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 coach Guy Carbonneau and assistant Kirk Muller, along with ever-capable GM Bob Gainey, assure the Canadiens of having the right guidance for a young and developing squad. Gainey should be able to deal either veteran David Aebischer or prospect Yann Danis at some point in the year and bring in return an asset for one of their lesser-stocked positions.
The Pessimist Says: Can Saku Koivu fully recover from a high stick to the eye? He hasn’t yet. And will Montreal police arrest Andre Markov and/or Craig Rivet for attempting to impersonate a No. 1 NHL defenseman, as they’re forced to on the Canadiens’ tres mediocre blueline?
The Apocalyptist Says: Northeast Division rivals Boston, Ottawa and Toronto were adding talent by the bucketload, but Montreal acquired only Sergei Samsonov from Edmonton and Mike Johnson from Phoenix. There is a softer player in the NHL than those two, but his name is Mike Ribeiro, and he’s the Canadiens’ second line center.
The Optimist Says: Few observers believed Lou Lamoriello would be able to keep the key components of his cap-strapped team together, but he re-signed star winger Patrik Elias and Jamie Langenbrunner, and accepted the $5-million contract an arbitrator awarded to Scott Gomez. At this point, David Blaine is becoming envious of the Devils GM.
The Pessimist Says: Before Bob Gainey dropped the axe on him midway through last season, Claude Julien’s defense-first style frustrated his forwards to no end. He’ll have a more talented lineup now, but does he know what to do with it?
The Apocalyptist Says: Forty-eight goal-scorer Brian Gionta remains unsigned. When he agrees to a contract, the Devils will be so far past the salary cap limit they’ll need to visit mapquest.com to find their way back under it. That almost certainly means they’ll have to weaken themselves in another area by trading an underrated contributor such as Sergei Brylin, Jay Pandolfo or John Madden.
New York Islanders
The Optimist Says: With Brendan Witt and Tom Poti added to the defense, Rick DiPietro will get to reduce his treatments for rubber rash to biweekly sessions this season. And only five more years of Alexei Yashin!
The Pessimist Says: Where to beginÂ…the Keystone Kops tribute show in the Isles’ front officeÂ…a three-year contract for Mike Sillinger (who scored 32 goals last season, but only hit the 20-goal mark once in a 14-year career prior to that)Â…no new deal for DiPietro, and an owner-imposed deadline for the start of training camp hanging over the goalie’s headÂ…zero wholesale changes to an offense that ranked 26th in the league last year, or a defense that finished 25thÂ…you can go vomit now.
The Apocalyptist Says: When Chris Simon and Andy Hilbert are two of your more prominent new additions, you should make every effort to avoid referring to your prominent new additions.
New York Rangers
The Optimist Says: Former Hurricanes Matt Cullen and Aaron Ward bring with them fresh new Stanley Cup rings, but signing Brendan Shanahan (he of the 40-goal season as a Red Wing in 2005-06) was GM Glen Sather’s best move. He may be turning 38 in January, but Shanny’s offense and leadership Â– not to mention, his ability to sell the game in one of the NHL’s most important markets Â– will help Rangers fans forget about that first-round playoff whipping at the hands of New Jersey.
The Pessimist Says: Rumors the Rangers’ first line of Jaromir Jagr, Michael Nylander and Martin Straka were spotted in a corner fighting for the puck last spring remain unfounded. A top defensive pairing of Marek Malik and Michal Rozsival doesn’t exactly have the same potential punch as a Niedermayer-Pronger. And we’re talking Rob Niedermayer and Sean Pronger.
The Apocalyptist Says: What Jagr are we getting this year Â– the offensive menace who tore the league up in 2005-06, or the disinterested slacker who still causes Capitals owner Ted Leonsis to wake up in the middle of the night with a severe case of the cold-sweats? If it’s the latter, Sather could find his team out of the playoffs just as easily as it jumped back into them in last season.
The Optimist Says: Yes, Zdeno Chara and Martin Havlat are gone. However, the way they disappeared in the 2006 post-season, that may be addition by subtraction. What definitely is addition by subtraction is the removal of super-flake Dominik Hasek from Ottawa’s net. With newbies Joe Corvo and Tom Preissing (who combined for a plus-33 rating last year with Los Angeles and San Jose, respectively), the Senators’ blueline is deeper than it ever was.
The Pessimist Says: Yes, Mike Fisher posted career bests in goals (22) and points (44) in just 68 games with the Sens last season. That still doesn’t make him one of the game’s elite second-line centers.
The Apocalyptist Says: New No. 1 goalie Martin Gerber, formerly with Carolina, had a great regular-season last year, but stunk the joint out in the playoffs. Sound like any team you know?
Check back Friday for Philly, Pittsburgh, Tampa, Toronto and Washington.
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