Wednesday, October 05, 2005


The answer: Hell yes. Get ready for the best, most exciting season to date. The puck drops tonight! I can hardly contain myself. Thoughts...

I'll take the Senators out of the East. They retain a solid core of talent and have the best defensive corps in the league. Oh, and Hasek in goal. That helps tons. Heatley and Spezza are going to light it up this year.

The Flyers look very strong on both offense and defense, but I can't understand how anyone is taking them so seriously with Robert Esche in goal. They're not reaching the Cup as long as he's between the pipes.

Keep an eye on Boston. If they get solid goaltending, they could make a serious run. Joe Thornton will be making an MVP bid. New Jersey will be tough as always, but will definitely miss Stevens and Niedermayer on the blue line. Pittsburgh will be a lot of fun to watch, but I feel their defense is still too big a problem for them to go deep in the playoffs.

The defending champ Lighting? They'll cruise during the regular season thanks to being in the worst division by far. However, no Khabibulin in net will be the difference in keeping them out of the Finals.

Washington and Carolina will be battling for worst team in the league.

Eastern Conference:
Atlantic division
1. Philadelphia*
2. New Jersey*
3. Pittsburgh*
4. NY Islanders
5. NY Rangers

Northeast division
1. Ottawa*
2. Boston*
3. Toronto*
4. Montreal
5. Buffalo

Southeast division
1. Tampa Bay*
2. Atlanta*
3. Florida
4. Carolina
5. Washington

(*)Denotes playoff team

On to the far far far tougher, deeper West. There are 11 or 12 teams with legitimate playoff aspirations whereas the Eastern Conference really only has about 6 quality teams at most.

The two best teams out west play in the same division. I'll pick Calgary over Vancouver as the conference winner if only because Dan Cloutier will never be a top flight goalie. Sorry, Canucks.

A lot of people are high on Nashville this season. I agree that Tomas Vokoun will definitely blow up this year, but I hesitate to hand them that division so soon. For now, I'll take the proven commodity in Detroit. I also don't buy the Chicago hype. Khabibulin is excellent, to be sure, but the Blackhawks will offer him little help in front of goal and have almost no firepower.

Toughest division in the entire NHL? It's the Pacific. All five clubs are capable of a playoff run. The Sharks are a step ahead of everyone, right now. GM Brian Burke will re-invigerate the Ducks. I think the Kings (though their goalies are unproven) and Coyotes will be the surprises of the NHL this season. Be sure of it, Gretzky's team will be motivated. It's hard for me to leave talent-heavy Dallas (old age hurts them) and improved Edmonton (Ty Conklin in goal? Ew) out in the cold, but that's the way it's shaking down.

Western Conference:
Central division
1. Detroit*
2. Nashville*
3. Chicago
4. Columbus
5. St. Louis

Northwest division
1. Calgary*
2. Vancouver*
3. Edmonton
4. Colorado
5. Minnesota

Pacific division
1. San Jose*
2. Anaheim*
3. Los Angeles*
4. Phoenix*
5. Dallas

When it's all said and done, Ottawa will be skating around with Lord Stanley's Cup as Calgary comes up just short, once again.

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