Welcome to the third installment of this year's BHDL Division Previews. Up today is the Southeast Division Presented by NASCAR and Keystone Light. We encourage you to take a look at our previews for the Northwest Division Presented by State Farm Riot Insurance and the Pacific Division Presented by California's Medicinal Marijuana.
Subtractions: Erik Cole, Joe Corvo, Cory Stillman, Troy Bodie
Additions: Tomas Kaberle, Anthony Stewart, Tim Brent, Brian Boucher, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Derek Joslin, Chris Durno
The Carolina Hurricanes were essentially the Minnesota Wild of the East last year. They needed a win against the Tampa Bay Lightning (who had nothing to play for) on the last day of the season to clinch the 8th spot in the East. Instead, they got pummelled 6-2. At home. I'm sure all 8 fans in attendance were pissed about that.
So to put the team over the edge and help them break into the playoffs, GM Jim Rutherford set out to sign every mediocre-to-bad hockey player he could get his hands on. I'm sure there will be some buyer's remorse when it comes to the signing of Tomas Kaberle. And since the Leafs have been breeding such success recently, they signed Tim Brent (who got about 4 shifts with the Hawks in 2008-09). Brian Boucher should be very good at opening the door to the bench by this point in his career, so that's a major upgrade.
The potentially good signings come in the form of Stewart and Ponikarovsky. Stewart had a solid year posting 19 goals and 39 points for the Thrashers last year. Ponikarovsky can be a bargain if he can forget about how utterly terrible he has been for the past two seasons with LA and Pittsburgh. They'll need those guys to step up big to replace the offense lost with Cole's departure if the Canes want to make the playoffs this year. But when you try to replace Joe Corvo with Tomas Kaberle, you shouldn't hold your breath.
Subtractions: Rusty Olesz, Byron Bitz, Steve Bernier, Niclas Bergfors, Tomas Vokoun, Sergei Samsonov, Marty Reasoner, HUGE SPECIMEN HUGH JESSIMAN, Darcy Hordichuk
Additions: Tomas Kopecky, Brian Campbell, Kris Versteeg, Matt Bradley, Sean Bergenheim, Scottie Upshall, Ed Jovanovski, Marcel Goc, Jose Theodore, Tomas Fleischman, Erik Gubrandson (draft pick)
Please, everyone, take an extra second to look at the additions and subtractions because I don't even want to talk about how long it took me to compile that list. Alright, that's a lot of names so try to follow here.
The Panthers were god awful last year. They had an absolutely terrible offense with a sub-par defense full of inexperienced guys overperforming. Tomas Vokoun had been their saving grace for years, but he's only human. There was no saving this team. So Dale Tallon blew it up. They took Erik Gubrandson with the 3rd pick in the draft and he should be very solid for them in a few years. But the issue is the now. So DT took the "REPLACE ALL THE PLAYERS" approach. They dumped as many underperforming forwards as they could and upgraded a little bit with Kopecky, Steeger, Bradley, Upshall, Goc, Fleischmann, and Bergenheim. That actually resembles a lineup of NHL players, a total turnaround from the end of last season.
But the big question is whether those additions will be enough to improve the team in the face of Tomas Vokoun's departure. They'll need Theodore to be servicable. Campbell and JovoCop will have to carry the load on the blue line and mentor the young guys. Gubrandson could make the big club. He'll have to overcome some growing pains, but should get a sizable share of minutes for someone who was born in 1992 (Yeah, 1992. How scary is that. He was born when you were rocking out to that new song Smells Like Teen Spirit. Now he's playing in the NHL.)
Tampa Bay Lightning
Subtractions: Marc-Antoine Pouliot, Paul Szezchura, Mike Lundin, Simon Gagne, Sean Bergenheim, Mike Smith
Additions: Bruno Gervais, Mathieu Garon, Michel Ouellet, Matt Gilroy, Tom Pyatt, Ryan Shannon
Disclaimer: I have a man crush on Steve Yzerman as a GM (I refuse to acknowledge that he existed before becoming the Lightning GM). He took a roster with a lot of holes in it last year and turned it into an Eastern Conference finalist, coming one game short of the Stanley Cup Finals. Water into wine; chicken shit into chicken salad; Matt Walker into Simon Gagne. They're all equal feats in my mind.
The weakest spot on the Lightning roster heading into last season was in goal. Stevie Y addressed that with the signing of Old Man River Dwayne Roloson (Presented by LifeAlert). Rolly turned out to be a great signing. He'll be back this year, but as the oldest active NHL player, he'll have to show that he can endure a full season in the cage. Mathieu Garon signed a deal to be the backup. He's played fairly well the past few years with Columbus. That's great considering what they call defense is essentially the equivalent of what Taco Bell calls "meat."
Sean Bergenheim left for greener paychecks pastures as he opened up Dale Tallons wallet and took out the blank check that he always leaves in there. Bergenheim had a decent regular season, but exploded for a ton of points in the postseason and cashed in. Simon Gagne left as well. Gagne had a bit of a disappointing season. Its really hard to complain when all he cost the Bolts was Matt Walker. Letting go of Gagne was probably a good call as he's been injury prone and has seen his goal scoring drop steadily since his 47 goal season with the Flyers.
Gervais and Gilroy will make for sucky nice depth acquisitions on the blue line. Steven Stamkos might have another incredible year, but he might be slowed down by the gigantic bags of money that he's hauling around. I really hope he set some of it aside to hire Wu Tang Clan to follow him around singing C.R.E.A.M. My personal projection is that TB will take a step back this year. Losing afew scorers will hurt and it remains unseen how Roloson can handle the load of a full season in the NHL without breaking his hip.
Subtractions: Andrew Gordon, Marco Sturm, Michael Nylander, Scott Hannan, Boyd Gordon, Matt Bradley, Jason Arnott, Semyon Varlamov, Eric Fehr
Additions: Troy Brouwer, Roman Hamrlik, Joel Ward, Jeff Halpern, Tomas Vokoun
Poor, poor Washington. The Capitals are like the really attractive, mentally unstable girl you know. They score a lot, look promising, and just when you think they might close the deal with that silver fox named Stanley, they have a total mental breakdown. You almost start to feel bad for them. Almost. And its not like this is some unfounded claim. Nick Backstrom told the Washington Post, "I think its time for us to grow up."
In the offseason the hot rumor was that Alex Ovechkin got fat. Sadly, it turned out that he was just sitting at an awkward angle and had some kind of pad on his stomach. So the next biggest news was the dirt cheap acquisition of Tomas Vokoun. As you read above, Vokoun has been an elite netminder playing behind an awful team for a long time. The Caps are going to look to him as the missing piece of the puzzle. They're a run and gun team that isn't known for playing much defense. Vokoun is going to be challenged and I'm sure once he has a few soft games they'll run him out of the nation's capital.
Meanwhile on the offensive side, the Caps have finally added some secondary scoring not named Alex Semin. Brouwer, Knuble, and Ward should all be able to chip in to take some of the load off him. I predict the Caps to lose in the Conference Finals this year and the NHL will schedule them in the Always A Bridesmaid Bowl against the San Jose Sharks.
Subtractions: Anthony Stewart, Rob Schremp, Radek Dvorak,
Additions: Tanner Glass, Eric Fehr,David Koci (camp invite lol), Kyle Wellwood
Ahhhh the J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets. How I loathe thee already! Has there ever been a team so despicable before they even played a game? From the way their elitist, jingoistic fans felt entitled to a team because "hockey is Canada's game" to the owners just being general dickbags, every move they make just bothers me to no end. Their treatment of the workers in Atlanta was deplorable. After jerking around their former coach for awhile, they made him re-interview for his own job, which they had no intention of bringing him back for. They created a mediocre logo and then decided to hide the most generic jerseys in the history of hockey for as long as possible. Its a shame the Thrashers couldn't get a competent ownership group in Atlanta.
Looking at their roster, the Jets are not going to have the most pleasant of seasons. Without making any real additions (unless you count Dustin Byfugliens weight), they don't stand to have much improvement over their 80 point season. Add in the extra travel that they'll have to do for their one season before realignment (which might move them into a division with the Hawks).
I love Andrew Ladd, but I don't see him best suited as a top line guy. He really performed best with the Hawks when they asked him to shut down other teams' top lines. In Winnipeg they don't have the luxury of making him a depth player. Dustin Byfuglien has been in hot water lately with his BWI charge and weight issue. Is he going to be able to skate 20+ minutes per night given the shape he's in?
Chris Mason and Ondrej Pavelec will have the sever displeasure of playing behind the Jets defense. No matter what way you splice this, they're in for a lot of losses in Winnipeg this year. Its going to be a cold winter up there. And I can't be any happier about that.