We get a lot of Leafs content on the site.Â That makes a tonne of sense given the URL.Â But every once in a while, itâ€™s nice to take a look at some of the early storylines that could define a teamâ€™s success or failure over the course of the year.Â So join me after the jump for 30 insights (okay thatâ€™s a strong word) on the league and your daily dosage of links.
Anaheim: Can making the playoffs really be down to one guy? Beyond a shadow of a doubt, yes.Â His name is Teemu Selanne, and his decision to re-up or retire will make or break this team.Â Few players are just that good for this much time, but the Finnish Flash is and Ducks fans are relying on him once again.
Boston: Its tough to hear about Marc Savardâ€™s condition, but the strength of this club isnâ€™t centered on any one player.Â Even in net.Â Rask and Thomas will battle it out all season.Â For as much as its Thomasâ€™ job to lose, Rask is just the sort of player to win the position.
Buffalo: Hard to focus on just one guy here, since Pegula bought or brought in half the league.Â Lindy Ruff is perhaps the best coach in the game, but heâ€™ll have to slot the right pieces together.Â The sabres have a real chance at being world beaters this season, but early chemistry problems could mean that they start slow.
Calgary: Its hard to say which Canadian franchiseâ€™s future Iâ€™m more concerned with, the Flames or the Habs.Â NTCs and big money to a lot of aging guys, while relying on a star goalie.Â Nik Hagman and Matt Stajan, poster boys of previous ineptitude in Toronto, will hope to be of relevance to the club.Â Neither remnant from the Phaneuf trade has particularly stunned audiences.
Carolina: Last time the Hurricanes had a Kaberle, they won the cup.Â But seriously folks, thereâ€™s actually a lot to like about this club in spite of the number of former leafs on the roster.Â A major concern â€“ rightfully â€“ will be whether Jeff Skinner can put on a repeat performance.
Chicago: Managing to get rid of Soupyâ€™s awful contract is one of the best things that could happen to a club in need of cap relief after the spend happy ways of now departed GM Dale Tallon.Â If Marian Hossa of circa 2000 â€“ 2008 ever decides to show up, look out.
Colorado: For a team with so much talent, thereâ€™s not a lot of smiles to be found.Â How the Avalanche chose to approach their goaltending situation with Varlamov and Giguere is a bit of a head scratcher. Â They needed a starter, and recent history has proved that while Varlamov has promise, neither tender is a starter in this league right now.
Columbus: Unless the league introduces a second puck to the game, it might be hard for both Rick Nash and Jeff Carter to play the way they like to.Â This team is vastly improved on paper, but the same was said about the additions of Komisarek and Beauchemin.Â Giving up on Filatov gives me pause, as the kid can flat out play.Â He never seemed to stick in Columbus, but surely heâ€™s worth more than the third round pick acquired for him.
Dallas: One star leaves just as one is budding.Â Jamie Benn will be leaned on this year with the departure of Brad Richards.Â How the forward roster responds to increased responsibility will decide their fate this coming season.
Detroit: Will this be the year Nik Lidstromâ€™s age finally catches up with him? This question could be asked about half the Detroit roster, but this team is Lidstromâ€™s, and the efficacy of the Wingsâ€™ defense corps begins and ends with him.Â With the greatest due respect, this team will need to retool heavily on the back end the moment Lidstrom decides to call it quits.
Edmonton: Baby came back, though Iâ€™m finding it hard to see where Ryan Smyth immediately fits in on the team.Â With so much young talent on the wings (Hall, Eberle, Omark, Paajarvi, Hemsky), I canâ€™t imagine that the coaching staff will want to be giving Smyth optimal ice time.Â However, thereâ€™s no doubting that Ryan Smyth in an Oilers jersey is the best thing for his stat line.
Florida: Tallon bought the other half of the league (just to make the cap floor) that Buffalo left, and while scoring shall be done by committee, its not impossible to see 6 or 7 20 goal scorers on this club.Â The moves will lead to exciting hockey, but will it lead to successful hockey? Unlikely.
Los Angeles: Quick needs to play better when it counts, or else Bernier has to prove heâ€™s the number 1.Â Drew Doughty still needs a contract.Â Mike Richards was brought in for a kingâ€™s ransom (look, itâ€™s a legitimate saying.Â He cost a lot), and if he struggles heâ€™ll face some surprisingly harsh criticism in the local media.
Minnesota: The Wild took a couple gambles, bringing in the mercurial Dany Heatley and Devin Setogouchi.Â They could combine for 70 goals this year.Â OrÂ less than 40.Â At least the management recognized that their star play making centre and captain from Scandinavia needed a legitimate top flight gunner on his wing.
Montreal: They assessed a need for a power forward, maybe they should have bought a sturdier model given the millions Erik Cole will cost over the next couple of years.Â He and Markov will represent 10 million in LTIR.
Nashville: Even with getting hosed in the Lebda trade, the Predators still have one of the best team defenses in the league, with a plethora of prospects waiting to fill any holes in the near future.Â Next gem in the pipeline? Former Windsor Spitfire great and WJC team captain Ryan Ellis, who will be looking to stick with the club in the fall.
New Jersey: He is hands down one of the greatest of all time, but how will Martin Brodeur respond to a tandem at this late stage in his career? Hedberg was the goalie who gave the team their best chance each night last season while Marty battled injuries and inconsistencies.Â Goaltending wonâ€™t be the reason they donâ€™t make the playoffs though.Â A questionable forward corps beyond Parise and Kovalchuk will.
New York Islanders: For all the insanity that is Wang, Garth Snow has managed to corral an embarrassment of young talent to reasonable contracts (Moulson, Grabner, Okposo).Â All thatâ€™s left is for them to grow together.Â If this team actually has Nabokov in their lineup, they could be darkhorse for a low seeding in the playoffs.
New York Rangers: â€œRichards, across to Gaborik SCORES!â€Â Get used to hearing it. Slatsâ€™ job security is riding on that phrase being heard early and often.
Ottawa: I have the firm belief that Sens management would love to blow up the team even more to facilitate the rebuild.Â Unfortunately, veterans like Phillips, Alfredsson and Gonchar either have NTCs or minimal market value.Â Craig Anderson is the only thing that will keep this club from being the whipping boy of the East.
Philadelphia: Not many teams can trade their top centreman and former 40+ goal scorer and get better, but the Flyers might have done just that.Â Maybe not this season, but long term the additions of Brayden Schenn, Ilya Bryzgalov, Wayne Simmonds and Jakub Voracek should ensure that this club is a playoff regular for the next half dozen years.
Phoenix: There canâ€™t be much reason for optimism in the desert.Â Easy Bryzy Beatiful Cover Girl bolted to big bucks in Philly, and Mike Smith is hardly the ideal candidate to play the lionâ€™s share of games.Â Add that to an aging and brittle forward corps and uncertain ownership.Â More things change, more they stay the same I guess.
Pittsburgh: Credit the Pens overall depth.Â They still have every chance to compete for a top 4 spot in the East even if Crosby doesnâ€™t play much or at all. Â Shero signing Sullivan could be a steal of deal as a second coming of Bill Guerin.Â An old, grizzled veteran winger with keen offensive instincts who could use a fresh start and a premier playmaker to revitalize his career.
San Jose: The Minnesota Sharks were wise to assess their defensive depth, and adding Brent Burns to their monstrous powerplay should almost be illegal.Â Theyâ€™ll challenge for and win the top seed in the conference under the strength of their top line.Â They wonâ€™t make it past the conference finals under the strength of their top line.Â I thought they signed Doug Murray, not Bill Murray.
St. Louis:Â A healthy Jaro Halak will be reason for hope for the Blues faithful.Â Injuries and accompanying mortal play worked against the former Habs hero in his debut season, but if he can suit up for 60+ games, he will give the Blues the best chance of getting back to the post season.
Tampa Bay: Thereâ€™s a lot to like about this group.Â Good coaching.Â Two excellent and balanced scoring lines.Â The easy story on them is to mention Highlander/Goaltender Dwayne Roloson.Â With that in mind, I think itâ€™s a make it or break it year for Victor Hedman.Â The lanky swede Â has yet to live up to his draft day billing and the core of the team locked up to big money/term deals.Â He could end up being the odd man out.
Toronto: I just want Luke to sign.Â Honestly? Ink to paper already.
Vancouver:Â Bobby Luo was has just earned a star on the Italian Walk of Fame in Toronto.Â What? Besides the injuries that will keep Kesler and Raymond out of the opening night line up, thereâ€™s little to discuss.Â Câ€™mon, they were one goaltender game shy of the Stanley Cup last season, and favourite wire to wire.
Washington: Tomas Vokoun answers one major question for the Caps.Â The additions of Ward and Brouwer will help toughen up the team while increasing the scoring depth of an already potent squad.Â George McPhee proved heâ€™s in it to win it this season and every move heâ€™s made reflects that.
Winnipeg: Sick new jerseys, but much of the same old Atlanta team that couldnâ€™t hack it over the course of an 82 game schedule.Â With the recent news about Big (Huge, even) Buff tipping the scales at a morbid 286 lbs, the optimism surrounding Winnipeg has more to due with having the franchise than their expectations for the coming year.Â At least next yearâ€™s draft is gonna be a good one.
my employer now does the banking for the Buds. Â Discount tickets PLZ.
Burke talks about the teamâ€™s chances this season, where the prospects fit in, and asserts his faith in the netminding.
What the heck, PPP? Whereâ€™s my obligatory Tucker fight post?Â Enjoy this beaut by Roberts
a conflicting report suggesting that Orr has recovered slower than initially reported.Â Of course, one needs to consider the end motives and intended audience given the recent uptick in enforcer related suicides.
This could be a big deal, but itâ€™ll probably be the Wizard of Cros saying he needs more time and has experienced headaches and sickness.Â Now that Iâ€™ve said that, heâ€™s sure to retire.
Iâ€™m not gonna front.Â The jerseys look awesome.Â Go Toronto West!
TSN looks at the top point getters.Â Pool season is upon us!