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Pensburgh's 2008-09 NHL Bloggers' Season Preview - Eastern Conference

Check out the Western Conference preview.

If you want to get to the heart of the matter, the best you can do is go to the source.  I could've easily visited various web sites and blogs to gather up information in attempts of making my own well-researched preview, but frankly my area of expertise would be only that which was made public to me.  And so to get the best previews, I went to the best.

Some bloggers were kind enough to offer their previews.  They're posted up after the jump - again, the post following the logo of each team is not my own.  The source is whatever blog I have linked up.  Others just asked to be linked.  They are few and far, but they are still present.  Either way, the contributions and efforts for our site is greatly appreciated, and I hope you'll consider adding them to your list of hockey blogs.

Follow the jump for some of the best coverage of each NHL team from the eyes of their biggest fans.




Last season's record: 42-27-13
Fifth in Conference
NY Rangers Blog


I think Ranger fans are ready for a change. Jaromir Jagr revived this franchise after eight straight years without a playoff appearance. When he was traded to the Rangers we were a laughing stock. And because of him we are once again respected throughout the league. Players in their prime now want to come to the Rangers and win (see Scott Gomez and Chris Drury) not just over-the-hill fading super stars looking for one last payday. Having said all that the Rangers needed to start the Gomez/Drury era. And there was no way that was going to happen with Jagr still on the team. For the franchise to take the next step forward he needed to go. To keep up with teams such as the Pens and Montreal the Rangers needed to bring in younger faster players while cutting ties with older slower ones. Unfortunately Jagr fit into the latter. No question we will miss him and everything he did to inject life into this franchise, but it was time to move on and I don't think Rangers fans are regretting it at all.

A major weakness on this team will be toughness on the blueline. Redden, Rozsival, Staal, Girardi, Kalinen and Mara hardly puts the fear of God into anybody. I'm concerned that Lundqvist will be battling to see pucks with all the traffic these guys won't be moving from the crease.


In the off-season the Rangers brought in three players that could take the place of Sean "The Devil Wears Prada" Avery. Those are Aaron Voros from Minnesota, Patrick Rissmiller from San Jose and Andreas Jamtin who is supposed to be the Swedish version of Avery. First off I'd like to say that no one and I mean no one can take the place of Avery. This guy brought it every night and has more hockey skill than anyone ever gives him credit for.


I think the overall perception of this team by Ranger fans is that they don't know how we'll do. If this team can come together and players such as Naslund, Redden and Zherdev play to their potential this team could be special. But if those same players melt under the bright lights of Broadway we could be in for a tough year. Our ace in the hole, however, is Lundqvist. If plays the way he is capable of we make the playoffs no matter what. I'm excited about all the moves the Rangers made and am of the opinion that this will be a special year for the New York Rangers.



Last season's record: 47-27-8
Second in Conference
Blog: Hmmm
Preview: Sean Leahy has a great preview on Yahoo's PuckDaddy Blog


Last season's record: 46-29-7
Fourth in Conference
In Lou We Trust


The offseason treated the Devils fairly well.  The signing of Brian Rolston adds a proven scorer - from Minnesota, no less - to the top six and Bobby Holik can reprise his role as a checking center without having to be the main guy.  The important thing about these two signings is that both are former Devils so they are familiar of the team's philosophy and committment.  That will make their adjustment to the team a lot easier.  On defense, the big moves were the retainment of Bryce Salvador and the removal of Vitaly Vishnevski and Karel Rachunek.  Both Vishnevski and Rachnuek were moved around among the Devils' carosol of defensemen, so I don't think either loss will be massive.  Salvador adds an additional defensive defenseman to a blueline that really only had one true player of that type (Colin White), so he'll be useful.

Can Martin Brodeur give the Devils another full, healthy season?  Of course.  He'll break Roy's wins record, put up another 40 win season, and maybe another Vezina.  Hopefully, he'll be lifting Lord Stanley before the Vezina, but that's only exactly that - hope.

The one thing about the Devils is that despite how the roster looks on paper, the team has consistently been excellent in the regular season since 1993-1994 (except for that horrific 1995-1996 season).   With a team as committed to team defense, effort, and living up to high expectations as New Jersey is, there isn't a reason to expect this coming season to be any different.  It's going to be a tight race with 3 other potential contenders in the same division; but I can see the Devils finishing second in the division (just a few points out of first), fourth in the conference, and about sixth in the league.  That said, if the Devils do win the division, it shouldn't come as much surprise.

The main strength of the team is goaltending and a committment to the team philosophy - strong defense from everyone and a transition offense.  These are the cornerstones of the franchise and what makes the Devils the Devils. The main weakness has been consistent offense.  It's not that the Devils don't have players with talent or that they don't shoot the puck, it's just that their finishing is erratic.  Some nights, they'll look like a team that can put any defense to the sword and put up 3, 4, or more goals.  On other nights, they'll get chances and immediately squander them like a quarters at an arcade either on purpose and/or rotten luck.  This even extends to their generally putrid power play.  If the Devils can at least find some consistent scoring within the team - it doesn't have to be one player or one line, just somebody has to be lighting that lamp - they will be that much more of a contending team.   Until then, it will remain as their albatross.


Last season's record: 35-38-9
13th in Conference
Islanders Frontier


Scott Gordon is one of two big mysteries for the Isles entering the season. The AHL Coach of the Year has no NHL coaching record to point to, so Isles followers are combing over his AHL history and devouring any hints about his style they can find. Coming in, his strength as stated by GM Garth Snow is that Gordon can work with and develop youth, as he did at the AHL level for the Bruins (under three different GMs). But the NHL, of course, is a different ballgame. The Islanders core is made up of vintage veterans: Bill Guerin, Mike Sillinger, newcomer Doug Weight, Brendan Witt, and still-young team cornerstone Rick DiPietro. DiPietro should have no problem buying into Gordon, a former goalie, with his commitment to defense. But another tenet for Gordon -- practicing and playing at a higher tempo -- may not be what the old guys want to hear.

Honestly, the Isles shouldn't miss Satan or Fedotenko all that much. While they tied for second on the team in goals (16 each) last season, each was hampered by injuries. Fedotenko was ace collecting goals by standing in front of the net, but a nagging shoulder injury limited him. Satan's knee -- and Ted Nolan's insistence on putting him at the point on the powerplay instead of his preferred down low post -- kept his totals down. It's not that the Isles didn't lose assets by letting these two go, it's that neither performed up to their capabilities/salary last season anyway. Most importantly, the Isles have young wingers who they need to test, to find out what they have. Creating the ice time for them was a must.

The Isles don't have the building or the rep to attract top-tier free agents, and they have "small market" revenue in the largest metropolitan area in the country ... it was a quiet summer. Their only choice was to commit to accumulating and developing young assets. To that effect, they did fine. Trading down twice at the draft was unpopular (every fan seems to think there is a Crosby available on draft day), but I applaud it. Instead of one uncertain first-rounder, they got one plus several picks for the future. I like those odds better. Bringing in Mark Streit was a relative coup -- he should liven up their bottom-ranked powerplay. Refusing to be coaxed into taking on Bryan McCabe's albatross deal was perhaps equally as important. Doug Weight (begin laughing), though in obvious decline, is a no-risk investment. While the Isles have promising young wingers, their depth at center is thin. They needed another center from somewhere. Weight is universally respected in the locker room, so perhaps that and his passing -- which hasn't declined like his speed has -- will help those wingers to some goals and some lessons in being an NHL professional.

Strengths - They have a promising new coach who is more comitted to defense than Nolan. The powerplay, with new personnel and new tactics, should improve. They've finally bitten the necessary bullet to commit to youth. Gordon has pledged to play them. The second mystery is how these youngsters will do. A guy like Tambellini, who led the AHL in scoring for much of last year but was rarely used (and rarely scored) under Nolan will finally get his chance. Fans are divided (I'd already written him off) about his potential. But though a youth movement was necessary, the fanbase is antsy: Strange owners, the legacy of Milbury, and coaching turnover has tested their patience. Few fans wanted to see Nolan go.

Weaknesses - The veterans they are relying on have injury concerns. Two-way performer (and speedster) Mike Sillinger won't be ready for camp after hip surgery. Doug Weight says he's healthy, but his abdominal and hip history coincides with his decline of recent years. Bill Guerin had offseason shoulder surgery. Brendan Witt is a warrior who plays through a lot of injuries, but his style inevitably leads to missed games. Oh and Rick DiPietro, who's kind of important, has had surgery to both hips and one knee in the last two years. He also wants to play every game. Gordon's biggest challenge may be getting DiPietro some rest while talking himself into using backup Joey McDonald, who was in the AHL last season and seemed to garner his place on the roster this season merely because his two-year contract guarantees a one-way (NHL) salary this year.

Last season's record: 42-29-11
Sixth in Conference
Blog: Fanhouse or 700 Level
Preview available on Flyers' Fanhouse page




Last season's record: 43-31-8
Seventh in Conference
Blog: Sens Army

Much of the Sens' off-season activities were not just for on-ice production, but looked at adding some cohesion to the locker room. In some cases there was addition by subtraction (Ray Emery, Wade Redden) and in some cases they were just quality pickups of players with character who can be effective in their roles (Jarkko Ruutu, Alex Auld, Jason Smith). The biggest trade of the summer, swapping Andrej Meszaros to Tampa Bay for Alex Picard, Filip Kuba, and a first-round pick, should certainly help the 2008-09 team by adding depth and a quality asset to use as trade bait or simply to add to the depth, but it remains to be seen whether or not Meszaros will turn into the elite defenceman Tampa Bay thinks he might be.


Goaltending is definitely the biggest issue in the minds of Sens fans this season. Martin Gerber had struggled working alongside Ray Emery, and the assumption is that he has a hard time dealing with competition. After looking at possible replacements like Nikolai Khabibulin and Cristobal Huet, Sens' GM Bryan Murray seems to have decided that Gerber is the team's best option, and complemented him by picking up Auld as a backup who, if needed (read: if Gerber drops the ball), can play a few games. I am of the opinion that Gerber has the ability to be a starter; with head coach Craig Hartsburg seems likely to install a team-defence system and an almost completely re-built defence, it might be tough at the start of the year, but things should get better when everyone buys in.


A healthy Sens team will definitely be a threat this season. Injuries weren't our biggest problem last year, but many say the injuries to Daniel Alfredsson and Dany Heatley were a result of former coach John Paddock over-playing them at the start of the season. The Sens' are blessed with what some would argue is the most potent first line in the league (Alfredsson, Heatley, and Jason Spezza), although Hartsburg may be splitting them up to try and spread scoring around. The Senators have the pieces to make a statement in the Eastern Conference, and try to prove last year was an exception, but staying healthy will be key to doing so.


The Senators' strongest asset is probably the ability to score, and that has been the case for some years. Obviously there are the big three of Spezza, Heatley, and Alfredsson, but the Sens have to be hoping for significant production from Mike Fisher, Antoine Vermette, and rookie Nick Foligno. And Chris Neil has to have a better year than he did in 2007-08. After that, defence should be better this season, with two of the league's best shot-blockers in Anton Volchenkov and Jason Smith followed by a couple of the next-best shot blockers in Chris Phillips and Kuba. It is hoped that Kuba, Alex Picard, and Brian Lee will be able to move the puck well on defence, and Christoph Schubert or Bell will be ready to step in if any of the other defencemen play poorly.


Last season's record: 39-31-12
10th in Conference
Blog: Die By The Blade



The Sabres are coming off a season where they failed to qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, just one season removed from winning the Presidents Trophy.  There was plenty of talk about the guys that left before and during the season but Head Coach Lindy Ruff was quick to point at the Sabres play away from the puck as the reason for the teams failure last season.  I think some of the young guys like Derek Roy, Thomas Vanek and Drew Stafford are starting to understand that they need to do more without the puck especially in the defensive zone.  The Sabres have had one of teh most powerful offensive teams in the NHL the past couple of seasons but need to focus a little more in the defensive zone.  If there is one area the team needs improvement, defense is it.


I'm not sure the Sabres have a player that will come from nowhere to become a go-to guy, they already have that with Derek Roy and especially Jason Pominville.  Derek Roy was asked to do a lot more last season after Drury and Briere left and he handled the extra workload by having a career year.  Jason Pominville played on a line with Danny Briere two seasons ago and people questioned whether that was the reason for his big numbers, he proved last year that he didn't need Briere to put up big numbers.  If there is one guy that could erupt offensively it would be Maxim Afinogenov.  Afinogenov has always been a speedy forward with a ton of potential but he really fell off the radar last season.  Darcy Regier publicly stated that he may need to trade Max but it never matieralized and now Max has something to prove. 


Since the lockout the Sabres strength has been their offense.  The Sabres led the league in goals scored in the 2006-2007 season and many thought they would suffer in 2007-2008 after losing Briere and Drury.  The Sabres were the fourth highest scoring team, behind only Montreal, Ottawa and Detroit, in 07-08. 


The weakness of the Buffalo Sabres is their play in their zone.  It's an entire team effort that allows their opponents to score goals, the forwards aren't doing enough without the puck, the defense has been soft at times and Ryan Miller had a disappointing season.  There was talk of fatigue with Ryan Miller but I don't subscribe to that theory.  It appeared to me that Ryan tried to do too much last season and put the game squarely on his own shoulders, he often overplayed pucks instead of looking comfortable like he did in the past.  After seeing the results of their play last season I fully expect that the team will improve immensely in their own zone and the acquisition of Crai Rivet will help solidify the blue-line.


Many people question the Sabres offseason because they were mostly inactive in free agency.  The Sabres orgainization did exactly what they needed to do this offseason, they let their players know that they feel their is enough talent here and they went out and got themselves a big veteran defenseman.  It's no surprise that the Sabres only two big moves involved helping defensively, the acquisition of Craig Rivet is obviously the biggest move but signing backup goalie Patrick Lalime is equally important.  Lindy Ruff lost confidence in last years backup Jocelyn Thibault and they forced Ryan Miller to play in a career high 76 games, this season Lalime is expected to play in 15-20 games.  Overall the Sabres did what they needed to do to stregnthen their team.


Last season's record: 47-25-10
1st in the Conference
Eyes On The Prize


Carey Price is a goaltender capable of carrying his club to great heights. For the Canadiens, it will be as important that they support their stopper as well as he supports them. Price remains a young rough diamond. Those around him are still in a constant process of getting to know him, understand his habits, and learn how he is best used. Those issues will be key to Price's success, and hence the team's as well.


The Canadiens filled three gaping needs with the arrivals of Alex Tanguay, Georges Laraque, and most recently Robert Lang. Tanguay adds finesse and scoring skills and is seen as an improvement over Michael Ryder, who cashed in with the Bruins. Laraque will address the issue of team toughness, while taking a regular shift. Lang's addition gives the Canadiens three solid offensive lines and a myriad of powerplay unit possibilities.
Possibly the best news for the Canadiens has been the performance of young prospects in the organization during training camp. Injuries should not be too much of a concern for the club, as the Canadiens could likely send as m any as 6 players to the AHL or junior leagues who are in fact ready to play in the bigs. Players such as Max Pacioretty, Yannick Weber, P.K. Subban, Ben Maxwell, Matt D'Agnostini, and Kyle Chipchura have all displayed a calm composure and the neccessary skills to earn big league berths with the team. The lovely problem to have for GM Bob Gainey, is that presently, there is not room for a single one.


Laraque will definitely hold down the sherriff's post on the team. Fans in Montreal are quite startled that the Penguins let him get away. Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau has long been a fan of Laraque, in fact it was an abstract compliment given to big Georges last season, that led him to inquire about Montreal this past summer.
Last season on the Canadiens, Carbonneau preached team toughness, but no one wants to watch the Kostitsyn brothers dropping their gloves in fending for themselves. While players such as Mike Komisarek and Steve Begin will always be willing pugilists, a player of Laraque's stripe will lighten the load and help some of the club's slicker players stand a few inches taller.


The sky, as in a Cup banner to the rafter's, is the limit...and the goal. The Canadiens have the skill, the depth, and the management astuteness to make a real run for the Cup. A Conference title is a secondary aspiration. Improving upon last season's second round disappointment is primordial.  The Canadiens are on the right track in a variety of ways. As it stands, only the Red Wings and Penguins look to be superior clubs at the moment. Fate and fortune are always opponents in a long season, but then Lady Luck, in hockey terms, is a native Montrealer.


Last season's record: 41-29-12
8th in the Conference
Blog: Boston Blue Line

The only major change the Bruins made in the offseason was the signing of Michael Ryder to replace Glen Murray.  Murray's time as an elite power forward had run out, and Ryder was the most similar player on the market.  The B's took a gamble that he's a legit 30-40 goal scorer and paid accordingly.  Ryder will probably be assigned to first line with Marc Savard, and their chemistry will largely determine whether the power play thrives or flops.  The other big storyline coming into this season is the recovery of Patrice Bergeron.  If he's at 100% (and management certainly gave him every opportunity for a full recovery) he should add about 30 goals and 80 points to the Bruins' attack, and dramatically impact their scoring depth by adding a #1A center.


For a young team, the Bruins play a scrappy and disciplined defensive game.  But offense was a problem for Boston last season, so the performance of Ryder and Bergeron will be a bellwether for the season.  Several younger players are ready to step into more significant roles -- particularly Kessel, Lucic, Krejci and Stuart.  Kessel in particular will be expected to improve to the 30-goal range or may be considered trade-bait.  Claude Julien's teams always overachieve so if all the pieces fall into place the Bruins could turn out to be a very well-balanced squad.


Manny Fernandez will be back in goal after missing last season to injury.  He'll have to fight for the starting position, as Tim Thomas played admirably as the #1 last season.  Julien will probably want to platoon the two of them, at least to begin the season, which is exactly what drove Fernandez away from the Wild.  Super-prospect Tuukka Rask will likely spend another season in Providence, unless the Bruins decide to unload a goalie via trade.


There are so many variables that the Bruins could end up in any number of positions, but the most likely finish would be another road-ice playoff seed.  A division title would be an outside possibility if the Sens flame out and Boston performs well head-to-head against Montreal.


Last season's record: 36-35-11
12th in Conference
Blog: Pension Plan Puppets - contributions from Chemmy and PPP


Chemmy: Mats Sundin has given an awful lot to the Maple Leafs fans and franchise with very little in return. The franchise has never really found another star to play alongside Sundin, and until very recently the majority of Leafs fans (ie. morons) questioned whether or not a Swede could be Captain of the Leafs.


PPP: I have always loved Mats Sundin. When the morons that Chemmy mentioned were questioning his heart or skill I felt overwhelmed in fighting back. Over the past couple of seasons the feelings have finally swung to the other side which is why so many Leaf fans would see Mats' departure as a betrayal. That's especially true in light of all of his past statements about wanting to retire as a Leaf. If he does that then there's no problem with him taking his time but if he jumps ship then he'll be dead to a lot of Leaf fans and especially his long-time defenders like myself.


Chemmy: Here's who will step up on offense - nobody. This season is going to be brutal.

PPP: Whoever plays with Antropov will add some offense. If Blake's shooting gets back to his normal levels then he'll like make a good jump from last season's total. At the end of the day, it really depends on whether the young guys that have offensive potential (Steen, Tlusty, Kulemin, Grabovski) get the chance to play the minutes and with the necessary linemates to succeed.


Chemmy: The biggest loss is probably Hal Gill, a stay at home defenseman who quieted a lot of critics with his play in the playoffs this year. Thebiggest gain for the Leafs is obviously Schenn, but I think Grabovski and Stefanovich were shrewd pickups. All three could be top tier NHL players some day, they could all also be busts.


 PPP: I agree, Hal Gill will be missed. If the Leafs had traded Kubina as well as McCabe and kept Gill then they would have not only opened up the kind of minutes that can be used to groom the top D but they would have kept a great, cheaper option to mentor the kids.


Chemmy: Ignore the history, ignore the hype about Curtis Joseph leaving for Detroit, Cujo is a capable goaltender who can only play limited minutes. He'll be a great mentor for Pogge and Vesa while letting Vesku get some much needed rest without having to feel like every game he sits is a forfeit.  As a Pens fan you know what rebuilding looks like, there were some absolutely brutal Penguins seasons before Crosby, Malkin, Staal, Whitney, Fleury et al. showed up. Toronto is standing on the precipice of a rebuild right now, and I hope after the first steps they're courageous enough to see it through.


PPP: Is Curtis Joseph a joke?  Almost as laughable as suggesting the Pens will struggle next year ;) His betrayal of the Leafs in 2002 aside, this is a great move by the Leafs. He is a huge upgrade on Raycroft (which, at 41, is pretty sad) and he's a great mentor to Justin Pogge. It also lets him move his way from backup to goalie coach and the relationship he'll build with Pogge this year will make that a fruitful switch.  Chemmy hit the nail on the head about rebuilding. The Leafs need to recognize that this will not be a smooth road to trod but they need to remain committed to the plan.



Last season's record: 31-42-9
15th in the Conference
Blog: Bolts Blog



It all ends and begins with the defense. But that’s no surprise to anyone. All you have to do is read various hockey pages to get that. Heck, all you need to do is to look at the roster for yourself. I’m really hoping that the defense will prove everyone wrong and be outstanding, but I’m not counting on it.  Some people might want to point fingers at the goaltending, but I think that’s actually pretty solid this season. Smith played very well for the Lightning at the end of last season, Ramo was also pretty good, and Kolzig has always been a great goalie. So, I think that position is actually pretty well covered.


The only bad thing with the forwards is that there are too many good ones to choose from. You can come up with 6 pretty good forward lines out of who’s listed on the team website right now. One guy will get a lucky break since Halpern’s out until probably January. But that still leaves a lot of guys to choose from.


Coaching - Barry Melrose used to be a defensemen, and he likes a hard-hitting and tight defensive style of play. He’s said that often enough, anyways. It’s obvious that the ownership doesn’t like that style of hockey since they don’t have that kind of a team. The ownership apparently likes a very skilled and high scoring offensive style of play, and they’ve built their team accordingly without taking their coaching staff’s opinions into consideration – if the coaching staff was even consulted about it in the first place.


I suspect that that difference of opinion is going to get ugly, and probably sooner rather than later. Melrose isn’t the kind of guy who’s going to keep that kind of stuff to himself unless he has to. And, if you’re a player, who would you listen to? Your coach or the guy who signs your paycheck? Probably not the coach. So don’t be surprised if Melrose doesn’t last the season. Not because he’s a bad coach, but because ownership picked the wrong guy for the kind of team they wanted.


So I don’t think this is season is going to be one of the good ones. Realistically, with the kind of talent that they have, they should barely squeak into playoffs – even with the defense being as young and inexperienced as they are. But a lot of that will be dependent upon how well this team finally gels, how good a leader the guy who’s finally named captain is, and if the coaching staff will be allowed to do their thing without ownership interference. In all honesty, talent is the least of their worries right now.


Last season's record: 38-35-9
11th in the Conference
Blog: Panthers Daily Puck provides an excellent preview to '08



Last season's record: 43-31-8
Third in Conference
Blog: Japer's Rink



Theodore can be every bit as good as Kolzig was last season and every bit as good as Huet will be this season (no one will be as good as Huet was for the Caps last year). Of course, he could also be a total bomb. The thing people, even locally, don't seem to understand is that the defense in front of Theodore is very good. He absolutely has the potential to excel here, and I expect him to do just that. 


The bottom line, as I see it, is that the Caps went 23-13-7 (a 98-point pace) from the day Bruce Boudreau took over behind the bench until Cristobal Huet was acquired. Over that span, their number one goalie (Kolzig) had a 3.02 GAA and a .886 save percentage. Does anyone doubt that Jose Theodore can do at least that well? I sure don't.


Here are the big changes from the offseason: 1) losing Huet and replacing him with Theodore; 2) Re-signing Sergei Fedorov and Mike Green; 3) bidding au revoir to Olie Kolzig; and 4) potentially welcoming rookie Karl Alzner to the lineup. Basically, with the exception of between the pipes, this will be the same team that nearly ran the table in March to make the playoffs before taking the Flyers to overtime of Game 7 in the first round.


I'd say watch out for Alex Semin. He had an injury-plagued season last year, but once he got healthy, he delivered to the tune of 24 goals in his last 47 games (a 41-goal pace). His game also picked up with the arrival of Fedorov, who immediately became a mentor of sorts to the somewhat enigmatic young Russian. As long as he's in D.C. he'll be playing in AO's shadow, but with opposition attention focused on that top line, look for Semin to have a big year and for the Caps to have the highest goal-scoring duo in the NHL (as they nearly did in 2006-07).


Last season's record: 34-40-8
14th in the Conference
Blog: Preview available on Fanhouse



Last season's record: 43-33-6
Ninth in Conference
Blog: Canes Country



Fans are very happy and excited that Staal is wrapped up for awhile.  Not only is it going to be great watching him play for the next several years, but the signing shows a commitment from ownership that they are willing to spend the money in this market to maintain a winning team. 


If the Canes want to make the playoffs this season they'll need to stay healthy.  Last year, there were an unbelievable number of man games lost, among the highest in the league.  Not only were there many injuries, but they happened to key people.  Rod Brind'Amour, Justin Williams, and Matt Cullen all suffered substantial injuries, while Ray Whitney, Scott Walker, Patrick Eaves and Erik Cole missed a lot of time as well.  Those are top 9 forwards, and players who need to be productive if Carolina is to be successful. 

But now that Justin Williams will be lost for the next 6 months and Brind'Amour for 2 to 3 weeks before training camp has even started, this season has picked up where last season left off.  Regardless of the injuries, the Canes need to battle hard every game.  There were some times last year when they looked a bit complacent.


People are saying that Patrick Eaves could have a break out year.  He is supposed to be fully healed from his shoulder ailment.  But the player that I will be looking at is Tuomo Ruutu.  Here is a superstar in the making who has also struggled with the injury bug throughout his career.  Can he stay healthy and rack up some points playing alongside Staal?  I think he just might.


Even though Williams is lost for a few months and Brind'Amour a few weeks, I would have to say that the forwards are still the strong point of the team.  Whitney, Staal, Ruutu, Walker, Eaves, Cullen, Brindy, and Samsonov are all 20 plus goal scorers.  With Corvo and  Pitkanen's help on the blueline, this team should score goals in bunches.  The question is, can they keep the puck out of their own net?  That has been their weakness in the past, and will have to be considered a weakness until they prove otherwise.