Screen Shots’ effort to discern each NHL team’s potentially good from its possibly bad, and its possibly bad from its worst-case scenario ugly, continues with an appraisal (five teams per day, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday of this week) of the Eastern Conference’s off-season transactions.
To access our look at the Western Conference, click HERE.
The Optimist Says: New Thrashers Steve Rucchin, Niko Kapanen and Vitaly Vishnevski can’t help but bring sandpaper to a defensive attack that danced into dainty territory more than GM Don Waddell or coach Bob Hartley could stomach.
The Pessimist Says: Atlanta lost two of its top five scorers in 2005-06 when Marc Savard and Peter Bondra weren’t re-signed this summer. The idea that Rucchin and any combination of Jon Sim, Kyle Wanvig and/or Glen Metropolit will adequately replace that offense is the sort of sick humor Andy Kaufman once specialized in.
The Apocalyptist Says: All post-season hopes hinge on the abilities and health of goalie Kari Lehtonen. Any letdown by the 22-year-old Finn, and the task falls to inspirational* NHL journeymen, Johan Hedberg and Fred Brathwaite. (*By Â“inspirationalÂ”, we mean, Â“they inspired their GM to seek out another solution in goal.Â”)
The Optimist Says: Tall drink of water Zdeno Chara, as well as former Coyote Paul Mara, do two things for Boston’s blueline. Not only do they improve its size and offensive skill level immensely, they also leave it one Vicky Sunohara short of some nifty limerick material. Marc Savard’s playmaking skills should help Glen Murray rebound from his worst offensive output (24 goals and 53 points) since the 2000-01 campaign.
The Pessimist Says: Boston’s top line of Brad Boyes, Patrice Bergeron and Marco Sturm has an average age of 24 and 18-year-old rookie Phil Kessel is likely to start the season on the second line. That’s an awfully young basket in which to hold most of your offense’s eggs.
The Apocalyptist Says: Lots of moves to like here Â– including the addition of gritty Shean Donovan Â– but don’t forget, this is a franchise that traded away a league MVP (Joe Thornton) in mid-year. If there’s a way to mould a molehill from what could just as easily be a mountain, Bruins brass usually finds and follows it.
The Optimist Says: Former Oiler Jaroslav Spacek is neither a better shot-blocker nor more physical than ex-Sabre Jay McKee, but the Czech native averaged five more minutes of playing time Â– and finished with 27 more points Â– than McKee did last season.
The Pessimist Says: There’s nowhere for Buffalo’s special teams to go but down. The departures of McKee and Mike Grier are killers for their penalty killing unit (ranked second in the league last year); and J-P Dumont’s absence from the NHL’s third-best power play will pressure Maxim Afinogenov and Jason Pominville to pick up the slack in scoring.
The Apocalyptist Says: Two weeks before training camp opened, Buffalo GM Darcy Regier had yet to sign starting goalie and restricted free agent Ryan Miller to a contract. Meanwhile, Tim Connolly, who signed a three-year, $8.7-million deal in July, was still sidelined by post-concussion symptoms. If either player misses significant time Â– and let’s not forget, Miller has yet to play a full NHL season Â– the Sabres could find themselves in a dogfight for a low playoff seed.
The Optimist Says: Â‘Canes GM Jim Rutherford kept the majority of his championship squad intact, and though he lost a six-pack of veterans (including Matt Cullen, Doug Weight, Aaron Ward and Mark Recchi), he did a better-than-average job of replacing them with serviceable players such as Trevor Letowski, David Tanabe, Scott Walker and Brad Isbister.
The Pessimist Says: The losses of Ward and Cullen, both of who are now New York Rangers, hurts the Â‘Canes at both ends of the ice. Cullen was a speedy second option on Carolina’s power play, while Ward’s shot-blocking skills will be dearly missed by No. 1 goalie (and non-relative) Cam Ward.
The Apocalyptist Says: Dear John Grahame: For the sake of you and the Â‘Canes, use some of your money from your new contract to hire a round-the-clock bodyguard for Ward. (The successful candidate will ensure Ward doesn’t go bungee-jumping, go-kart racing or speed-dating in his spare time.) After you were filleted and Tortorellaed in Tampa Bay in the spring, the last thing you need is to have the hopes of a Stanley Cup repeat placed squarely on your shoulders.
The Optimist Says: Bryan Allen and Ruslan Salei shore up a middling defense corps. Todd Bertuzzi adds size and snarl to an often-piddling offense.
The Pessimist Says: It’s one thing when you bring in one team’s goaltending castoff to vie for your No. 1 job. But when you bring in three castoffs Â– and in Ed Belfour, Alex Auld, and Craig Anderson, that’s what the Panthers did Â– you’ve got bigger fish to fry. Or your bigger fish are already fried. Either way, this can’t be good.
The Apocalyptist Says: Not content to sit by idly while Charles Â“Harold-Ballard-In-TrainingÂ” Wang claimed the award for a GM-departure closest to the start of the season, Panthers owner Alan Cohen and Mike Keenan parted ways Sept. 3, a mere 12 days before training camps are set to open. Jacques Martin now must juggle Keenan’s duties along with his role as bench boss, and judging by how many other clubs think this is a good idea (zero), things may not be sunny in Florida for long.
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