NHL preseason hockey has us hot for the coming season (starting October 1st!) Over the next several days, Raven and I will be previewing the teams division by division. Today we kick it off with the Northeast.
In 2008-09…finished with 83 points and 11th in the Eastern Conference, just ahead of Toronto. It’s all about the small victories.
This season…expect them to fare better now that they have shed sulky Dany Heatley and acquired Alex Kovalev from division rivals Montreal. Let’s hope second year coach Cory Clouston keeps Kovalev on that line with latte-toting Jason Spezza.
That being said, I’d be concerned about goaltending. The capital’s next great hope, Pascal Leclaire, has a history of beaucoup de injuries and only played 12 games last season. But who knows? If he can put in a full season, he may surprise us all.
Hottie worth watching: Mike Fisher. Now that’s good beard.
In 2008-09…just missed the playoffs with 91 points.
This season..the Sabres won’t settle for being on the outside looking in. With Roy, Vanek, Pominville and Miller plus some added grit acquired during the off-season, the Sabres will be a force to contend with.
Hottie worth watching: Ryan Miller. Obviously.
In 2008-09… almost imploded, squeaked into the playoffs with 93 points for eighth in the East, got their arses handed to them by Boston.
This season…let’s see…Koivu? Gone. Kovalev? Sayonara! Tanguay? Smell y’a later! Brisebois? “I want to race in the NASCAR Canadian Tire series, so I’m retiring!” (what the…?!)
Fear not, Habs fans. You still have Carey Price (heh) and now you have Jacques Martin behind the bench. I love it when he coaches. I have so very many fond memories of all those times the Leafs met his Senators in the post-season, when Ottawa would totally choke. Good times.
Ah, Montreal. I still love the city!
Hottie to watch: He may be a sieve from time to time, but Carey Price is still a handsome lad.
In 2008-09…finished first in the East, lost in the second round of the playoffs to Carolina.
This season…the Bruins recently said goodbye to Phil Kessel. But with Savard, Lucic and a solid defensive corps led by 17-foot-tall Zdeno Chara, not to mention the solid backstopping skills of Tim Thomas, Boston will be just fine. Maybe not President’s Trophy-fine, but I expect they’ll be in the Conference final in May.
Hottie to watch: Marc Savard would have looked great in a Team Canada jersey in Vancouver. Is there still time to reconsider?
Toronto Maple Leafs
In 2008-09…sucked. When Jason Blake is your top goal scorer, it doesn’t bode well.
This season…I was just about ready to declare hockey fan free agency when I saw some of Burke’s signings in his efforts to add such qualities to the team as beligerence and overall douchebaggery (Mike Komisarek? Colton Orr? WAYNE PRIMEAU?!) Then he finally acquired Phil Kessel, which was weird, because I was thinking about testing the waters with the Bruins (I’ve never hated them, and for three good reasons: Bobby Orr, Cam Neely and Ray Bourque)
It was tough watching the Sundin-less Leafs in the preseason. I barely recognized them, but it wasn’t long until I took notice. I mean, have you seen the Frat Pack: Christian Hanson (Mmm, bop, indeed), Tyler Bozak and Viktor Stalberg? Um, cute!
I’d like to think the younger-looking Leafs are going to surprise everyone this season. But chances are they will only break my heart again. Kessel will underachieve in his first season with the club, the Frat Pack will break up before they’ve even had a chance to make a difference, Ron Wilson will sail out of Hogtown with Burke’s footprint on his ass. Don’t let their preseason performance fool you.
Hottie to watch: If you can bear to watch them, check out Lee Stempniak. You know I like the older guys.
That’s my take on the Northeast. You can have your take below.