. In a surprising rebound from last season's playoff-less finish, the Canucks are a top team in 08-09. The additions of Pavol Demitra, Steve Bernier, and Kyle Wellwood improve an offense that has been criticized for several years, while the defense remains fine. Roberto Luongo cannot boost the 'Nucks past Dallas again, though.

Washington Capitals: Conference Standings: 3rd. League Standings: 7th. Leading Scorer: Alexander Ovechkin, 123 points. Playoff Finish: First-round loss. The Capitals prove that last season's division win wasn't a fluke, actually finishing atop the league as well. However, they are still unable to mount a successful playoff run, falling as prey to the Boston Bruins in the first round.
Some immediately blame losing Cristobal Huet.

Complete League Standings:
San Jose Sharks
2nd- Detroit Red Wings
3rd- Pittsburgh Penguins
4th- Montreal Canadiens
5th- Calgary Flames
6th- Dallas Stars
7th- Washington Capitals
8th- Philadelphia Flyers
9th- Vancouver Canucks
10th- Tampa Bay Lightning
11th- Edmonton Oilers
12th- Boston Bruins
13th- Anaheim Ducks
New Jersey Devils
15th- Colorado Avalanche
New York Rangers
17th- Atlanta Thrashers
18th- Chicago Blackhawks
19th- Minnesota Wild
20th- Buffalo Sabres
21st- Toronto Maple Leafs
22nd- Nashville Predators
23rd- Phoenix Coyotes
24th- Florida Panthers
25th- Los Angeles Kings
26th- Ottawa Senators
27th- New York Islanders
28th- St. Louis Blues
29th- Carolina Hurricanes
30th- Columbus Blue Jackets

Complete Conference Standings:
San Jose Sharks~~~~~~1st. Pittsburgh Penguins
2nd. Detroit Red Wings ~~~2nd. Montreal Canadiens
3rd. Calgary Flames ~~~~~3rd. Washington Capitals
4th. Dallas Stars~~~~~~~~4th. Philadelphia Flyers
5th. Vancouver Canucks ~~~5th. Tampa Bay Lightning
6th. Edmonton Oilers~~~~~6th. Boston Bruins
7th. Anaheim Ducks~~~~~~7th. New Jersey Devils
8th. Colorado Avalanche~~~8th. New York Rangers
9th. Chicago Blackhawks~~~9th. Atlanta Thrashers
10th. Minnesota Wild~~~~~10th. Buffalo Sabres
11th. Nashville Predators ~~11th. Toronto Maple Leafs
12th. Phoenix Coyotes ~~~~12th. Florida Panthers
13th. Los Angeles Kings ~~~13th. Ottawa Senators
14th. St. Louis Blues~~~~~~14th. New York Islanders
15th.Columbus Blue Jackets~15th. Carolina Hurricanes

Art Ross trophy:
Alexander Ovechkin, 123 points.
Hart trophy: Patrick Marleau
Norris trophy: Dion Phaneuf.

That's all for me. Sorry for not trying to predict individual team records, but that would've gotten too complicated. And if the league standings are too lined up compared to conference standings, that would be the fault of not predicting records as well. Please comment with your own opinion, even just for your favorite team!


The Go-To Guys

Just a fun comparison, the go-to guys for each team and how much they impact their team.

Anaheim Ducks: The obvious go-to guy in Anaheim right now? Ryan Getzlaf. The 2003 1st rounder has shown that he can be a star. In his first three seasons, he scored 39, 58, and 82 points. Now, logically, his production can't keep going up forever. However, if he keeps his production between 70-90 points, he'll be in the NHL for a good 10 years as a legitimate offensive threat.

Atlanta Thrashers: Some people say the greatest Russian is Ovechkin. Some nominate Malkin. But Ilya Kovalchuk, the 1st overall pick in 2001, is making his own case for that title. Consider that in 6 seasons, he's only fallen short of 30 goals once, in his rookie year. In every season after that, he's scored at least 38 goals, reaching 52 twice. I'm not suggesting that Ovechkin (minimum 46 goals in 3 seasons) and Malkin (33 and 47 goals in 2 seasons) won't keep up their awesome pace, but Kovalchuk has been as consistent longer.

Boston Bruins: A few players could be slotted into this role for Boston, but I would go with Marc Savard. He's not a spectacular goal-scorer, but since joining the Bruins, he's averaged 68.5 assists over two seasons. With wingers like Phil Kessel, Marco Sturm, and now Michael Ryder, Savard will be a force to be reckoned with.

Buffalo Sabres: About two years ago, you would've had a tough time distinguishing a single offensive star for the Sabres between Danny Briere, Chris Drury, and Maxim Afinogenov. Nowadays, Drury and Briere are gone and Afinogenov has lost some of his touch. In their absence, Derek Roy and Jason Pominville have shown that their offensive skills are more than just secondary. I pick Derek Roy as Buffalo's go-to guy, but only for the reason that he had more points. Both Roy and Pominville are skill players who put up big numbers and play an important role for their team.

Calgary Flames: The Flames look to Jarome Iginla whenever they get into a tough spot. For the past nine seasons (not including Iginla's rookie and sophmore seasons), 'Iggy' has consistently hit 30-50 goals, reaching a career high of 52 in 01-02. He led them to the Finals in 2004, and Calgary fans are hoping he can take them there again in 08-09.

Carolina Hurricanes: Eric Staal. No doubt, he's a mainstay on the top line for Carolina for a long time now. Last season, he was the only Cane to play all 82 games, and he scored 82 points as the leading scorer. No other player on the roster can be that consistent.

Chicago Blackhawks: The Hawks have several players who could be the go-to guy. Brian Campbell will be a top defenseman. Patrick Kane was last season's leading scorer. But Jonathan Toews, recently named team captain, is probably going to have the most impact with Chicago next season. He scored 24 goals and 54 points in 64 games in his rookie season, and stories about his leadership are all over the hockey world.

Colorado Avalanche: The Avs had an injury-plagued season last year, so a go-to guy is hard to predict. Two catalysts, Paul Stastny and Joe Sakic, only managed 66 and 44 games, respectively. However, Sakic still managed 40 points and has the reputation of a hard-working leader. Stastny is being groomed as the next Sakic, and has had seasons of 78 and 71 points, despite the injuries in his second year.

Columbus Blue Jackets: Rick Nash has been the man in Columbus ever since his first season when he scored 17 goals and 39 points. Under new coach Ken Hitchcock, Nash has kept up his offensive skills while improving on his defensive play. Soon, he'll be one of the better complete players in the league.

Dallas Stars: In the playoffs, this would've gone to Marty Turco. However, I'm basing this report around offensive players, so Brenden Morrow gets the trophy. Last season was his first full year as captain, and he responded with career highs of 32 goals, 74 points, and led the Stars to a spot in the Conference Finals.

Detroit Red Wings: The Wings look to Henrik Zetterberg for high-octane offense. Last season, while being shuffled between the first and second lines as Detroit looked to spread offense, 'Zetts' scored 43 goals and 92 points. He'll put up similar numbers for a long time in Detroit.

Edmonton Oilers: In a season of transition, during which a foundation of youth was set, Andrew Cogliano emerged as a go-to guy for the Oil. His three straight overtime game-winners are an unforgettable achievement, and scoring 45 points during his rookie season is respectable on its own. The next Gretzky? Doubtful, but the University of Michigan grad will be a key cog in the Oilers system.

Florida Panthers: The Panthers are another team transitioning to youthfulness. Former go-to center Olli Jokinen was traded to Phoenix, so now Florida will look to right-winger Nathan Horton for consistent offense. For the past three seasons, he's scored around 30 goals, and with likely more top line time, he could score even more.

Los Angeles Kings: The Kings are hoping that with their current abundance of youth (Kopitar, Frolov, Johnson, Hickey, Doughty, Tuebert, Bernier, Purcell, Moller, etc., etc.) they won't have to rely on just one go-to player. As of last year, that player was Anze Kopitar. King Kopitar increased on his rookie season total of 61 points by scoring 77, including 32 goals. He'll get much needed help from Doughty and Purcell this coming season.

Minnesota Wild: The Wild, despite several changes up front, will still depend on the electrifying antics of Marian Gaborik for a win each night. Last year, Gaborik tallied 42 goals and 83 points, both career highs. He'll be a mainstay on Minnesota's top line as long as they can keep him.

Montreal Canadiens: The Habs looked to Saku Koivu a lot since he joined the team, but last season, it was Alexei Kovalev who led the Canadiens during a season in which some thought Montreal could win the Cup and Kovalev could be MVP. He scored 35 goals and 84 points, playing in all 82 games.

Nashville Predators: The Predators recently had a star exodus, but a solid core remains. Originally, I was going to give Alexander Radulov this title, but due to his suspension by the IIHF, he might not play next season. Therefore, Jason Arnott is Nashville's go-to guy. He's not just a replacement, either. Arnott was tied as the Preds leading scorer with 28 goals and 72 points in 79 games.

New Jersey Devils: The Devils have two players that can be go-to scorers. Patrik Elias was New Jersey's go-to guy for several years, but he appears to have been overtaken by Zach Parise. The son of former NHL-er J.P. Parise, the young Devil posted career highs of 32 goals and 65 points last season. He could produce more if the Devils' system becomes less focused on defense.

New York Islanders: The Isles are struggling, and looking for a leader. In an 07-08 season that featured ZERO 50-points scorers on the Islanders roster, the one bright spot was the production of rookie Kyle Okposo. The UM college product scored 2 goals and 5 points in 9 games. Hopefully he can produce like that for a full season.

New York Rangers: The Rangers lost a former go-to guy in Jaromir Jagr, but Chris Drury is always a pleasant name to have present on the bench when game situations get tight. Drury scored 25 goals and 58 points last season, despite third line time (Brandon Dubinsky earned majority playing time with Jagr on the first line, Gomez took the second). He's always a factor in the playoffs.

Ottawa Senators: In my opinion, Dany Heatley is still the main offensive catalyst for the Senators. In three seasons coming off the lockout, Heatley has scored 141 goals. Last season, he might have totaled 50 once again if not for an injury that limited him to 71 games (He had scored 50 in 82 games twice). The Sens will look to him again this year if they want to reach the playoffs.

Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers can finally rely on Mike Richards for key performances in big games. Last season, the young center scored 75 points in 73 games, including 28 goals. He was the team's leading scorer, and will probably play a similar role this year.

Phoenix Coyotes: The Desert Dogs found a new hero last season in Peter Mueller, a rookie who scored 22 goals and 54 points in 81 games. Mueller will lead a cast of young players next season that includes Martin Hanzal and Daniel Carcillo. He's already been touted as Phoenix's next captain when Shane Doan retires.

Pittsburgh Penguins: On a team that went so far in the playoffs last year, with so many big names, you'd think it was impossible to name a single go-to guy. Unfortunately, that list has been narrowed down to just two stars that will definitely lead the team offense-wise. Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby are two stars that can take this team to the top despite who might be the supporting cast. Last season, Malkin stole the spotlight, playing all 82 games and placing second for the Art Ross trophy with 47 goals and 106 points. Crosby suffered from a high-ankle sprain that only allowed him to play in 53 games. Despite this, he scored 72 points, second on his team.

San Jose Sharks: The Sharks look to Joe Thornton every game when they need scoring. A passing master, Thornton scored 96 points last year and 67 of those were assists. He puts up similar numbers every season, and he'll continue to do so for San Jose while he remains in the lineup.

St. Louis Blues: The Blues may have found their new go-to sniper in Brad Boyes, who scored 43 goals among 65 points last season. Boyes was an unexpected top goal-scorer in the NHL, and seeing as he was the only Blue to even reach 30 goals, they'll need him to continue that strong play.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Without a second of hesitation, Vincent Lecavalier is the man in Tampa. He topped the league in goal-scoring in 06-07 with 52 goals, and his 108 points were easily a career best. Last season, he managed 40 goals and 92 points on a last-place Lightning team. However, thanks to that finish, Lecavalier will welcome the help of rookie Steven Stamkos, who looks to be, well, the next Vincent Lecavalier.

Toronto Maple Leafs: The Maple Leafs are desperate for a new hero. For the longest time, Mats Sundin was the heart and soul and scoring prowess of the Leafs, but he is now considering other teams or even retirement. The Leafs are hoping a leader can come out of Nik Antropov, Alexander Steen, or Jiri Tlusty. Antropov is the most likely candidate, having scored a career high 26 goals and 56 points, while Steen is said to have leadership abilities comparable to Jonathan Toews. Tlusty was the Leafs most promising rookie last season.

Vancouver Canucks: The Canucks not only have the luck to own two go-to players, but those two go-to players are also twins. Daniel and Henrik Sedin are clearly the foundation in Vancouver now. Henrik is a center in the mold of Joe Thornton or Marc Savard; last season he scored 15 goals and 61 assists for 76 points. Daniel is slightly more talented in the goal scoring department; he finished 07-08 with 29 goals and 45 assists for 74 points.

Washington Capitals: This team has the most obvious choice for go-to player. Alexander Ovechkin has led the Capitals since his rookie season of 05-06. Last year, he blew away the NHL, scoring 65 goals and 112 points to lead the entire NHL in both categories. He even boosted the Capitals to a division-leading finish, although the Caps fell to the Flyers in a 7-game first round match-up.

That's my opinion on the go-to guy for every team. I know some teams (New Jersey, for one) rely more on amazing goaltending then a strong offense, but this blog was to review the strongest offfensive player on each team. Please comment or critique, thanks.


Tampa Outlook

Not much on the hockey front as of recently, a few signings here and there, but not much to spark my interest.

However, you'll remember that just after the draft, I wrote a blog saying that Phoenix, Los Angeles, and Columbus would become stronger teams in the near future.

Phoenix hasn't let me down, although their moves in free agency weren't mind-bending. Columbus acquired a few players to strengthen the forward position, including Raffi Torres, R. J. Umberger, and Nikita Filatov. Los Angeles still looks ok for the draft, although I'm wondering if Drew Doughty lucked out on not having the guidance of Rob Blake around.

Surprisingly, another team has risen up to join the ranks of this criteria. The Tampa Bay Lightning made several moves during the offseason that will surely boost the team.

The two biggest catches were Steven Stamkos (drafted 1st overall) and Ryan Malone (unrestricted free agent acquisition). Both are sure to play key roles on the second line. Behind the #1 offensive trio of Vaclav Prospal, Vinny Lecavalier, and Martin St. Louis, Malone and Stamkos will probably pair up on the second line with Michel Oullet, Jussi Jokinen, or Mark Recchi. In all, the forwards line-up like this:
Left Wingers: Vaclav Prospal (Listed as a Center on the Lightning player page), Jussi Jokinen, Ryan Malone, Gary Roberts
Centers: Chris Gratton, Jeff Halpern, Vincent Lecavalier, Wyatt Smith, Steven Stamkos, Nick Tarnasky
Right Wingers: Brandon Bochenski, Adam Hall, Michel Oullet, Martin St. Louis, Radim Vrbata, Jason Ward, Mark Recchi

Lock-ins for AHL or spare time; Smith, Bochenski, Tarnasky. I'm not sure where Tampa will fit Jason Ward: his experience spells third-liner, but where would that leave Adam Hall? St. Louis and Vrbata should fill the top two lines, while Oullet and Recchi will likely swap time as spares or fourth-liners. The center depth chart is probably; Lecavalier, Stamkos, Halpern, Gratton, Tarnasky, Smith. Left wing line-up: Prospal, Malone, Jokinen, Roberts. Not sure if anyone in the minors could be called up to LW in case of injury, so we'll probably see a right winger switched over, possibly Bochenski.

The blue-line is the only position that might have taken a hit, losing Dan Boyle. However, his loss resulted in promising Matt Carle, who'll get a chance in the top four. Tampa defenders include: Matthew Carle, Andrew Hutchinson, Filip Kuba, Mike Lundin, Shane O'Brien, Alexandere Picard, Paul Ranger, Matt Smaby.

AHL Locks: Smaby, Picard. Seventh-year vet Filip Kuba suddenly becomes the veteran leader, while either Carle or Paul Ranger can be counted as the most skilled. Despite a lack of big names, this group can still be solid. Offensive skills are brought by Kuba, Ranger, and Carle, while Lundin and O'Brien bring the physical element. Picard and Hutchinson are wild cards. Picard has offensive talent (5-assist game with Philly), but his defensive game didn't bring enough to make him stick with the Flyers. Hutchinson has bounced between the AHL and NHL, playing with Nashville and Carolina. He can scored (14 points in 41 games), but he hasn't been able to stick with a team for a full season, and I'm not sure why. He'll get his best chance in Tampa.

The Lightning quickly gained a reputation for poor goaltending after Nikolai Khabibulin left as a UFA. None of John Grahame, Sean Burke, Marc Denis, or Johan Holmqvist could lead the Bolts back to respectability. Tampa is hoping that after the acquisitions of Mike Smith and Olaf Kolzig, the goaltending will be solid once again. It will be an interesting battle for the starting position: Upstart, young, yet inexperienced Smith versus experienced, successful, yet aging Kolzig. We may just see Smith in net more often.

That's my Tampa Bay Outlook, thanks for reading, comment and critique please.


Ddoig (NHL Connect member, check his page) for the Lester Patrick?

The answer is yes.

As a matter of fact, I haven’t seen a single other story about outstanding service to hockey worthy of the trophy.

If the names Vinny Lecavalier or Zdeno Chara spring to mind, remember; They are hockey players doing great service to other people (Lecavalier for a hospital for children, Chara for Right to Play). Ddoig is a hockey fan doing great service to the sport of hockey.

For those of you who don’t already know, D has created a new style for the NHL. He’s either modified or redone logos for every NHL team, and they look amazing. Why trust me, though? Go ahead and check his profile pictures, or pictures in this group, or even pictures on his website. The jerseys are amazing.

The only thing Ddoig needs now is attention from the NHL. It’s crazy to think that with all of us supporting him, the NHL still hasn’t publicly said anything about his ideas. If we can get D nominated for the Lester Patrick- and he would definitely win if nominated- it could be the final step he needs to get it all out in the open.

Do D a favor. Copy and paste this in your blogs. Your profiles. Paste it in your friggin myspace! Spread the word! A revolution is coming to the NHL and Ddoig is the man behind it all!

Stars 08-09 Outlook

The Stars have essentially the same roster as last year, albeit missing a few forwards and a defenseman, and now including a few new players to replace them. However, it appears the Stars will still be a playoff team come April and May.

Up front, the Stars' top 12 looks to include; Brenden Morrow (Left Wing, Captain), Mike Ribeiro (Center), Brad Richards (Center/RW), Mike Modano (Center, Alternate Captain), Jere Lehtinen (Right Wing), Sean Avery (Left Wing/C), Loui Eriksson (Right Wing), Steve Ott (Center/LW), Joel Lundqvist (Center/W), Toby Petersen (Center/LW), Chris Conner (Right Wing), and Konstantin Pushkarev (LW/C/RW) or Krys Barch (Right Wing/C). Landon Wilson is listed on the roster for the Stars, suggesting he would be another spare, but he hasn't played in the NHL since 2004 and was most recently seen with Lugano of the Swiss league in 06-07. He could still make it, but I don't think he'll amount to very much. The other 13 names could potentially pan out to form these lines:

Left Wing---Center---Right Wing
Extra= Barch, Wilson

Those are just my guesses, although it's possible that Ott could move up to the third line, and Lundqvist would take the fourth line LW spot with Pushkarev moving over to RW, because Lundqvist and Petersen showed good chemistry in the 08 playoffs, nearly shutting down the Red Wings duo of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.

The defense pans out to include: Sergei Zubov (Alternate Captain), Matt Niskanen, Stephane Robidas, Nicklas Grossman, Phillipe Boucher, Mark Fistric, Trevor Daley, and Dan Jancevski. Having 8 NHL caliber defenders is a little crowded, which means that the Stars could pull a trade and acquire either a solid right winger, a thin position at the moment, or a safe backup goalie, although Tobias Stephan appears ready to take the next step.
The blue-line could potentially look like this:

7th= Fistric---Minors= Jancevski

The reason a trade is likely? Fistric definitely proved himself worthy of NHL time in 32 regular season games last year, with two assists and a plus- 3 rating. He was also a valuable asset in the playoffs through 9 games. Jancevski has also been waiting for an NHL chance, and another season in the minors might dim his potential.

Goaltending might be the most solid position. Starter Marty Turco is in his prime, and shook off any possible remaining doubts by reaching the Conference Finals, defeating such foes as the former defending Cup champions, and a San Jose team many thought would go all the way. New backup Tobias Stephan had a solid AHL season, going 27-22-5, a reasonable record with a weak AHL team.

On the farm, Dallas has several young players that could make a big impact if they can secure a roster spot. The two with the most potential are James Neal and Fabian Brunnstrom. Neal had a tough season in the AHL, but improved as the year went on. Brunnstrom had a strong year in Finland, causing a mad dash of NHL teams attempting to sign the undrafted winger to an entry level contract. Another interesting prospect is Richard Bachman. A freshman in college, he had a superb season, named MVP of his Colorado College team by his coach. He could be signed to an entry-level contract if the Stars want him to spend some time in the AHL. However, another collegiate season would help his development.

All in all, the Stars have the names to win the Cup. The question "Can they pull it all together?" remains to be answered. I'm Brooklynhockeyboy (who no longer lives in Brooklyn), signing off.

STARS RULE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!