Friday, August 31, 2007

Glen and Troy Pre-Season Predictacular - Northeast Division

I know it seems like forever ago that the Ducks hoisted that Stanley Cup, but training camp is only two weeks away! We have a long regular season ahead of us, and to help get you primed Troy and I will be presenting you a six part preview series on each division around the NHL. So without further ado, allow me to kick this one off...

Glen Says:

We begin our season preview by looking at the home to both my favourite and least favourite team, the Northeast division. Last year this division was home to one of the best teams in the league, the Stanley Cup Finalists, the most dramatic race to the playoffs, and uhhh...the Boston Bruins. I think as usual, this season promises a ton of intrigue and excitement from the home to Canada's Eastern teams.

The biggest change in this divisions landscape comes out of Buffalo and the stunning losses of Daniel Briere and Chris Drury. I was convinced that the Sabres would find a way to resign one of them but the Flyers and Rangers had other plans I guess. While the Sabres will not run away with the Conference like they did last year, I think that their team is still deep enough up front to be able to get into lower bracket of the playoffs.

Speaking of change, we have the Leafs. While my complete and utter disdain for the grammatical incorrect team has never been hidden, I am very impressed with the additions of Toskala and Blake. Both of these players have proven themselves as top level performers and should be a nice addition to the Buds. But I think that the East is going to be a tough place this year and I just don't think that they have what it takes to crack the top 8.

On the other hand we have Les Canadiens, who certainly made some interesting moves this off-season. First off their biggest addition was by subtracting Sergei Samsonov. The man was simply not a fit in Montreal at all and was a waste of salary cap room. While Souray's departure will hurt, they also made two great signings by getting Roman Hamrlik and Bryan Smolinski who should be able to benefit the club in the immediate short term, which will probably cancel each other out. I think that if Huet can stay healthy these guys can sneak into the playoffs this year.

The Boston Bruins still suck. End of story.

That leaves my Sens. I mean I'm clearly really happy that they got to the finals but what I'm even more excited about is that the team is more or less intact. They lost Comrie, which sort of sucks, but they can easily get another player of his caliber through some trades if need be. I think that the Sens are the easy pick to take the division. That being said, the future remains unclear after that, they are going to face some big challenges in the off-season with many of their top players set to become unrestricted free-agents. They will have some tough decisions to make, trade them or go for it? I think that their record by the All-Star Break will tell the story of that one...

So just as a review, my predictions for this division are:

1. Ottawa Senators
2. Buffalo Sabres
3. Montreal Canadiens
4. Toronto Maple Leafs
5. Boston Bruins

Troy Says:

Last season the Northeast division proved to be one of the hardest divisions in the league. Two powerhouses at the top, an amazing race going down to the wire and of course the Boston Bruins.

An Glen mentioned Buffalo went through some major changes this off season and I, like him, thought Buffalo would do whatever it took to at least keep one of either Drury or Briere but to lose them both was a disaster. I think this is really going to hurt this team and I'm not sure if their youth, which is good, is quite ready to fill the massive void created by the losses of Briere and Drury. This will be a solid playoff team but I don't see them running away with the league as they did last year.

The Leafs are interesting. Adding Blake was definitely a smart move and Toskala will keep Raycroft on his toes and if he faulters at all Toskala will be ready to take over the reins. Goaltending should not be a problem for the Leafs this year but putting the puck in the net may be. Mats Sundin is certainly no spring chicken and other than Blake who else on this team can consistently score? Along with this Toronto is going to need their very young defensive core to come up big. This is going to be a solid defense in a few years and the offense from the blueline will be there but I'm not sure if it will be there in time for the playoffs this year.

This brings me to my favourite team, Montreal. Addition through subtraction was the key here. Samsonov was a major bust and fortunately they found a sucker to take his contract. Have fun Chicago. Losing Souray is definitely going to hurt but Smolinski should be a solid signing and Hamrlik should provide some offense from the back end. I think Montreal will be a strong threat for a bottom playoff spot.

Boston.....they dealt away Joe Thornton. Perhaps a bad call? This team is going no where fast and I like it that way.

The final team in the Northeast is the defending Eastern Conference Champion Ottawa Senators. Ottawa's biggest moves this off season came behind the bench. John Paddock is the new head coach which should do well for the Sens. They say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger so considering the team is mostly intact from last year's playoff run it's hard to see them losing ground on last year. Ottawa will be strong again this year and their experience should go a long way in making them tougher to play against. There is however a very dark cloud looming over Ottawa as a few of their high end players are set to become Unrestricted Free Agents at season's end so it will be very interesting to see what Ottawa can do to keep this team together.

So here are my predictions for the Northeast Division:

1. Ottawa Senators
2. Buffalo Sabres
3. Montreal Canadiens
4. Toronto Maple Leafs
5. Boston Bruins


Freakin' copy cat Troy!!! Well we'll see how right we are come April. Tune back in a few days for a preview on the Atlantic Division.

Until next time,


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