Hockey: Eastern Conference Preview
One of the best parts of sports is everyone can pretend to be an expert, meaning you can talk out your ass with a complete stranger, so long as you think you’re right. That being said…
Eastern Conference Preview
Biggest hello: Holik. Gives the Thrashers a veteran force they’ve never had.
Biggest goodbye: Heatly. A bittersweet parting, fans have been supportive of him.
Watch for: Lehtonen. Only 4 NHL games, but he’s more than good enough.
Watch out: Not exactly a rushing defence. Their best offensive defenceman may be rookie Coburn, if he makes it.
Note: If Kovalchuk plays a single game in
Biggest hello: Leetch. More than makes up for Gonchar and Delmore, if he’s healthy.
Biggest goodbye: Rolston. Made teams hesitate when he was penalty killing.
Watch for: Boyes to get the opportunity to take the absent Rolston’s minutes.
Watch out: Not a deep defence. As Leetch goes, so go the Bruins.
Note: Attendance stayed at the old
Biggest hello: Numminen. A veteran D surrounded by pups.
Biggest goodbye: Satan. A team that doesn’t score much loses 30 goals. Ouch.
Watch for: Vanek is going to get every chance to make the team, ready or not.
Watch out: With a very young team, lots of mistakes are going to be part of it.
Note: It’s still a toss-up who will be the #1 goalie this year: Biron, Noronen and Miller have loads of talent, so whoever harnesses it first wins.
Biggest hello: Stillman. Anyone remember he got 80 pionts last season?
Biggest goodbye: O’Neill. He may be injury prone, but he’s a scorer.
Watch for: Gerber giving the Hurricanes a chance to win whenever he plays.
Watch out: Not a lot of help from his defence: Commodore uses his size, no others.
Note: Another team in a youth movement. Cole, Staal and Vasicek have one year’s grace before they have to start carrying this team.
Biggest hello: Father Time (Gelinas, Hill, Nieuwendyk, Roberts…)
Biggest goodbye: Hordichuk. Kept opposing forwards honest around the goal.
Watch for: Stewart. The more he imitates Roberts, the better.
Watch out: Medical staff! Some of these old folks are brittle.
Note: Lots of youth, now with lots of experience, too. Just keep Keenan away from the ice, and the damage he did to Hagman and Huselius should be repairable.
Biggest hello: Satan. If Yashin feels less pressure to score, he’ll get more points.
Biggest goodbye: Most of a fantastic defensive corps: Acoin, Hanrlik, Jonsson.
Watch for: DiPietro to be the highest scoring goalie in the league.
Watch out: Yashin is a fine player, horrible captain. A bad mood can mean a bad year.
Note: Milbury has offered DiPietro a 15 year contract extension. Good to know “Mad Mike” is still at it.
Biggest hello: Nylander, if healthy.
Biggest goodbye: Messier. Would have been nice to see him bitch-slap Jagr this year…
Watch for: If Nylander plays more than 60 games, Jagr can get 100 points.
Watch out: If Jagr matures, taking the team onto his capable shoulders and… and… Nope, I just don’t see it.
Note: Lots of “ifs” here, and with good reason. Other than in goal and Staal, the cupboard is going to be bare for a while.
Biggest hello: Bonk. Good defensive forward, okay scoring, great name.
Biggest goodbye: Brisbois. Who are the fans going to unfairly boo now?
Watch for: Ryder and Ribeiro to have a friendly rivalry. Edge to Ribeiro in a wide open game.
Watch out: If the rivalry becomes unfriendly. Any whiff of a conflict between an anglo player and a franco one can set the media pack howling.
Note: It won’t get much attention if: 1) Kovalev scores like he’s supposed to; and 2) Koivu is signed to a multi-year deal.
Biggest hello: Mogilny. Less ice time means (hopefully) more games.
Biggest goodbye: Niedermayer. Malakhov just isn’t the same thing.
Watch for: Rafalski to take 200 shots.
Watch out: Elias is still recovering from a bout of hepatitis caught in
Note: However open the game is supposed to become, the Devils play their system first. For them, it works.
Biggest hello: Much as I’d like to say Heatley, it’s Hasek.
Biggest goodbye: Hossa. Leading scorer last season.
Watch for: Spezza to shock folks who are distracted by Crosby and Ovechkin.
Watch out: If Hasek is injured, it’s down to… Emery?
Note: Heatley will do just fine in
Biggest hello: Forsberg. Their top draft pick from 1991 finally plays for them.
Biggest goodbye: Roenick. He was their public face, and he was everywhere.
Watch for: Rookies Carter and Richards to be in the line up on day one.
Watch out: The defence is big, but not very mobile (still). They may be vulnerable to penalties.
Note: Could be the deepest team in the league. They’ll go as far as Esche can take them.
Biggest hello: No, not him. On ice, it’s Recchi.
Biggest goodbye: Not much. How about Buchberger? Sure, Buchberger.
Watch for: They had 23 wins last season; they could have that by January this time.
Watch out: Thibault has a habit of wearing out if he plays too much, and with Fleury down, Caron needs to play 25 – 30 games.
Note: This team is going to try winning by getting one more goal than their opponents, which is going to make for some long nights for their goalies. More than 100,000 tickets were sold in the two weeks after
Biggest hello: Burke. Solid veteran back up, can take the starting role if needed.
Biggest goodbye: Khabibulin, in a big way.
Watch for: Andreychuk to draw a second salary as an assistant coach.
Watch out: For inflated egos. Andreychuk has to be a buffer between Tortorella and the hot-tempered kids.
Note: Boyle was not supposed to be the top scoring defenceman on the team last year. With a year to adapt, Sydor should be the anchor this year.
Biggest hello: Anyone who can stay healthy. (Lindros, Allison, O’Neill, Khavanov…)
Biggest goodbye: Spending their way out of trouble.
Watch for: Lots of veterans with something to prove this year.
Watch out: A great team on paper, and about as fragile.
Note: If you want to hear 19,000 people holding their collective breath, just go to the Air Canada Centre and listen any time there’s contact on the ice.
Biggest hello: Ovechkin. Massively talented, complete player.
Biggest goodbye: Doig. Added a physical touch to the defence.
Watch for: Cassels and Zubrus fight for the right to centre Ovechkin. The loser gets Semin, which isn’t bad at all.
Watch out: For other teams. These guys are not very good this year.
Note: There are prospects coming, and in a couple of years Ovechkin, Semin, Ouellet and Gordon will make the core of a fine team. But until then…
Okay, that’s it.
Now drop the frickin’ puck, already!