1. Philadelphia Flyers
While most of the Twitterverse mocked Philly for sending their farm system to Anaheim for Chris Pronger, I cringed for very different reasons. It was almost as if Paul Holmgren heard my claims that the Flyers were going from a bunch of meathead goons to a bunch of Downy soft forwards. Now, the Flyers are big and bad again and Pronger could not be a more fitting – almost archetypal - D guy for that team.
Pronger-Coburn-Timonen is the best defensive trio in the Eastern Conference. With Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and a handful of quality support players, the Flyers shouldn’t struggle to light up the scoreboard, either. As always, though, the Flyers had to build a beautiful house on a foundation of flimsy goaltending.
While I think Ray Emery was good enough to at least be on an NHL roster last year (and Brain Boucher is a solid backup), it is humorous that the team is once again rolling the dice in net.
They’ll get by gloriously in the regular season … but in the playoffs? I have my doubts.
2. Pittsburgh Penguins
The Penguins have a better chance to win the Cup than the Atlantic Division this season.
On its face, that’s a ridiculous statement but the Penguins have been slow starters since the beginning of the Crosby era and I expect that trend to continue. With Max Talbot sidelined for quite a while and a team that must be a little banged up from two straight deep playoff runs, the Penguins might sputter a bit with that big silver chalice-shaped target on their backs.
But don’t bet against them when the games start to matter.
3. New Jersey Devils
Speaking of never betting against someone, how can you doubt the Devils at this point? I’ve been stunned to read all of the Chicken Little talk about New Jersey after they lost not-so-essential players like John Madden and Brian Gionta. Look, they’re both nice players but why would those two land a death blow on a team that somehow remained contenders after losing Scott Niedermayer, Scott Stevens and Brian Rafalski since the salary cap was instituted?
Like some Raid-proof roach infestation, the Devils will continue defy expectations and make it to the playoffs again. And much like their spiritual insect brethren, it won’t be pretty … especially with Jacques Lemaire in charge.
4. New York Rangers
“Boy, if Marian Gaborik could just stay healthy the Rangers would see a huge upgrade.”
“If only Lindsay Lohan could calm down on the crank for a bit, she could be the next great starlet.”
“If only Al Gore could emulate true human emotions, he’d be a hell of a candidate.”
“It’s too bad time machines aren’t real because then Britney Spears could un-ruin her life.”
“If US banks didn’t destroy America …”
Wow, the “if game” really IS fun!
5. New York Islanders
Take solace in John Tavares.