Finally, after months and months of everyone involved being morons, causing 113 days, 625 games, and the biggest outdoor hockey game in history to be cancelled, hockey fans can finally say “Game On!” The NHL has a new 10-year labor agreement, and is set to start the shortened, 48 game 2013 season on Saturday, January 19. Find out what you need to know about every team in the NHL for the upcoming season, this time featuring the Southeast Division. Continue after the jump to find out where your team will finish.
Last season saw the Southeast Division get two teams into the Stanley Cup Playoffs: Washington and, surprisingly, Florida. The Panthers came from nowhere to claim the division last year, yet the Capitals advanced furthest, if only into the second round. Will there be another worst to first in the Southeast? Possibly….
SOUTHEAST DIVISION PREDICTIONS
1. Carolina Hurricanes
LAST YEAR: 33-33-16 (82 pts)
5th Southeast, 12th East (Missed Playoffs)
2011-12 Leading Scorer: Eric Staal (24-46-60)
2011-12 Top Goaltender: Cam Ward (2.74 GAA, .915 SV, 5 SO)
The Hurricanes made the biggest splash of draft night, making the big deal with the host Penguins to acquire Jordan Staal to play on the same team as his brother Eric. The Canes also signed free agent Alex Semin to a one year deal. Carolina is a team who always seems to play to extremes. The last couple years have been down. The talent is there to slingshot this team back to the top of the divison.
2013 Leading Scorer: Eric Staal
2013 Breakout Player: Riley Nash
2. Tampa Bay Lightning
LAST YEAR: 38-36-8 (84 pts)
3rd Southeast, 10th East (Missed Playoffs)
2011-12 Leading Scorer: Steven Stamkos (60-37-97)
2011-12 Top Goaltender: Mathieu Garon (2.85 GAA, .901 SV, 1 SO)
The Lightning have always had plenty of offensive weapons between Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, and even the aging Vinny Lecavalier. Unfortunately they were failed by poor goaltending last year. By trading for Anders Lindback, Tampa hopes to have a stable presence in net, and allow Stamkos to continue to light the lamp over and over, this time having those goals mean something.
2013 Leading Scorer: Steven Stamkos
2013 Breakout Player: Anders Lindback
3. Washington Capitals
LAST YEAR: 42-32-8 (92 pts)
2nd Southeast, 7th East (Lost 2nd Rd 4-3)
2011-12 Leading Scorer: Alex Ovechkin (38-27-65)
2011-12 Top Goaltender: Tomas Vokoun (2.51 GAA, .917 SV, 4 SO)
Despite having a terrible year last year by most standards, and seeming to be sliding, Alex Ovechkin still put up 38 goals last year, good for fifth in the league. However, the departure of Semin due to free agency, and the coaching change up front (Adam Oates is boss now) should be a cause for concern with such a short, condensed season. This is also not a young team anymore. Braden Holtby appears to finally be the answer in net, but this team’s window of opportunity is closing.
2013 Leading Scorer: Alex Ovechkin
2013 Breakout Player: Braden Holtby
4. Florida Panthers
LAST YEAR: 38-26-18 (94 pts)
1st Southeast, 3rd East (Lost 1st Rd 4-3)
2011-12 Leading Scorer: Tomas Fleischmann (27-34-61)
2011-12 Top Goaltender: Jose Theodore (2.46 GAA, .917 SV, 3 SO)
The Panthers were the surprise of the NHL last year, coming from nowhere to claim their first ever division title. The same core of players will be back this year, however the veterans will be one year older, and the kids one more year matured. This team isn’t quite ready to make the leap to elite yet, and expect older players like Ed Jovanovski, Jose Theodore, and Brian Campbell to struggle at times with so many back to backs and condensed games.
2013 Leading Scorer: Stephen Weiss
2013 Breakout Player: Drew Shore
LAST YEAR: 37-35-10 (84 pts)
5th Southeast, 11th East (Missed Playoffs)
2011-12 Leading Scorer: Blake Wheeler (17-47-64)
2011-12 Top Goaltender: Ondrej Pavelec (2.91 GAA, .906 SV, 4 SO)
Within the time frame of one year, Winnipeg has become one of the more dangerous places to play in the NHL. The Little Jet Engine That Could didn’t quite finish last year, mostly do to the grueling travel of being in the Southeast. This season will only make it that much worse. While the team has a lot of talent with forwards like Blake Wheeler, Evander Kane, and incoming Mark Scheifele, the demands of a misplaced team will ultimately doom them this season. However, a very high draft pick, before moving to a more favorable division next year with realignment, might not be the worst thing. Besides, the honeymoon is still on.
2013 Leading Scorer: Evander Kane
2013 Breakout Player: Paul Postma
Bryan Vickroy has an addiction to hockey, and is willing to partake in all its forms. He is skating extra shifts for The Sports Bank, covering the Minnesota Wild, the NHL, and NCAA hockey all year long. Look for new articles throughout the week. He can be followed on Twitter at @bryanvickroy. If you’d prefer to speak in more than 140 characters at a time to him, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.