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BuckeyeHoppy's 2007-2008 NHL Season Preview (Better Late...

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BuckeyeHoppy's 2007-2008 NHL Season Preview (Better Late...

Unread postby buckeyehoppy » Mon Oct 29, 2007 11:43 pm

...Than Never)

This NHL season preview is a little late to post but, alas, until now I haven't had any place to put it on theclevelandfan.com. Undaunted, I will post it here now, with no editing. This preview originally appeared at the following link, also with the previous two editions so you can see how badly I flubbed the first two:

http://talkfreedom.netfreehost.com/view ... alkfreedom

Welcome to the 3rd edition of BuckeyeHoppy’s NHL Preview.

The Stanley Cup Playoffs last year had lots of drama and I would expect this years run to the Cup to be even better, as the competition level in the NHL seems to be more intense than recent years.

The mode of operation here is simple: I will rate each conference separately, in perceived order of finish from worst to first. I will be writing a short synopsis on each team stating my reasons for why each team is located where it is in the pecking order.

Now, this is, more or less, an educated guess and different factors will affect the order as the season progresses. Some teams are still in obvious need of making additions and others will find it necessary to tweak chemistry or cover injuries. But, for now, this is where I believe the teams in the NHL stand to start the 2007-2008 Season.

Eastern Conference

They Will Be In The Playoffs (If They Buy A Ticket):

Philadelphia- the Kool-Aid on the Flyers off-season acquisitions will not be drunk here. It is still a team that lacks strong goal tending or a player who is a genuine “leading man” on any line. They should be better (obviously) than last year, but will not be a factor down the stretch.

Washington- many of the fortunes for the Caps rest on Ovechkin leading the attack and Kolzig minding the net. They are a bit deeper than the past few years but still seem to be a year or two away from being legitimate contenders.

Florida- the Panthers are a team who always seem able to bring it to the net, but the blue liners don’t seem able to return the favor. This year could be different, but the chemistry needs to be there. Adding Vokoun can only help but he needs to stay healthy. There are too many question marks here to justify a pick much higher than this.

Montreal- last year, the Habs had the look and the talent to back up qualification to the playoffs but just fell short. This year features a shed of most of that talent and another looming rebuild. Carbonneau, Gainey and Company appear to have their work cut out for them as this season has the look of building for the future.

Boston- re-signing Chara and adding Fernandez in goal can only help the Bruins, but the organization is once again in flux and it doesn’t look like they have the horses to finish in the money.

NY Islanders- the Islanders have key players in many of the right spots, but another off-season overhaul after qualifying for the playoffs on the last day of the season doesn’t inspire much confidence. Ted Nolan is a great coach and is as capable as any coach at steering the ship through rough waters, but it will be too much to ask him to do it two years in a row.

Carolina- they lifted the Cup two years ago, but the ‘Canes just don’t seem to have the blue line strength to protect Ward on a night-in-night-out basis. The attack is still solid, but in today’s NHL the teams with the best balance get to dance. The ‘Canes seem to be lacking a player or two to consider them playoff worthy.

They Will Be In The Playoffs (As First Round Goodies):

Tampa Bay- this team appears to possess exactly what Carolina lacks on the blue line and having Lecavalier and St. Louis doesn’t hurt either. Playoff qualification seems favorable for this scrappy and veteran Lightning team.

Buffalo- many would think that after the free-agent losses the Sabres have taken the last two years that they would be left in an insurmountable hole. But this team appears to be re-loading and have been able to secure some quality big league ice time for the players taking over for those who have exited. Couple that with a solid blue line, a good, young goalie and some talented holdover forwards and a trip to the playoffs still seems likely.

Toronto- the Leafs always seem to be on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoffs. Perhaps the injury bug will keep them in the cold again, but the tea leaves say that there is enough veteran presence coupled with some savvy off-season acquisitions to propel this squad to a date in the playoffs.

Atlanta- a good young team that is another year older and appear to be poised for greater things this year. Another division crown seems likely for the Thrashers if they can hold off Tampa and should give this team home ice advantage. The Thrashers are not there yet, but will be a tough out this season.

They Will Be In The Playoffs (But Are Not Yet Ready For Prime Time):

New Jersey- the Devils have been one of the steadier teams in the NHL over the last five years. It helps to have the league’s best goalie in Brodeur and the team saw fit to equip him with a competent backup in the off-season acquiring Weekes. That should improve his ability to have legs in the playoffs and give his team a better chance to go deep. A solid, top-shelf team, the Devils could be a fooler if they get on a roll.

Pittsburgh- was there any better story in the NHL last year than the Penguins? Not really. Crosby, Malkin and Company became The Team No One Wanted To Play in last years playoffs. The big thing for this young team is avoid a letdown, but having some veterans like Roberts and Recchi around and adding Sykora to this crew will make them a handful once again.

They Will Be In The Playoffs (…And Then There Were Four):

NY Rangers- on paper, this team should win it all…and they got richer in the off-season. But the Rangers needed a strong final push last year just to get to the playoffs. This team is mystifying. They will either run the table and lift the Cup, or…they might just get run out in the first round, since their don’t seem to be any light touches in the potential playoff lineup in the East. The question: Which New York Rangers will show up this year?

Ottawa- the Senators showed last year that they were an elite team, then they were able to get over the hump and reach the finals. With minimal adjustment to an already packed roster this team has the mojo to once again reach the Cup Finals. The competition should be slightly tighter than last year for a complete Cup run, but Ottawa appears to have the strength to get past all comers.

Western Conference

They Will Be In The Playoffs (If They Buy A Ticket):

Chicago- a pretty young team will hit the ice in Chicago and the results will bear witness to the rebuilding project the Blackhawks will conduct. It’ll be a year for a young team to endure their harsh welcome to the National Hockey League.

Phoenix- last year, I mentioned that the Coyotes were about a year or two away from playoff contention. That forecast still hasn’t changed, although the team has pared some payroll and will be skating with a much younger team. It’s hard not to like the disciples of the Great One, but there simply isn’t enough on the shelf yet to call this a playoff team.

Columbus- if it’s another new season in the NHL it must be another rebuilding project for the Blue Jackets. Ken Hitchcock has never coached a team for a full season and failed to qualify for the playoffs. This team will be his first in that category. They should be a solid team from the blue line, but they will have trouble scoring and you don’t win in the West when you don’t score goals.

Nashville- the Preds have never won a playoff series and losing Hartnell, Kariya, Timonen and Vokoun will be too much for a suddenly younger team to take. They still have plenty of weapons at forward, but will give as many away as Mason will be called upon to be the first-team G for the first time. We’ll see if he is up to the task in the rugged West.

Los Angeles- there are lots of good teams in the NHL West. The Kings are among those good teams. Unfortunately, it takes greatness just to be in the playoff picture in this conference. The Kings are on the right track and have really ramped up their blue line and goaltending over the last year and in the off-season. It’ll be fun to watch this team this year, but I can’t help but think that they are still a year away.

Edmonton- it hard not to like what the Oilers have done in the off-season, adding Souray, Sanderson and Penner. But they have a large hole to dig out of from last year and the West doesn’t give much quarter to teams that don’t quite measure up. There are still a few moves away from legitimate playoff candidacy, but the Oilers appear to be headed in the right direction.

St. Louis- speaking of the right direction, John Davidson has the Blues nearly completely turned around from where they were two years ago. The blue line and goal still need some shoring up, but this looks like a team that contenders will want to avoid down the stretch. They appear to be a year away, but appearances can be deceiving.

They Will Be In The Playoffs (As First Round Goodies):

Dallas- a very good veteran core returns for this team who lost what might have been the best series in all of the playoffs last year. How the Stars respond to the first round lost from last year will tell the tale for this year. I suspect they will treat it like another day at the office, as good teams with lots of experience do. The Stars will be a commodity not to be fooled with.

Colorado- last year’s Avs looked like they’d be all about Joe Sakic and not much else. Instead, they failed to make the playoffs with the greatest number of points for a non-playoff team ever. Not bad effort and what you have in Denver is a fairly well-balanced attack with a rising star in Budaj between the pipes. Add some well-placed FA acquisitions to the mix and the Avs should be playing until the end of April.

Detroit- the Red Wings are the Over The Hill Gang of the hockey world. How they keep doing it defies logic, but they just might have done it long enough to allow for a pretty fair nucleus of young stars to emerge. The look of the Wings now is a fairly credible mix of seasoned veterans with youngsters who have been trained well in an already successful program in Detroit. This is another team in Hockeytown who will be a handful at playoff time.

Minnesota- this squad has a stone wall for a defense and that is a good thing, since they are merely middle-of-the-road on the attack. But if it is true that defense wins championships, then the Wild will cause nightmares for any team and that will be particularly true if Gaborik can stay healthy enough to be the leader on the attack.

They Will Be In The Playoffs (But Are Not Yet Ready For Prime Time):

San Jose- this is a team that, much like the NY Rangers, is fully capable of hoisting the Cup but they can’t seem to get out of the way of themselves. The Sharks are now a team who has had lofty expectations over the last three years and have disappointed every time. They have lots of star power and should at least play into May but there are still questions in goal and that could stall a deep run in the playoffs yet again.

Calgary- this is a strong team who now has the most strong-willed of coaches with Mike Keenan behind the bench. It is a move that could bring lofty results and Keenan has been successful with his methods in the past. It is a high risk move by the Flames FO, but if GM Darryl Sutter is right about his choice of coaches, this is a team that could win it all in June.

They Will Be In The Playoffs (…And Then There Were Four):

Anaheim- the defending Stanley Cup Champions have lost a little bit from last season’s squad. But, as long as they have the Giguere/Bryzgalov goalie tandem behind a rock solid blue line and a Selanne-led attack, the losses have every chance to be overcome and the Ducks have every chance to be skating the Cup again.

Vancouver- the Canucks, like many of the teams in the West, have stone walls on defense. The awesome Luongo in goal and the Sedin brothers as a very effective one-two punch stood toe-to-toe with the eventual Cup winners before bowing out. That means they belong at the table when mentioning potential teams to win the hallowed trophy in sports.

They Who Will Lift The Cup Will Be…:

This season’s eventual winner of the Stanley Cup is hard to pin down. There are at least half a dozen teams who could be skating it at the end of the playoffs.

But I will be going out on a limb this season and calling for the dreaded all-Canadian final that the NHL’s prized demographic…Americans…is just jumping for joy about.

The Ottawa v. Vancouver match up I see happening has two teams who have been on the doorstep for the past couple years. Both teams have had the same line up long enough that each has spotless chemistry and can overcome lapses with good line depth and strong play between the pipes.

But the match up will come down to a battle between the stellar Heatley/Spezza/Alfredsson trio and the goal play of Roberto Luongo. Defense is the surest way to win titles many times, but the trip to the finals for Ottawa is the kind of exposure any team loves and can bank on in future Cup runs. It will pay of for the Sens this season.

It’ll go the distance, but figure on Ottawa winning Canada’s first Stanley Cup since Montreal in 1993.

Game On!!!

There it is, warts and all. Let me know where you see it. You have a one month advantage, but it's all good.

Right around the All-Star break, I'll be coming out with a mid-season report.
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Unread postby skatingtripods » Tue Oct 30, 2007 4:14 pm

Pretty accurate for the most part.

I disagree with a few things though. I think the Flyers find their way into a playoffs over a team like Toronto. The Flyers did lots of wheeling and dealing during the offseason and young guys like Carter and Richards are just going to keep getting better. Biron's a solid goaltender who never really got his fair share of the work in Buffalo, and he's historically a phenomenal second-half goaltender. Plus, Philly's in a weak division.

I think Florida also has a legitimate shot. Vokoun almost single-handedly catapulted Nashville into the playoffs a couple years ago. Their blueline is young, but very talented. In the pathetic EC Southwest division, they have as good a shot as anyone. Atlanta has been the poster child of inconsistency, especially from its superstars.

In terms of the West, you overrate Vancouver immensely. Sure Luongo had extremely gaudy stats with Florida, but that's just because of the volume of shots that he faced. He's always been a goalie that needed lots of work to be sharp and in the tough, rough and tumble western conference, he won't fare near as well. Their defense also is not all that spectacular. Guys like Bieksa and Salo are solid, but not going to lead them that far.

San Jose is a better team than you give them credit for. They've got two bonafide superstars and a great supporting cast. The D is young, but very very mobile. Guys like Ehrhoff and Carle can really transition well.

I certainly can't disagree with Ottawa on the big stage, but I still don't like Vancouver that much. I'm thinking Ottawa faces an upstart Minnesota team in the finals. They score just enough, play the perfect system and have the best goaltender that no one has heard of. Ottawa's only real stumbling block is in net. That's a big problem to have in April. Their goaltending is what will carry them as far as they go.
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Unread postby buckeyehoppy » Tue Oct 30, 2007 9:29 pm

Skating Tripods wrote:Pretty accurate for the most part.

I disagree with a few things though. I think the Flyers find their way into a playoffs over a team like Toronto. The Flyers did lots of wheeling and dealing during the offseason and young guys like Carter and Richards are just going to keep getting better. Biron's a solid goaltender who never really got his fair share of the work in Buffalo, and he's historically a phenomenal second-half goaltender. Plus, Philly's in a weak division.

I think Florida also has a legitimate shot. Vokoun almost single-handedly catapulted Nashville into the playoffs a couple years ago. Their blueline is young, but very talented. In the pathetic EC Southwest division, they have as good a shot as anyone. Atlanta has been the poster child of inconsistency, especially from its superstars.

In terms of the West, you overrate Vancouver immensely. Sure Luongo had extremely gaudy stats with Florida, but that's just because of the volume of shots that he faced. He's always been a goalie that needed lots of work to be sharp and in the tough, rough and tumble western conference, he won't fare near as well. Their defense also is not all that spectacular. Guys like Bieksa and Salo are solid, but not going to lead them that far.

San Jose is a better team than you give them credit for. They've got two bonafide superstars and a great supporting cast. The D is young, but very very mobile. Guys like Ehrhoff and Carle can really transition well.

I certainly can't disagree with Ottawa on the big stage, but I still don't like Vancouver that much. I'm thinking Ottawa faces an upstart Minnesota team in the finals. They score just enough, play the perfect system and have the best goaltender that no one has heard of. Ottawa's only real stumbling block is in net. That's a big problem to have in April. Their goaltending is what will carry them as far as they go.


Of course, you have to bear in mind that these predictions happened before the start of the season, and a lot of things have happened even since the start of the campaign.

Vancouver is a team in disarray at this point. There is a lot of talent there with Naslund, Morrison, and the Sedin brothers. However, the Sedin brothers are off to a slow start as is Bieksa and Vigneualt is calling out some of his players for their sloppiness thus far. It's a long season, but their D has been subpar to this point and Bieksa need to be rock solid if they expect to go on a run.

San Jose definitely has the tools to go all the way, but do they have the heart? I think the Sharks are slowly but surely finding out that Wilson isn't the answer as the bench boss. I also have a hard time believing that Nabakov will ever get his game to a high enough level to take the Sharks that far. I'll agree with you on Ehrhoff, though. He looked great here in Cleveland and has just kept improving. A lot of teams would like to have this guy.

Right now, the feeling here is that it is (I hate to say this) Detroit's conference to lose. This is the one team who has the best balance of vets and youngsters along with a coach who know how to go the distance. I don't like the Dead Wings, but you have to hand it to them...they know how to win and understand that you have to beat the teams you should and step up when it counts.

We'll see how Philadelphia does in the balance of a full season. Biron should be the goalie that you claim but has always struggled with consistency. His consistency is what cost him the Buffalo job. I've always liked Marty, but he and Flyers aren't going anywhere near the playoffs if he goes into one of those one or two month jags where he regularly gets beaten like a rented mule. The Flyers are still a little too green on balance to sustain a Biron meltdown.

You are spot on with Toronto, however. Maurice has lots of players who have almost no chemistry with each other. The Leafs are a train wreck waiting to happen. I'm fairly sure that Maurice won't survive the season if the Leafs can't turn it around.

Florida is a team I like, but I'll like them better in another year or so with or without Vokoun. If their is an upstart team in that division, it is Washington and they have the D and the G to back that up. I still like Carolina and Tampa better in that division, though.

The West is wide open, so I can see where you could be right with Minnesota. However, if Gaborik isn't there, neither are they. Gaborik has to be present and producing for the Wild to go anywhere in the playoffs. If he is doing both, they will compete with any team in the West. He is truly the money man for that team.
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Unread postby skatingtripods » Wed Oct 31, 2007 1:59 pm

buckeyehoppy wrote:Of course, you have to bear in mind that these predictions happened before the start of the season, and a lot of things have happened even since the start of the campaign.

Vancouver is a team in disarray at this point. There is a lot of talent there with Naslund, Morrison, and the Sedin brothers. However, the Sedin brothers are off to a slow start as is Bieksa and Vigneualt is calling out some of his players for their sloppiness thus far. It's a long season, but their D has been subpar to this point and Bieksa need to be rock solid if they expect to go on a run.


I thought that about Vancouver from the start. The Sedin sisters fit well into the new NHL because of their speed and playmaking ability, but I still can't see them ever developing to their expectations. Naslund's an aging star and they don't have a whole lot of secondary production. Morrison's past his prime too.

San Jose definitely has the tools to go all the way, but do they have the heart? I think the Sharks are slowly but surely finding out that Wilson isn't the answer as the bench boss. I also have a hard time believing that Nabakov will ever get his game to a high enough level to take the Sharks that far. I'll agree with you on Ehrhoff, though. He looked great here in Cleveland and has just kept improving. A lot of teams would like to have this guy.


I think SJ has the best potential of any team out west. Ron Wilson really isn't a good coach for that team, I agree, but he's been sufficient. With all of the talent out there, they play way too passively on the forecheck. If they were trying to teach the Sharks system to the Barons, it was incredibly flawed. The Barons never mounted any kind of forecheck and they preferred to play at their own blue line instead of the opposition's.

Those points aside, San Jose needs to be a team of consistency. Having 12 shots in a game against Detroit is inexcusable with the forward talent that they have. Nabokov is not that team's biggest issue, though they should have ridden it out with Toskala and found a way to deal Nabokov's albatross-like contract. They have great goaltending depth still in the system too with guys like Patzold and Greiss.

As for Ehrhoff, he turned himself into a good player. His first two years in Cleveland, his defense was phenomenally bad. He was all offense and would usually get himself caught in the offensive corner. He's turned that around and really turned into a solid player. And he has an absolute howitzer from the point on the PP.

Right now, the feeling here is that it is (I hate to say this) Detroit's conference to lose. This is the one team who has the best balance of vets and youngsters along with a coach who know how to go the distance. I don't like the Dead Wings, but you have to hand it to them...they know how to win and understand that you have to beat the teams you should and step up when it counts.


Detroit goes as far as Zetterberg and Datsyuk take them. Well, as of today, Zetterberg leads the NHL in goals. Rafalski was a fantastic addition. He's a great playmaking defenseman. He was just lost in the system with New Jersey's lame trap style of play. I don't think it's Detroit's conference to lose though. The West is an awesomely balanced conference, with lots of talented teams. 1 through 10 in the West would handle nearly every team in the East. If Detroit stays healthy, they probably do bulldoze the Central, but the Central isn't that good. I still can't see them passing through the second round when it's all said and done.

We'll see how Philadelphia does in the balance of a full season. Biron should be the goalie that you claim but has always struggled with consistency. His consistency is what cost him the Buffalo job. I've always liked Marty, but he and Flyers aren't going anywhere near the playoffs if he goes into one of those one or two month jags where he regularly gets beaten like a rented mule. The Flyers are still a little too green on balance to sustain a Biron meltdown.


Biron loved his teammates in Buffalo but didn't fit on the ice. He was a great guy in the locker room, but his inconsistencies and a young defensive corps really didn't help him during his tenure there. Now that he has a new lease on life in Philly, I expect him to take off.

I still love guys like Carter, Richards, and Lupul. They are superstars in the making and with the right balance, and getting rid of all these distractions with their goonish players, they should be right in the thick of things in a tough Atlantic Division.

Florida is a team I like, but I'll like them better in another year or so with or without Vokoun. If their is an upstart team in that division, it is Washington and they have the D and the G to back that up. I still like Carolina and Tampa better in that division, though.


I'm far from sold on the Lightning. St. Louis, Richards, and Lecavalier are all tremendous, but their defense leaves something to be desired. A healthy Dan Boyle helps, but past him, it's a very pedestrian group. Carolina has some tools, and Brind'Amour looks fantastic so far. Staal's probably the best overall player in that division, but their defense is just not like it used to be. Wesley and Hedican are aging faster than they can handle. The system that Laviolette incorporating is working well, but as those guys break down late in the season, the tent will cave in.

I love Washington, and I agree with you that they have the chance to be an upstart team. Ovechkin is the best player in the NHL today as far as I'm concerned. He's defensively responsible and we all know his offensive gifts. I'm not sold on Kolzig taking them anywhere and they still need another defenseman. I do love the new throwbacks to the mid-80s jerseys.
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Unread postby buckeyehoppy » Tue Apr 08, 2008 10:52 pm

Tripods:

I know you're watching the Tribe at this point, and I'll be over on the game thread shortly. But I decided to bump the "pre-game" show (even if it was posted on Halloween).

The insights proved to be profound and you were definitely right on Vancouver. I saw a lot more there than there was. I watched a lot of the late games on HNIC and came away impressed with Calgary. It's too bad that they drew San Jose in the first round. I don't think they have enough to get past the Sharks and the Sharks are the team that has something to prove in this tournament.

I was proved right on saying that Washington would be the upstart that had the chance. They are now there and play a very beatable Philadelphia team. This is an ideal matchup for them in this circumstance.

I also like what you said about Minnesota. Even if I have them going out in the first round, they still have the season to back them up in proving me wrong. The Avs are a pretty savvy team, though, and I liked how they looked down the stretch. It should be some series and I like the role the winner of this series will have as a potential second round spoiler.

Also, I will say now that the winner between Anaheim and Dallas takes out Detroit in Round 2. Dallas has almost as big an axe to grind as San Jose and Anaheim will still be defending the Cup and have the tools to match the Wings. Detroit can't possibly be looking forward to that matchup, but they probably will be getting a few extra days rest prior to the start.

I'll post the rest of the insight on the Playoff thread at some point before tomorrow night's start.
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