2010-11 Northeast Division Preview

Share

nhl-franchise-map

It’s that time of year again!!! The air is getting colder, and the sweater are coming out.  The hockey sweaters that is.  From now until Opening Day of the NHL 2010 season, look out for new division previews, new in depth team outlooks, and big predictions and prognostications of the glorious season to come.  Today, we take a look at the Northeast Division, and what to expect this season.

2010-2011 NHL SEASON INFORMATION EXTRAPOLATION

By: Bryan Vickroy

ryan miller

1. Buffalo Sabres

2009-10 Record:  45-27-10     2009-10 Leading Scorer:  Derek Roy (26-43-69)

Offense

Thomas Vanek is the biggest weapon in Buffalo, and when he’s hot, he’s got more kick than habanero wings.  However, he has been unable to stay healthy recently, and his 40 goal a season production suffered as well.  Beyond the top line, look for this team to stay true to their defensive responsibilities.  Don’t expect a lot of points from the bottom half of the roster, but also don’t expect many costly mistakes that will cost games.

Defense

A steady unit who is deft at moving the puck forward and starting the offensive flow.  This group should put up quite a few points at both even strength and on the power play.  They have the freedom to make rushes and mistakes with their superb goaltending, but if they don’t focus on playing both ends they’ll struggle to win.

Goalies

Mr. All Word Ryan Miller will get the lion’s share of time between the pipes, per usual.  He can keep this team in games by himself in spite of the inefficiency at the offensive end.  Miller won last year’s vezina and is now in the prime of his career.  He will be backed up by veteran journeyman Patrick “Lemon” Lalime.  Lalime has been phenomenal at points in his career, but will be called on for spot duty here.

Top Player:  Ryan Miller, G.

Arguably the best goaltender in the game, he nearly single handedly pulled the USA to a gold medal last year.  But that extra work in Vancouver wore on him down the stretch, and the team faded badly in the playoffs.  Look for a well rested Miller to be back to his dominant self come this spring.

Breakout Star:  Tyler Meyers, D.

Last years Calder Trophy winner will look to make the jump to elite defenseman this year.  His hulking body and blistering shot were a key to the Sabres winning the division last year.  Look for the big man to take last year’s experience and do big things this season.

Outlook

With the rest of the chaos in the Eastern playoffs last year, their weak postseason showing was easily forgotten about everywhere but Buffalo.  Perhaps the team became burnt out at the end of the year, and this year will be less hectic.  But this is a team that, outside of Vanek, will struggle to score goals.  Best case has them winning the division and fighting for home ice advantage, while the worst case scenario has the offense sputtering, and leaves the team grasping for a playoff spot.

youppi- canadiens

2. Montreal Canadiens

2009-10 Record:  39-33-10     2009-10 Leading Scorer:  Tomas Plekanec (25-45-70)

Offense

Montreal will live and die with the speed of their forwards.  They completely remolded their roster last year, and the results were lukewarm throughout the season.  The playoffs showed that this group can work well when healthy and able to fly around on the ice.  They may not be the highest scoring group, but they got bailed out by goaltending in the past.  They must find someone who will score at a consistent rate if they want to do anything this year.

Defense

Their best defenseman, Andrei Markov, will miss a big chunk of the season due to injury.  The rest of the corps is aged, never managed to play up to expectations, or considered damaged goods.  They will usually get help with the speedy forwards backchecking, but are not the swiftest of foot all around.

Goalies

Despite Jaroslav Halak’s heroics last spring, he was shipped to St. Louis in the offseason.  The team is officially Carey Price’s, though that’s been said before.  And he has yet to truly reach out and grab it.  If Price struggles again, there’s no real darling Montreal can throw in and save them this go round.

Top Player:  Tomas Plekanec, C.

The leading scorer a year ago, blessed with speed and hands.  Speed is this teams motto, and Plekanec flies with the best of them.  Besides his offensive output, he was the only Canadien to play every game last season.

Breakout Star:  PK Subban, D.  The kid showed some grit last spring when he got called up, and proceeded to play like a winner in the improbable Canadiens playoff run.  While he may get exposed by some top players, his offensive explosion is sorely needed from the blue line.

Outlook

shaq-cara

3. Boston Bruins

2009-10 Record:  39-30-13     2009-10 Leading Scorer:  Patrice Bergeron (19-33-52)

Offense

So many questions for this team at the offensive end.  How long will Marc Savard be out with his concussion? Possibly all season.  How good will rookie Tyler Seguin be, and where will they play him? He will be a star in the near future, and with the Savard injury, may even get to stay at his natural center position.  Who the hell will actually score goals for this team?  That is a question that will dog last season’s lowest scoring team, and if it can’t be answered, this team can’t win.

Defense

The group itself, other than Zdeno Chara, doesn’t impress anyone physically or statistically.  But this is a group who buys into their coach’s defensive mantras and keeps goals to a minimum.  That is a key, as this group knows it is offensively challenged and struggles at coming from behind.

Goalies

What problems do you have when a rookie steals the reigning Vezina winner’s job?  Not at all actually.  Tuuka Rask came in and flat out robbed Tim Thomas, just like he did so many shooters last year.  The job is officially Rask’s now.  Look for both to have strong seasons while trying to top one another and impress the coaches, and get the job when it really matters: the postseason.

Top Player:  Zdeno Chara, D.

The biggest man in the league is also most likely the game’s most complete defenseman.  His cannon of a shot is both a threat to score and maim someone.  His checks are bone shattering, and he covers huge chunks of ice with his big strides and freakishly long reach.

Breakout Star:  Nathan Horton, RW.

A young kid who has yet to put together a true productive season.  After being lost in Miami the last few years, he gets a change of scenery to a real hockey town.  The kid has the talent, and now having some talent around him should help him flourish for the B’s.

Outlook

Bruins fans are still in shock after their collapse in the playoffs.  The team needs to forget about it as this is a whole new season.  They must find consistent scoring, and must find it from other places due to injuries, trades, and free agency.  They superb in two of three aspects of the game, they just need that elusive offensive ability.  Best case scenario has them toppling Buffalo for the division crown, while worst case scenarion has them struggling to stay in the playoffs again, handicapped by their inability to put the puck in the net.

alfreddson

4. Ottawa Senators

2009-10 Record:  44-32-6       2009-10 Leading Scorer:  Daniel Alfredsson (20-51-71)

Offense

This is a group that has been together for quite awhile and, as a result, have been through many wars together.  Bonafide scorers litter the top two lines, although beyond that there is a lack of depth and physicality.  This is a unit that can skate with the best of them, but can also be bullied around and have their play dictated by the other team.  Needs stronger play and more scoring out of its veterans to survive.

Defense

A group of veterans who are more skilled at making moves than making checks.  Their lack of muscle doesn’t mean they can’t shut down opponents though.  Must contribute more offensively from the back end, especially on the power play.  Must stay home and keep from jumping up into the play too often and leaving responsibility gaps.

Goalies

For years, Pascal Leclaire has been handed the starting job, and every time he manages to underwhelm everybody.  Former Wisconsin standout Brian Elliot stole the job, but wasn’t quite ready for the playoff pressure last year.  Leclaire came in relief, and once again flashed some of his promised talent.  If he doesn’t use it, Elliot will be back in the crease, and he’ll be looking for a new job as a free agent come summer.

Top Player:  Daniel Alfreddson, RW.

The fiery red Swede is approaching retirement, and wants badly to win a championship.  He continues to churn out points on a consistent basis, and is the heart and soul of this team nearly since its rebirth in the early ‘90s.

Breakout Star:  Nick Foligno, LW.

Foligno is a product of the US Development program, which just saw a huge number of players get drafted this past season.  This is the first wave of American hockey renaissance at the junior levels, and look for Foligno to show a good scoring touch when he’s given skating room.

Outlook

This was a playoff team last season, but weren’t expected to do much there.  This is a team that seems to consistently underperform, despite the dearth of big named players in its lineup.  The goalie issues must be solved if they want any shot at making it back to the playoffs for the fifth time since the lockout.  Best case scenario has them in the hunt for the division title, with their skates firmly planted in the playoffs.  Worst case shows the roster eroding due to age or injury, and the team falling into the bottom third of the conference.

5. Toronto Maple Leafs

2009-10 Record:  30-38-14     2009-10 Leading Scorer:  Phil Kessel (30-25-55)

Offense

The Leafs systematically gutted their team on the fly last year, and have filled the roster with young kids looking to prove themselves.  While Phil Kessel will score the majority of this team’s goals, another option needs to become relevant for this team to climb out of the cellar anytime soon.  They mortgaged their future for Kessel, and now must put pieces around him to maximize his skills.

Defense

Another group whose dynamic was changed via trade during the season last year.  GM Brian Burke wants big, mean defenseman who will defend the honor of the Leaf.  While none of these players may truly scare you offensively, they will definitely let you know their presence on the ice.  And they’ll all make a hefty paycheck for doing checking instead of scoring.

Goalies

One of the more intriguing tandems in the entire league.  Toronto went out and won the bidding war last year for Swedish import Jonas Gustavsson, and he proceeded to show flashes of being a bonafide star after having his arrhythmia correct during the season.  But veteran JS Giguere has Cup experience, and has carried weaker teams on his back before.  Both of these goalies are capable of putting up out of this world numbers, but both are just as capable of melting down and losing the job.

Top Player:  Phil Kessel, LW.

Kessel was unhealthy when he was traded to Toronto last year, and he took much of the year to get back to warp speed, and adapt to his new surroundings.  After, he became Toronto’s first 30 goal scorer since Mats Sundin.  He is one of the most dangerous men in the game with the puck on his stick.

Breakout Star:  Tyler Bozak, C.

An alumni of the WCHA, Bozak was a named I cursed many times while he played for Denver.  He is a little small, but shows good hands and an ability to light the lamp.  Look for big things while centering for a finally healthy Kessel.

vickroy_hockey

Bryan Vickroy has an addiction to hockey, and is willing to partake in all its forms.  He is skating extra shifts this season, 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 www.twitter.com/bryanvickroy/ If you’d prefer to speak in more than 140 characters at a time to him, he can be reached at bryan.vickroy@gmail.com

Powered by

Comments

  1. that’s a pretty fucking cool pic of you in the frozen tundra, like the NY Islanders logo, in Antarctica or something.

Speak Your Mind

en_USEnglish
en_USEnglish