Playoff locks –
Pittsburgh - Despite the questions around Sidney Crosby the Penguins proved they can win without him, and with a healthy motivated Evgeni Malkin back and a nice under the radar signing of Steve Sullivan. The Penguins will be right near the top of the standings.
Buffalo - With a new owner in place the Sabres went out and spent and spent wisely on top defense and adding depth at forward. Ryan Miller is in his prime of his career and should lead this team to a playoff berth.
Washington - Another year with high expectations for the Caps. I like some of the moves they made with the signing of Joel Ward and getting a cup winner in Troy Brouwer. But for this team it’s not about getting in the playoffs, it’s what they do when they reach them.
Philadelphia – A major overhaul in Philly this summer that brought in a new goaltender and possibly a new style of play. After Carter and Richards were traded, will the Flyers have enough offense? I still like them and think this change was for the better.
Boston – The defending champs return almost everyone from a year ago. The only thing that would hold this team back Is a Stanley Cup hangover.
Playoff Probables –
Tamp Bay – The Lightning made a great run last year and Steve Yzerman has become a great leader in the front office. I think they are a playoff team but the one question I have is in goal. How long can Roloson keep playing at a high level?
New Jersey – I think it’s safe to say that the Devils are glad a new season Is here. Marty Broduer has at least one great season left in him and with a healthy Zach Parise back to lead this team, the Devils should find their way back to the post season.
Playoff Hopefuls –
Florida/Montreal/Winnpeg – I think it will be one of these three teams that will be able to grab that last playoff spot in the east. Florida made major changes and brought in a lot of depth players but goaltending will be a question. Montreal needs to get something from overpaid Scott Gomez if they want to be taken seriously. And in Winnipeg there is hope after the former Thrashers had a nice start last season only to falter in the second half. Will the large crowds of Winnipeg be the enough to will the Jets to a playoff spot?
Watching the playoffs –
Toronto – At least a year away from a contender for the playoffs. I like where they are headed but the east is too tough for them right now.
N.Y Rangers – Brad Richards won’t be enough to put them in the playoffs.
Carolina – The have some good young talent in Raleigh and a great goaltender in Cam Ward but not enough depth to compete for a playoff spot.
N.Y Isles – A ton of young talent but still at the bottom of the east.
Ottawa – The fans in the countries capital city are in for a long season.
Coming out of the east –
The obvious question in the east is the health of Sidney Crosby. If he is back healthy and playing at his normal high level the Penguins would be my pick. But as we speak, he is not ready to go and as I did a piece about concussions this summer and on their unpredictability I can’t rely on his full return. So with that said, I like the Caps to finally erase their playoff demons and win the Eastern Conference over the Philadelphia Flyers in six games and reach the finals.
Western Conference predictions and who will hoist the Cup next spring to come shortly.