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, concludes with an appraisal of the final five teams in the east.
To access our look at the previous teams, click HERE.
The Optimist Says: Wingers Kyle Calder and Geoff Sanderson bring more firepower to an offense already stacked to the teeth with it.
The Pessimist Says: To acquire Calder, the Flyers Â– whose penalty killers were the NHL’s fourth-worst last year Â– had to ship out solid defensive center Michal Handzus. Also, Denis Gauthier is a suspension waiting to happen. Also, Peter Forsberg will be a major injury risk Â‘till the end of his spectacular, bumpy career. Also, ’05-06 leading scorer Simon Gagne still ain’t signed. For an alleged Cup contender, that’s a lot of alsos.
The Apocalyptist Says: Accustomed to off-season blockbuster acquisitions such as that of Peter Forsberg and Derian Hatcher, Flyers fans initially were thrilled when they learned this summer’s signings included Cullen, Murray, and Robitaille surnames. Celebrations dimmed somewhat when they realized it was Mark Cullen, Marty Murray and Randy Robitaille. At this rate, and with their salary cap troubles, Philly’s trade deadline pickups could be limited to Frank Stallone, Don Swayze and Chad Lowe.
The Optimist Says: Evgeni Malkin’s (clan)destiny was to play for the Penguins this year, and short of any forced repatriation to his home country, the Russian rookie will wow fans and teammates in Pittsburgh for a long time. Ex-Shark Nils Ekman is a zippy, nifty little addition to the second line’s offense.
The Pessimist Says: Offense wasn’t the problem in Pittsburgh last year, and with Sidney Crosby, Malkin and the returning Mark Recchi, it won’t be this year. Their 30th-ranked defense (including the league’s second-worst penalty kill) was Â– and still is Â– the problem, and it won’t be solved by Mark Eaton (ex of Nashville) and former Ranger Dominic Moore.
The Apocalyptist Says: Everything that could go wrong for the Pens last year did go wrong. If that happens again in ’06-07, Crosby & Co. could find themselves calling Kansas City home in the very near future.
The Optimist Says: Dealing Fredrik Modin for former Blue Jackets starter Marc Denis was precisely what the Lightning needed, as it gives them the No. 1 goalie they so clearly lacked last season.
The Pessimist Says: The losses of Pavel Kubina (to Toronto via free agency) and Darryl Sydor (dealt to Dallas due to salary cap concerns) stretch an already-shaky blueline to the point where GM Jay Feaster may have to move one of the Golden Three (Martin St-Louis, Brad Richards, Vinny Lecavalier) in order to shore it up.
The Apocalyptist Says: Tampa Bay barely squeaked into the playoffs last season, besting Toronto and Atlanta by just two points in the standings. From there, mercurial coach John Tortorella lost it on now-former Bolts goalie John Grahame, and the defending Cup champs were embarrassed by Ottawa. Not the most confidence-inspiring summer sendoff.
The Optimist Says: Clearing out the deadwood behind the bench (coach Pat Quinn) and in front of it (Tie Domi, Ed Belfour, Alexander Khavanov) was a great start to the off-season by John Ferguson, the GM who often talks like a character from Deadwood. New coach Paul Maurice brings a more insistent philosophy to the job than his predecessor, which should pay great dividends for the team’s youngsters. Andrew Raycroft, Pavel Kubina and Mike Peca are defensive upgrades at three different positions, and defense is what the Maple Leafs needed to improve most of all.
The Pessimist Says: The departed Jason Allison might have been slower than a month-long boat cruise with the in-laws, but he was a significant reason only one NHL team’s power play was better than Toronto’s last season. And neither Kubina nor ex-Bruin Hal Gill is regarded as a lockdown artist, a fact that isn’t going to help their shoddy penalty-killing unit (24th in the league last year).
The Apocalyptist Says: After Darcy Tucker and Alex Steen, here are the Leafs’ top offensive wingers: Jeff O’Neill (38 points in ’05-06), Alexei Ponikarovsky (38 points) Nik Antropov (31), and Chad Kilger (28 points). Is it too late to take back that line about defense being what Toronto needed to improve the most?
The Optimist Says: The Capitals added some offense in ex-Senator Brian Pothier and Richard Zednik. They also possess much in the way of young talent in their development system, as proven by the Hershey Bears’ dominance en route to winning an American League Calder Cup championship. But the biggest reason to be optimistic: Alex Ovechkin, v. 2.0.
The Pessimist Says: Pothier may provide more offense from the blueline and serve as a decent quarterback for Washington’s power play, but on the top defensive pairing, that plus-29 rating he had in Ottawa last year is going to freefall faster than Charles Wang’s confidence in Neil Smith.
The Apocalyptist Says: Donald Brashear? It’s understandable for GM George McPhee to want Ovechkin protected, and for owner Ted Leonsis to avoid being burned in the free agent market again. But Brashear? On a team that wants to teach its young players the value of sound on-ice judgment?
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