How the East has changed

There have been so many changes to NHL rosters in the last couple of weeks, it’s been hard to keep track. There are probably more moves ahead for many NHL teams, the Canadiens included. They brought in Erik Cole, a definite upgrade over Benoit Pouliot and replaced backup Alex Auld with Petr Budaj but it’s not entirely certain yet how they’ll handle Roman Hamrlik’s leaving (Alexei Yemelin? Yannik Weber?) and whether it will be an upgrade or not, who takes the place of depth centre/faceoff specialist Jeff Halpern, and who steps in until Lars Eller returns from shoulder surgery.

But many of the moves made by many of the Habs’ Eastern Conference rivals were bold ones and have made the race for the playoffs — at least on paper — even more competitive than last season. So let’s take a look at the alterations made so far this offseason by the clubs who will battle Montreal for the top eight spots.

Boston — The Bruins lost Mark Recchi to retirement and free agents Michael Ryder and Tomas Kaberle. They’ve replaced them with Joe Corvo and (mysteriously) Benoit Pouliot. If Pouliot plays in Boston the way he did in Montreal and Corvo continues to be an adventure in defence, those are probably downgrades, although their core remains in tact.

Buffalo — The Sabres defence corps is stronger now with Robin Regehr (who may be a bit past his prime, but still an effective shutdown defender) and Christian Ehrhoff, losing Steve Montador. Up front, they add Ales Kotalik, who still might have something left, and Ville Lieno who at his best is arguably better and more durable than Tim Connolly at his best (although he doesn’t have an equal NHL resume), but even if he’s not, the Sabres are a solidly improved team.

Carolina —
They lost Eric Cole to the Habs, but added wingers Alexei Ponikarovki and Anthony Stewart, neither of whom play with the consistency their talent hints at. They improve Carolina’s depth at minimum and, if either or both figure it out playing for Paul Maurice, they’ll be strong upgrades. They also picked up a good depth centre and penalty killer in Tim Brent. Tomas Kaberle is an improvement over Joe Corvo, so the Hurricanes should be a tougher foe.

Florida — Who are these guys? They should be way better having added Bryan Campbell, Tomas Kopecky, Scotty Upshall, Ed Jovanovski, Marcel Goc, Tomas Fleischmann, Sean Bergenheim and goalie Jose Theodore. The downside is that bringing in all these veterans may stall the development of some good young players they had in their development pipeline. They may or may not be a playoff team, but they’re not going to be doormats either.

New Jersey — The Devils haven’t made any major changes, and probably can’t because of their huge deal with Ilya Kovalchuk and their need to figure out how to keep Zach Parise. But they haven’t lost anyone. So it’s status quo on the player front == but they don’t have a coach yet.

Islanders — They lost Doug Weight to retirement, but added veteran centre in Marty Reasoner, a good move. They also lost veteran UFA defenceman Radek Martinek to Columbus, and he won’t be easy to replace. Still the Isles hope that a healthy season from their improving youngsters and Mark Streit will make them a better squad. They also have Evgeni Nabokov, or at least his rights, for whatever that may be worth. It’s hard to imagine they’ll be an easy opponent.

Rangers — Adding Brad Richards likely means Marian Gaborik will be a very dangerous sniper (if he stays healthy) so that’s like adding two potential All-Stars to their top line. Manning the point, Richards also will improve their power play. His presence also has a ripple effect elsewhere — for example, they can keep Brandon Dubinsky at wing, where he’s probably more effective, on either the first or second line, rather than at centre. They also added Mike Rupp, who gives them some added muscle. They may still need to add to their improving but inexperienced defence corps, but the Rangers have improved themselves significantly.

Ottawa — The Sens got tougher by bringing in Zenon Konopka and some depth in goal bringing back Alex Auld. They also picked up forward Nikita Filatov via trade and if he ever plays up to his potential, which is possible now that he’s freed from Columbus, this could be the steal of the offseason, adding an explosive dimension to Ottawa’s attack. They should be better.

Philadelphia —
They surrendered Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, removing two skaters from their core and they didn’t really replace them with players who can have that sort of impact. They brought in Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, rookie Brayden Schenn and Max Talbot, none of whom are Carter’s or Richards’ equals and if they were getting the Jaromir Jagr of five or six years ago, that would address some of what was lost in their core; but this edition of Jagr is going to be slower in an NHL that gets faster every year. Jagr supposedly still has great hands, so he’ll bring some offense and, yes, he’ll play with fast forwards (at least at the outset) in Claude Giroux and James van Riemsdyk but he may slow them up as much as they might insulate him. And Jagr has never been good defensively. Philly will be better in goal with Ilya Bryzgalov (although his post-season history is not strong). They added Andreas Lilja for depth on D, probably important if Chris Pronger continues to get hurt. But with all those changes, it’s not clear if this is a better Flyers team. It is different and may not be as good.

Pittsburgh — The Pens lost some forward depth with UFAs Max Talbot and Mike Rupp leaving but made a good signing in Steve Sullivan, bringing in an effective winger on a team where so many resources are tied up at centre. They did a lot last year in a season filled with injuries so it’s quite possible they’ll be better, especially if healthy.

Tampa Bay — The Lightning added a backup goalie in Mathieu Garon, some blueline depth in offensive defenceman Matt Gilroy and depth up front in Tom Pyatt. We assume Steven Stamkos will return, but they lost UFAs Sean Bergenheim and Simon Gagne and its unclear how they will be replaced. This team may fall back if they’re not.

Toronto — They didn’t reel in the big fish Richards but with a smaller one in Tim Connelly, the Maple Leafs have their first legitimately skilled centre since Mats Sundin left town and someone to get the puck to Phil Kessel. They also picked up two good puck moving defencemen via trades in John-Michael Liles and Cody Fransen, who is not strong defensively. Last season, they only had Tomas Kaberle in that role and not for the entire year. They let J.S. Giguere go in free agency and may need a backup goalie if Jonas Gustafsson can’t do the job, but overall, they should be better.

Washington — The Caps may have made the most shrewd improvements in the Conference. They didn’t tamper with their core, but may have added to it if Tomas Vokoun becomes their top goalie at the amazing bargain basement price of $1.5 million. And they let some guys (like Jason Arnott and Marco Sturm) walk so they could bolster their depth: They brought in a pair of veteran UFA Habs, Roman Hamrlik to give some spine to their sometimes shaky defence corps and Jeff Halpern (who started his career as a Cap), an upgrade from Boyd Gordon as a depth centre/faceoff specialist because of his better offensive ability. They also imported some toughness picking up Troy Brower and Joel Ward, both of whom can contribute timely scoring. There’s lots of character on this team that wasn’t here before. A very impressive remodeling.

Winnipeg — The Jets didn’t make any big upgrades over their Atlanta predecessors. They lost Anthony Stewart and Radek Dvorak, but didn’t really want to keep them, and added to their depth signing d-men Randy Jones and Derek Meech, leftwinger Tanner Glass and center Rick Rypien, both of whom were with the Canucks. Like the Islanders, the Jets are banking on the development o of the in-house talent to move the team forward.


  1. Steve Mohns says:

    Stu – Unless your evaluation of the league shows the west fading badly, there seems to be a little too much optimism in your evaluation of the east. You have pretty much all of the teams improving.

    • Stu Hackel says:

      Steve, as I explained in an earlier comment, I’m not making a case here for any of these teams improving in the standings or having better records, only that they have addressed roster needs and upgraded themselves by doing it. They’ve improved their talent relative to where they were last season.

      None of this is meant to be predictive with regard to how their W-L records go. And, I wrote in the post, this is how those transactions look to me on paper and anyone can agree or disagree. And any number of things can happen (slumps, injuries, additional transactions, etc) that will occur in the real world that will impact how the teams play when the season starts. So this post is nothing more than a survey of which teams helped themselves in the last few weeks.

  2. dtoight says:

    Hey Un Canadien errant if you want to stick with that whole subliminal “let’s do something like this again” motif then I would go with 1956-1960.
    As for Gomez. I agree that this guy has really underachieved especially considering his contract, but the bar for this guy is set way too high by a lot of Habs fans! He’s better than the 38 points and +/- he put up last year, but he’s also not a 70 point or even a 20 goal guy. I expect him to put up around 15 goals and about 40 assists, and he’s still our best forward at bringing the puck into the offensive zone, and will usually always find his wingers if they can break free. JM had him playing with either Moen or Darche for a good part of the season. These are fourth line players, Gomez is a play maker and he needs some snipers to feed his passes to. With either Gionta and Max or Cole and Cammy as his wingers for an entire season I think Gomez should have a bounce back season. He most likely won’t be worth $7.5M. I’m more bitter cause we gave up McDonough! I feel we could’ve had the exact same deal without him in it

  3. says:

    A lot of what happens next season hinges on Gomez. Bottom line is that the Habs need to score more and they need at least two good lines to do it. If Gomez doesn’t come up with at least 50 points and a much better +/- then no playoffs. If he weren’t a center this wouldn’t be such a concern for me.

    L Train

  4. Icey Matt says:

    You know, experimenting with a new 4th Line center, at least for the first few weeks of the season, as long as Eller is out for might not be the worse for the team. Maybe give Trotter or Engqvist another shot to see if either can handle the NHL. That or PG go fetch some size and grit for a fourth liner, preferrably one the can WIN a faceoff!!/IceyMCMatt

  5. JaysHabs says:

    Everyone knows that the Habs outplayed, got some unlucky bounces, untimely injuries, Boston. That being said, Montreal will be the most improved this year for the simple facts that adding Markov, Gorges and Emelin (and hopefully sitting Spacek – who was the worst Dman in the 1st round last year), is clearly an upgrade over Sopel, Hamrlik and Wiz. A healthy Patches playing on the 2nd line with Gom and Gio will rejuvenate and open the ice up for Gomez/Gionta – didnt Gomez accumulate quite a few of his 40 points when Max got the call – that line was fun to watch. Cole will open the ice up for Pleks to get the one-timer to Cammy. A third line of Eller (when he gets back, and this kid will be good and better than Leblanc), AK and Moen gives you size, speed and skill. I would love to see a 4th line of White, DD, and Ian Schultz. And Price IS that good. All in all and I’m not trying to be biased but the Habs have a great balance of speed, skill, and size. Really only 5-6 guys are under 6’0″. Go Habs, cant wait for October.

  6. DC-Hab says:

    I’m not upset at all actually I was just trying to prove my point. I never intended to bash Gomez. I actually think he’ll have a bounce back year. Nothing great but good.

  7. Bripro says:

    I see that DC Hab is upset at the Habs’ cap hit on Gomez.
    NYR may find it funny now, but being used to burring salary as often as they can (Redden), I’d like to see how they handle the back end of Richards’ salary, if he gets that far. I guarantee you, they won’t live with the entire length of his contract. Let’s see who will be laughing then.

  8. DC-Hab says:

    Ryan Russel traded for Michael Blundin

  9. Ali says:

    apparently habs acquire Mike Blunden (goon) for prospect Ryan Russell.

    Oh Captain my Captain…

  10. Nahlsy says:

    Boston’s biggest loss in the offseason wasn’t even mentioned. They’ve also lost Colin Campbell watching over his little brat.

    That loss alone would have been good for a 20 point loss and 3 of their 4 playoff series.

    • punkster says:

      This is an astute observation. Not sure about your calculations but given the number of blind eye in-actions against the Bruins I imagine this will cost them a few points.

      ***Subbang Baby!!!***

  11. neumann103 says:

    A lot of the disagreement on this type of assessment is likely due to differing scopes. I would argue that Florida got significantly better and Tampa got slightly worse but I still expect Marty St Louis to go deep into the playoffs while the entire panther team watches from the golf course clubhouse.

    From the Habs point of view, does it matter more that Buffalo made major upgrades or that Boston slipped a bit.

    My own personal list goes like this, but I don’t think it will have much to do with who makes the playoffs, other than on the margins

    Better Rangers

    Same Atlantipeg
    New Jersey

    Worse Islanders
    Tampa Bay

    “Et le but!”

  12. habsnyc says:

    The East has changed the way it does every year. Each player under 25 is moving closer to their prime and each player over 30 is moving further from their prime. Seems to me that the Isles at some point should benefit from this and the Devils and Lightning should be hurt by the aging of their rosters.

    Montreal’s offesnse is getting older. I am very hopeful that Price and the younger defensemen will move meaningfully up the maturation curve in 2011-12.

  13. TorontoHabsFan says:

    Man, I cannot believe that Gauthier didn’t sign Phillipe Dupuis!! He’s EXACTLY what this team needs! A 4th line player!!

    NOW where is he going to find a 4th line player!? They’re ALL gone!!

    /end snark/


  14. HabsRepresente says:

    Man, i hope Eller returns in time because who’s gonna be our 4th center?

    • Tony McLean says:

      The way he finished the year I don’t think he’ll be on the fourth line for long when he returns.

      Beliveau, The Rocket, Pocket Rocket, Bouchard, Cournoyer, Savard, Hainsworth, Blake, Carbonneau, Gainey, Harvey, now those were captains to remember. Champions.

      • 123456 says:

        i dont like to bash guys but i dont see the love for eller – he had 7 goals last year… hopefully he will be a great 3rd line center and keep improving (yes he grew last year)

        • Lafrich says:

          It’s not about his stats last year. It was about the way he skated, battled, protected the puck, had vision, etc… this guy has talent, and is not a small boy. He reminds me of a bigger Koivu, and he plays like Plekanec/Forsberg. I know it sounds like high praise, but cut and paste this post, and talk to me in 2-3 years.

          • neumann103 says:

            Exactly. Other than Subban, no one in the Habs system in the last couple of years has impressed me more with his potential, and how, even when he is not scoring, or not playing his natural position, he is improving, working hard and dominating. He has the capability to fight for and maintain puck possesion that reminds me a bit of Season 1 plekanec when he would just own the puck but never score.

            There was a point midway through the third period of game 7 of the Boston series where Eller singlehandedly kept the puck in the Boston end for about 40 seconds. Forechecking, hits, glorious hand skills.

            Lars Eller will be the Number 2 Center for MTL within 18 months and will be a legitimate top 6 guy. He is the shiz.

            “Et le but!”

        • Stev.R says:

          He played alot better as the season went on and was fantastic in the playoffs

        • Andrew65 says:

          A great move by PG. We moved a goalie we didn’t need, at the height of his market value, for a steal of a young forward. I also see him as the #2 centre within 2 years, with lots of upside beyond that.

  15. Richrebellion says:

    I don’t see how everyone thinks Washington got so much better, Vokoun clearly isn’t that great or someone would have signed him considering he signed for 1.5 million. Also their goalie wasn’t their biggest problem, I would say it was their d. A goalie can only be as good as the d in front of him! Hammer will help them but he is way too old at this point to make a huge difference. The other problem I see on washington is their depth scoring. Outside of Ovie, Backstrom, Semin and Laich they really don’t have much compared to the top teams in the east. They only have 5 guys who had over 40 points this past year compared to Boston and philly with 8. Philly would still easily have 6 without carter or richards.

    I think Philly will be better than you think as well, they lost carter and richards but still have giroux and JVR both young and very talented players and are both a year older. JVR will be a 30 goal scorer this year. In the new nhl we see young players step up all the time now and Schenn won’t be any different I expect a big year out of him. Add jagr and Voracek this team still looks very deadly upfront, with a solid goalie they will be very dangerous.

    • Chris says:

      There weren’t many #1 spots available, and Vokoun was the odd man out due to his age. He gives the Caps a quality veteran goaltender to mentor Neuvirth or Holtby, who are both excellent young prospects in goal that might not have been quite ready for the exposure of a high playoff seed.

      As Montreal is doing with Subban, the Capitals also can expect potential improvements on the blue line due to the increasing experience of John Carlson (21 years old), Karl Alzner (22) and Jeff Schultz (25). Hamrlik gives them a steady veteran presence for the second or third pairing, and he certainly should not be needed for offence on a blueline with Carlson, Denis Wideman and Mike Green.

      Up front, the Capitals added some grit and depth, and are probably hoping that Ovechkin (safe bet) and Backstrom (pretty safe bet) will bounce back strongly from what was an off year for them. Their two young forwards, Mathieu Perreault and Marcus Johansson, should also be improved over last year.

      The Capitals remain a scary team. What I’m interested in is whether they still have one more big deal in them. They have a bit of a log jam on defence, making Tom Poti potentially available, and they probably will dangle Alex Semin around. Semin + Poti + draft pick(s) could fetch a pretty good player, under the right circumstances.

      • TorontoHabsFan says:

        Thanks for reminding me of Perrault and Johansson. They’re a couple of sleeper picks for sure in the upcoming fantasy season!

        (Brunette in CHI should also be a good late round pickup)

  16. DC-Hab says:

    Sure he’s being paid 12 mil but his cap hits 6.6 mil. That was my point. You were talking about the quality of teams and how good/bad they are. Not how much money they’re wasting above the cap. I could care less about that number and it has no connection to the talent level of the team. The cap hit does. It’s hardly laughable when we’re paying Gomez 7.5 in the upcoming season for a 7.3 cap hit. I’m sure NYR are the ones that find it funny now.

  17. Un Canadien errant says:

    Funny how I took Mr. Hackel to task in my early post (0459 hrs) for stating that 7 teams got better, while 4 got worse and 4 are about even. It seemed to me the math doesn’t add up.

    G-Man went the other way and basically stated no one improved except the Canadiens.

    Smart Dog pines for Mr. Halpern.

    As I wrote earlier, this is a fun exercise, but highly imprecise for various factors. We’ll know who’s better by the time January rolls around.

    Let’s do something like this again: 1) Mike Cammalleri 2) Brian Gionta 3) Hall Gill

    • Stu Hackel says:

      UCe – There’s no reason I can see that the number of teams in the East improving themselves has to be mathematically implausible. I’m not suggesting that X number of teams will do better in the standings, just that these teams have addressed roster needs and upgraded themselves by doing it, improved their talent. Any number of teams can swap out some players for better ones, there’s no math restrictions on that.

      And in any case, none of this is meant to be predictive. As I wrote in the post, this is how those transactions look on paper. The game isn’t played on paper (or on a blog post), as we all know, and there’s a huge number of unknowns (slumps, injuries, other deals) that will occur in the real world that we can’t know in early July. But thanks for your comment.

      • Un Canadien errant says:

        Thanks for your comments Mr. Hackel, I understand your intent and another poster made the same points to me. I didn’t think you were being naive or mathematically inept.

        I am reacting to a common practice in season previews in all sports to say this team improved by adding these two players, but not addressing the fact that all the team’s veterans are now one year older, and that the team also lost a couple of pieces through free agency. I see it happen in CFL, NFL, hockey, even baseball before I stopped watching in the nineties due to Mr. Brochu.

        I also found interesting that some posters think few or no team improved except for the Canadiens.

        Let’s do something like this again: 1) Mike Cammalleri 2) Brian Gionta 3) Hall Gill

  18. Viruk42 says:

    One thing with Washington:

    Yes, they have improved, but Alzner is still an RFA and they’re about 1.5mil over the cap. So they’ll have to get rid of some salary before the season starts, which may have an effect on how much they’ve improved.

    • Stu Hackel says:

      Viruk – That’s a valid point, although the Caps can potentially move some of that salary off their books because both Eric Fehr and Tom Poti may have long-term injury issues that would make them unable to start the season, so that would buy them some time to fix the problem. And owner Ted Leonsis stated a few days ago that they are still exploring the trade market. They have some guys who can be moved that wouldn’t alter their team too badly (Chimera, for example, who is at $1.8m).

  19. habs001 says:

    other factors that you cannot predict but happen ever year is known stars having terrible seasons, known players having seasons way above their average and and players under most experts radar having break out seasons plus unexpected success from first year players….
    we all believe the habs will make the playoffs but whoever the other 7 teams are a series with any of them them will be a toss up…to improve our chances in the playoffs we probably will have to add some rental players at the trade deadline

  20. DC-Hab says:

    G-Man, every team got worse/equal from last year exept the Habs then? Cause that sounds right.. and where did you get 12mil for Richards.. he’s gettin 6.6 a year cap hit. Thats the number that matters. I’m all for lovin’ on the Habs but you may as well be realistic. We’re not running away with first in the conference. Not by a long shot. I love the addition of Cole and can’t wait to see his impact. Do I think we’re a better team from last year? yes. There is a lot of factors though as previously mention. We should make the playoffs – and finish higher than last year.

  21. Un Canadien errant says:

    Article on Erik Cole and the negotiation process which ended with him signing a contract with the Canadiens.

    Let’s do something like this again: 1) Mike Cammalleri 2) Brian Gionta 3) Hall Gill

    • Mike D says:

      Nice find. Thanks!

      – Honestly yours

    • hansolo says:

      Monsieur Errant,

      I like your posts: they are thougthful and informative. I also notice you call the players “Mr. —–“, just like a certain GM we talk about a lot on this forum. Are you, by any chance, Mr. Gauthier himself?

      Thanks for being one of the voices of reason on this forum, while staying above the contentious fray that sometimes occurs.

      • Un Canadien errant says:

        I am not the Batman to Mr. Gauthier’s Bruce Wayne.

        I am just a Canadiens fan 4000 km away from his hometown.

        I did notice that Mr. Gauthier uses ‘Mr.’ instead of being more familiar, all the more power to him.

        I find that sometimes we get carried away when we talk about players and other posters, and we lose our manners. Using a respectful tone helps remind me of that, even when referring to Brad Marchand or Rejean Houle.

        Thanks for the props.

        Let’s do something like this again: 1) Mike Cammalleri 2) Brian Gionta 3) Hall Gill

  22. SmartDog says:

    What about the Habs summary?
    The Habs lost UFAs Hamrlik and Halpern, both veteran defensive players on a team that lets a lot of rubber get tossed at their net and has done nothing to replace them, though a healthy Markov (fingers crossed everyone!) will be one addition. Adding Erik Cole could be a boon if his affect on the team is similar to Patches, and both wingers together, if healthy, should improve the Habs 5-on-5 scoring – something the team needs if it’s to avoid being a bubble team come playoff time. The loss of Kirk Muller may be a blow to a team that has relied so heavily on special teams to win games and with a coach who is no genius when it comes to communication. Scott Gomez ‘says’ he’ll be better and if Price is as strong as least year, the Habs should be decent. But one wonders who’s going to win faceoffs and whether they still lack the toughness to win against teams that play physical.

    • G-Man says:

      Habs are a much better team in the past few seasons and going forward, yet all you point out are weaknesses. You only see the negative when it comes to the Habs and, according to you, almost every other team’s management and coaching are superior. Habs will challenge for the East this year and it won’t be based solely on PP and goaltending.

      • SmartDog says:

        Wow. I mentioned the upgrade in Cole for sure, and even gave some credit to Gomez for his ‘promise’ to come back better.

        If you can’t see that, you’re the one seeing all negative. I see the Habs filling an important role in Cole but they have lost some guys and both Markov and Gorges MIGHT be awesome IF they are healthy. But sometimes players don’t come back from injuries the same way and we have two of our top 4 defensemen in that situation.

        The polyanna’s have obviously arrived. Yes we MIGHT challenge for the east or we might just as well be a middle-of-the-pack team. If you can’t see that.. look at why you need to believe the Habs will win so much. No one can know. As Bob says “that’s why we play”.

    • punkster says:

      On the other hand:
      1. The team has lots of vets and added another in Cole. How many times did people (you too maybe?) complain about the team being too old?
      2. Hamrlik (loved the guy) is a loss on D but the team is quite deep there.
      3. Halpern was not a major cog. Making an issue of his departure is grasping at straws.
      4. The loss of Muller? Too much read into his impact based on nothing more than speculation. He was an assistant coach, not a head coach. Replacing Muller will be no more difficult than replacing Hamrlik or Halpern.
      5. JM and communication. Again based on nothing more than speculation.

      ***Subbang Baby!!!***

      • SmartDog says:

        Didn’t I mention the positive addition of Cole? Hey wait – I did!
        And some people have suggested Halpern getting thrown out of the faceoff circle as being the reason we lost game 7. So Halpern might not be important. But winnings faceoffs clearly is. And it’s a weakness. Halpern was supposed to a) win faceoffs and b) take some pressure off of Pleks. He was a good pick-up last year because he did do these two things and it helped the team. He may not have been a “major” cog but he was an important one. So tell me who’s gonna take important faceoffs now? White? Gomez?
        C’mon Punkster, admit the truth.

  23. Stuck_in_To. says:

    Mostly surface speculation. The Senators are better? Well, I guess, maybe, but then how good does that actually make them. And while I do not know Stewart, Ponikarovski is not an upgrade on Cole. That is ridiculous. Poni’s 23 goals, career high in the 08/09 season, were it and more a fluke than anything. His five in 61 games last year are more realistic.

  24. G-Man says:

    The EAST has improved? Let’s look….
    I still hate Boston so they will forever suck and unless the refs and the NHL throw the rule book away again, they will not repeat.
    Toronto: Hahahahhahahhha! Toronto.
    Rangers- still a bubble team and stuck with paying Brad Richards 12 mil. 12mil for Brad Richards? Hahahahahahhahahahah!
    Buffalo- good goalie can get them in the playoffs, but they always lose players at UFA time. treading water and/or sinking.
    Islanders- no where to go but up, yes? No. Perpetual suckitude until Wang is gone.
    Washington- heartless. Regular season heros and playoff busts- will not win with Semin having an important role.
    Florida- under construction- the veterans will have to figure out something to keep the fans entertained. #1 EAST choice to win the Draft lottery.
    Tampa- dependent upon Roloson, this team has lost important scoring in Gagne. Playoff bubble team, even with all those “stars”.
    Pitts- If (and that’s BIG IF) Malkin and Crosby come back strong they have still lost too much depth. One of the three, Staal, Crosby or Malkin, has to go to balance this team’s finances and lines.
    Winnipeg- they will be glorious losers this season but will put up a good fight. Once the depth on this team is addressed ( 2 or 3 seasons) they may be a force…in the WEST.
    Carolina- tread , tread, float , float
    Philadelphia- the “genius” Holmgren realized his 2 “core stars” were crap and Pronger is not the player he once was. They will sink because Jagr won’t score the 56 Richards and Carter did and no other moves they’ve made will help. They MIGHT allow a few less goals until Bobby Clobber calls Bryzgalov a sieve.
    Ottawa: splash, splash, sink, sink.
    Carolina: Kaberle? Seriously? Glub, glub, sink, sink…unless Ward is hyper-spectacular.
    New Jersey- well the great Lou signed Kovalchuk and his team is completely screwed for the next 10 years. That’s why ownership should never interfere with the Hockey side of things.
    And, FINALLY, the Habs- let’s face it; a lot of things have to go right. Cole production must be high. Gomez MUST bounce back. Price MUST play like last season. The kids, like Eller and DD, MUST keep progressing and not falling back. The Habs have a shot at 1st in the conference if all goes spectacularly well.

    • Un Canadien errant says:

      Glass half-empty eh G-Man?

      Let’s do something like this again: 1) Mike Cammalleri 2) Brian Gionta 3) Hall Gill

      • G-Man says:

        No, just sick and tired hearing about how practically every team “improved” in the East. The reality is that it is pretty wide open for the Habs this season. It’s just that things will have to go the right way.
        Few teams can match the Habs depth and first 3 lines. The D corps with Subban and Markov healthy? Habs are looking VERY good this season, barring a million long-term injuries.

        • Un Canadien errant says:

          As a fan, I do think the Canadiens improved from last season. Practically though, if you read my post further down in the comments, you’ll see how effective I think we are at prognostication.

          Your evaluations individually all can pan out, but as a whole it’s obvious that some of the teams you discount will improve, not just Nos Glorieux.

          Let’s do something like this again: 1) Mike Cammalleri 2) Brian Gionta 3) Hall Gill

    • moester says:

      You know that “hahahahaha” does not qualify as a valid point right?

      I can’t agree with you that Carter and Richards were “crap” I think that they are both incredible hockey talents which the Flyers will greatly miss. But that being said, a good goaltender and some solid remaining pieces up front should prevent them from slipping away from a playoff spot.

      The Islanders should be a better team simply due to the experience acquired by their young players. But should still be out of playoff contention.

      Toronto is an interesting team this year. Probably still a year from competing for a playoff spot…but its getting very solid. Nothing to laugh at to be sure.

      Boiling the Capitals down to Semin is more than a little ridiculous. They added some good leaders and one of the most underrated goaltenders in recent memory. There is a chance that they will have a harder time in the season; but should be much better in the playoffs.

      To say that Florida is a top choice for winning the lottery is laughable. They made a lot of really good moves if they can bring these guys together they have more than enough to battle for a playoff spot. They just need the right system.

      I love how you made two completely different comments for Carolina one where you say they are treading water and one where you say they’re sinking. Although I must agree that not much is different for them this year compared to the last three years. That being said, they have a few really interesting prospects that may improve their overall situation. They are in my opinion a sleeper team in the east.

      Pittsburgh – If two of the fiercest competitors who also happen to be among the most talented players in the NHL can have a bounce back season? Why would Pittsburgh have to balance their budget more this year than last year? How is acquiring more depth on the wings a bad thing? The Pens are definitely more dangerous this year than last. You can’t see that…well I have to question either your ability to be rational or your ability to judge hockey talent.

      Jersey…its a mess in there almost impossible to know what will happen until this team hits the ice.

      Buffalo – You don’t think these guys got better? They have a much better defensive corp in front of a guy who is arguably the best goaltender in the NHL today. They have some very good young forwards along with some vets. Hard to see them as a team who is any less than they were last year.

      Ottawa – On the rebuild. Some pieces are there but not enough to get them out of the basement. They being said they will be a tough nut to crack this year. They probably won’t win much but will be making other teams pay cash for every victory.

      Rangers – I think that Richards have given them more options up front. But I think that you are right, they are still a bubble team. I think that unless they address their defence they will have trouble this year. Richards is a defensive liability. I think they will score a lot of goals but also have a lot of goals scored on them. King Henry will be the difference maker this year for them. NOT Brad Richards.

      Boston – The core of the team is still there. They still have a lot of good players; but I don’t see them as a necessarily improved team. They picked a gamble in Pouliot and Corvo. That being said, this should be Tyler Seguin’s big breakout year and there is a good chance that Brad Marchand will take a bigger role in the team. Its hard to see them being any less of an effective team this year.
      Tampa – Hard to see them being a better team this year, but should be about the same as last year. A mid-range team especially if they can lock up Stamkos who continues his incredible progression.

      The Habs – Lets face it you can copy and paste what you said about the Habs and it applies to every team in the NHL. The best players need to play their best and the under-performers need to perform. While the kids need to keep developing in a positive way. I think that Cole has added an much needed dimension to this team. I think that the key for the Habs this year are Spacek and Markov rather than Cole, DD and Eller. Cole can have an average season as long as he brings a physical game and goes to the net hard it will bring what we needed from him. Spacek needs to be able to bring a good 18-20 minute performances while covering for a young d-man (probably Yemelin). I agree that a bounceback season would be a good thing from Gomez but not necessary for us to make the playoffs.

      I think that the word Healthy will be the most important this year…as with every other year for every other team.

      • G-Man says:

        Sorry, moester, but when it comes to Toronto’s Laffs, well, I can’t help it. Going nowhere strong strongly since ’67.
        The Caps have serious “cap” issues. When your team’s #2 center disappears for the playoffs and no other center picks up the slack, well, you lose.
        My Carolina comment is another way of saying, 1 step forward, 2 back. Gaining Skinner and losing Cole. Adding Kaberle on a team that is in rebuilding mode is a waste of money and cap space. He will probably be dealt come late February.

    • Tony McLean says:

      Price must play like a Conn Smythe goalie in the playoffs for them to advance. He hasn’t won a single playoff series yet. Hopefully he’ll do that this year. Still not mentally tough enough.

      Beliveau, The Rocket, Pocket Rocket, Bouchard, Cournoyer, Savard, Hainsworth, Blake, Carbonneau, Gainey, Harvey, now those were captains to remember. Champions.

      • flowerpower_74 says:

        You are totally wrong Tony. Price did win 1 playoff series before.
        Get your facts straight man. I won’t tell you when, look it up dude.
        And to say he is not mentally tough is a crock of ****.
        He came into the season last year with probably the most pressure than any other player in the league due to the Halak performance and posted the most wins by a Habs netminder ever. He also started the most games by a habs goalie ever.

        Team Defence wins Championships…

  25. HabFanSince72 says:

    Bryan Murray says he’s finished with the free agency for this year. That’s right, to the third worst team in the league he’s added Zenon Konopka and Alex Auld.

  26. topher5468 says:

    blah blah

    “It’s not an obsession, It’s a way of life..”

  27. Un Canadien errant says:

    While I don’t think Mr. Hackel’s analyses are off-base, this exercise reveals the futility of trying to determine with accuracy which teams improved and which didn’t.

    By my count, Mr. Hackel has 7 teams in the East improving, but just 4 holding steady and 3 regressing. Mathematically at least, that doesn’t sound plausible. I understand that we could have half the conference make a modest increase in points at the expense of 4 weak sisters who will be repeatedly trounced while four hold steady, but the law of averages would indicate that maybe five will improve, five would tread water and five would fall back. That might be a better starting point.

    When we prognosticate, we are too ready to hold the play of veterans as givens. We also assume that promising rookies will improve over their previous season. We then take for granted that this player’s horrible season was an aberration, and that this year will be much improved, as we did with Mr. Gomez last summer. Finally, all these injuries which befell some players, which were completely unpredictable, will surely not plague it this coming season.

    So to that core of a team that will improve by sheer unstoppable momentum, we then plug in skillful Jean-Guy Beauxbeauslaque and bruising Brock Granett, savant additions by a shrewd GM, and conclude that the team will no doubt be much improved.

    We always fail to take into account the young Pouliots or Latendresses who fail to deliver on their promise and appear stalled in their development. We gloss over the potential travails of veteran Halperns or Hamrliks who while willing to give everything they have unfortunately don’t have much left to give. We don’t take into account that one or two players will be juggling an affair and a divorce at the same time during the season, and may be preoccupied. We forget that the player who just signed the long-term deal may ease off the gas pedal during dryland training over the summer. We are oblivious to the spoiling of team chemistry, of which player may have sexted another player, when all he really meant to do was sext that other player’s wife. And we refuse to be brutally realistic in these modern-NHL-times we live in, and look at the lineup and strike one Top 6 forward, one Bottom 6 and one D with a season-ender knee or shoulder, and then flip a coin to determine if our goalie will tear his groin and be out forty games, and be ineffectual the rest of the season.

    So all the fiddling that we do here at HIO with the Top 6, guessing which player will play on which line, and trying to find a tough right-handed centreman with a high FO winning percentage for our fourth line, and juggling left-handed shooters on our Bottom 6 is really just a puzzle exercise that gets thrown out as soon as someone wrenches their back in training camp.

    What the Canadiens need to do is stay the course, continue to stockpile assets and develop them, so that in a couple of years, when injuries and dips in performance and age catch up to us, we have fresh troops to throw into battle and carry on, as opposed to last season when we watched Mr. Darche and Mr. Moen valiantly try to play the role of top line forwards.
    Let’s do something like this again: 1) Mike Cammalleri 2) Brian Gionta 3) Hall Gill

    • BeeGee says:

      Nice post. Couldn’t agree more. Still think the potential is there for the habs this year… I guess depth goes a long way in being able to get through the inevitable adversity teams face in a season. An area which I think we’re rather thin on unfortunately…

      In the end (aside from luck) the real intangible is chemistry I guess… You can always shuffle individual players but the chemistry is hard to change… especially once it goes bad.

    • kitbeyer says:

      While everything you say is true, I’m not sure it needs to be said. Ya, relative to the other teams if a team jumps 3 spots in the standings that means a team or teams must drop a total of 3 spots. Great. But I think that the author’s intent was to compare each team with last year’s version of itself rather than other teams.

      Also, if Price loses a leg in a team-roping accident, we are screwed. Great. The purpose of these offseason moves is for a team to position itself on paper as strongly as possible heading into the season based on their long- and short-term goals. There are obviously certain things that you can control (or at least prepare for) and others that you can’t. Every team will have adversity and your “law of averages” implies the scenarios you mention should be spread evenly across the league. Of course, with only 30 teams over 1 season this won’t necessarily be the case which is why you make attempts to minimize the effects of this adversity by improving your depth and decreasing off-ice distractions.

      I do agree with the end of your post as I think it relates to positioning the team to overcome the inevitable adversities. Some good examples of how BG/PG have done this over the last few years are hiring a cerebral no-nonsense coach who has a great work ethic and expects the same from his team. Shipping out players like Sergei K and Pouliot who refuse to buy into this culture and bringing in and/or developing those that do. Upgrading the depth of the roster whenever possible. Recent examples of this include bringing in Budaj to replace Auld and the fact that we now (or at least by playoff time will) have 8 or 9 forwards, that I believe can play regularly or at least short stints in the top 6 without looking out of place. That’s why my prognosis would be an improvement over last season’s team. And that’s not even accounting for the growth and development of our young D-men and Price, the return of Markov (fingers crossed), and any nice surprises coming up from the farm. Getting excited already!

      • Un Canadien errant says:

        Thanks for your thoughts.

        One point which I didn’t make clearly enough is that we tend to assume the previous year’s team is static, but with the addition of one or two players has now automatically improved. I think this way of thinking is prevalent in every sport, and leads to situations whereby Mr. Hackel concludes that 7 teams improved by adding players, but few teams deteriorated by losing players.

        While some may think that this is self-evident and may not ‘need’ to be said, I think based on the posts found here that this may not be the case.

        Let’s do something like this again: 1) Mike Cammalleri 2) Brian Gionta 3) Hall Gill

  28. BeeGee says:

    I think the Habs will do pretty well this season. Arguably, they are better than last year with both Markov and Gorges in the lineup, the addition of Cole in the top 6 and the continued progression of Subban, Eller, along with full seasons for MaxPac, Weber, DD and White.

    Of course there are no certainties in hockey as so many factors come into play. I can think of a few that will go a long way in determining if we finish at the top of the class or out of the playoffs…

    – Will we suffer numerous major injuries to key players again?
    – Will we get a better season out of Gomez (but also Cammy)
    – Can Price repeat?
    – Will MaxPac pick up from where he left off?
    – Will the youth core as a whole continue to improve?
    – Will PG add some necessary depth?

    • Bob_Sacamano says:

      Gomez aside, I am very confident about the next season. Unfortunately there´s very little you can do to avoid injuries…

      Something completely different (in general, it has nothing to do with you, BeeGee): Everyone makes mistakes, so do I, especially as someone whose first language isn´t english but there´s one thing I don´t get: Why is it so hard to write names right? If someone has a problem with the name Pacioretty or Cammalleri oder Gorges (not Georges ffs), then look it up. Is it so damn hard?

      @Stu: It´s Yannick (Weber) and not Yannik, (Ville) Leino not Lieno and Erik (Cole) and not Eric (see the Carolina paragraph).

      • kitbeyer says:

        Whoa, this is a blog not a spelling bee. I don’t come here for homework. :p

      • Un Canadien errant says:

        I agree with kitbeyer that this is not a spelling bee and I will overlook the occasional typo or spelling mistake.

        I do agree with the tenor of your point Bob_Sacamano, that some people’s posts are filled with them, to the point where you’re not reading the post but trying to decypher what the poster is trying to say, or what he meant despite what he wrote.

        I’ve learned relatively quickly on this forum to ignore certain posters, since their posts are unintelligible. If they can’t be bothered to check their posts for spelling and basic grammar, I can’t be bothered to read them.

        I think posters need to understand that the way they present their thoughts affects how their ideas are perceived.

        Bob, got any of these bulk condoms you’re not using?

        Let’s do something like this again: 1) Mike Cammalleri 2) Brian Gionta 3) Hall Gill

        • Lafrich says:

          What does this mean:

          Let’s do something like this again: 1) Mike Cammalleri 2) Brian Gionta 3) Hall Gill

          I don’t get it.

          • Un Canadien errant says:

            During the period before the draft, my signature read:

            Let’s do something like this again: 1) Petr Svoboda 1) Shayne Corson 2) Stephane Richer 3) Patrick Roy

            I was referencing the ridiculously successful 1984 draft, and sending out positive vibes hoping that we somehow get the same success in the 2011 edition.

            Once the draft was done, and we approached July 1 and free agency, I changed by signature by exhorting the team to repeat the success of the 2009 free agency period, where we signed Mr. Cammalleri, Gionta, and Gill in rapid succession.

            Now that the July 1 frenzy has come and gone, it may be time to change the signature again. I’m open to suggestions.

            Let’s do something like this again: 1) Mike Cammalleri 2) Brian Gionta 3) Hall Gill


        • kitbeyer says:

          My comment was mostly in jest. To each their own with spelling and grammar but, I agree, if it is unintelligible I won’t read it….or listen to it, which is why I also usually flip the channel at the first intermission of HNIC. Lulongo? Teddy Peckman? Come on.

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