By Ted Montgomery
Hereâs a look at how I see the final standings for the 2001-2202
1. Boston Bruins: With the additions of Martin Lapointe, Scott
Pellerin, Rob Zamuner and Sean OâDonnell, the Bruins are tougher and
will be more difficult to play against this season. They already have
a great goaltender in Byron Dafoe. This will be a good year to be a
2. Ottawa Senators: Because they still have one of the best sets of
forwards in the league, I think the Senators will have an excellent
regular season. Theyâll need to do some fine-tuning for the playoffs,
however, as usual.
3. Toronto Maple Leafs: I remain worried about the Maple Leafsâ
defense, which is extremely leaky. Curtis Joseph is one of the best
goaltenders in the league, but heâll see too much rubber this season,
heâll think heâs living a bad dream. The deals the Leafs made were
simply personnel exchanges; none brought them players who are
appreciably better than the guys they gave up.
4. Buffalo Sabres: Getting Taylor Pyatt and Tom Connolly for a guy
who didnât even play for the Sabres last season was a major coup.
Adding Slava Kozlov should mean more power play success for the
Sabres. This is a team that had trouble scoring goals when Dominik
Hasek was their goalie; theyâll score more now, but theyâll need the
extra goals with rookie Martin Biron in the nets.
5. Montreal Canadiens: Losing Saku Koivu to illness is a devastating
blow to the team, for a variety of reasons. The Canadiens are still a
couple of years at least from contending for a playoff spot.
1. Philadelphia Flyers: No team helped themselves more over the off-
season than the Flyers. Adding Jeremy Roenick, Eric Weinrich and Jiri
Dopita would have been enough to vault the Flyers into the leagueâs
upper echelon, but then they turned an unused commodity (Eric
Lindros) into Jan Hlavac and Pavel Brendl. They should be the odds-on
Eastern Conference favorite to go to the finals.
2. New Jersey Devils: They still know how to shut down other teams,
and they still have one of the leagueâs best goaltenders in Martin
Brodeur. They know what it takes to win, and they have a lot of team
pride. Theyâll be tough to beat.
3. Pittsburgh Penguins: Life without Jaromir Jagr will be okay, as
long as the owner still suits up most nights. Theyâll score a lot of
goals, especially on the power play, but can their essentially
unproven goaltender withstand the grind of an 82-game season and the
4. New York Islanders: Any team that adds Alexei Yashin, Michael
Peca, Chris Osgood and Adrian Aucoin should automatically be a
playoff contender; it will all depend on how first-year coach Peter
Laviolette fits the extra parts together.
5. New York Rangers: A rejuvenated Theo Fleury and a healthy Eric
Lindros will help the Rangers a lot, but their defense is still so
bad that itâs going to be difficult for them to make the playoffs.
1. Washington Capitals: Adding Jaromir Jagr to a team that already
boasts Adam Oates, Brendan Witt, Olaf Kolzig, Peter Bondra and Jeff
Halpern can only help. Watch for the Caps to challenge the Flyers for
the conferenceâs best record.
2. Florida Panthers: The Panthers will finish a distant second to the
Capitals. Valeri and Pavel Bure should excel playing together, but
after the brothers, the depth of this team falls off sharply.
3. Carolina Hurricanes: The âCanes have some good, speedy young
players, but adding only Aaron Ward, Chris Dingman and Tom Barrasso
wouldnât put any team in the upper reaches of this league.
4. Atlanta Thrashers: Dany Heatley and Ilya Kovalchuk alone could
vault this team over several others in the conference. Now, if they
could ever solve their goaltending problems, they could actually be a
5. Tampa Bay Lightning: I know the brass in Tampa is excited about
this team, but if they donât have Vincent Lecavalier playing for them
from the beginning of the season, they are totally doomed.
1. Colorado Avalanche: Losing Raymond Bourque, Jon Klemm and Peter
Forsberg will take a toll on this team, but with Rob Blake, Patrick
Roy, Joe Sakic and Adam Foote, they should still win their division.
Watch for Chris Drury to do a lot to make up for the loss of Forsberg.
2. Edmonton Oilers: Yes, the Oilers will miss Doug Weight a lot, but
newcomers Marty Reasoner and Jochen Hecht add to the teamâs depth,
and in Jason Smith, Tom Poti and Eric Brewer, the Oilers have three
of the great up-and-coming defensemen in the league. Look for center
Mike Comrie to come into his own this season.
3. Vancouver Canucks: As always, the Canucks have ample scoring and
speed to give most teams fits on any given night, but their defense
and goaltending remain suspect.
4. Calgary Flames: The Flames just donât have the depth to seriously
compete in the talent-laden Western Conference. It will be a while
before the Flames are on a par with the Western Conferenceâs big boys.
5. Minnesota Wild: The Wild will draw a lot of fans, but they are
still realistically several years away from contending for a playoff
1. St. Louis Blues: The best acquisition by any team since the end of
last season was the Blues getting Doug Weight from the Oilers. Heâs
one of the most underrated players in the league, one of the best
passers alive, and a quality guy to have in the dressing room. Heâs
worth another seven to 10 victories for the Blues, and they were
already very good. If the Blues win the cup this season (and they
very well could), Doug Weight will lead the way.
2. Detroit Red Wings: The Wings added Dominik Hasek, Luc Robitaille
and Brett Hull, but they also quietly added Fredrik Olausson and Uwe
Krupp. The Wings addressed their one acknowledged Achilles' heel â"
goaltending â" and also improved their defense and scoring punch. And,
they finished with 111 points last season. Donât count the Wings out
just because they appear to be too old.
3. Nashville Predators: They are one of the peskiest teams in the
league. Watch for future star David Legwand to come into his own this
4. Columbus Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets are one of the leagueâs
best-run franchises, and should improve every year from here on out.
They wonât score a lot of goals, but they will work hard every night.
5. Chicago Blackhawks: What a sad story. Mike Smith and Bob Pulford
are so out of touch with todayâs NHL, that they are grinding this
once-proud franchise into the ground. Theyâll give up a bushelful of
goals once again. The Chicago faithful definitely deserve better than
1. San Jose Sharks: Adding Adam Graves and (for all practical
purposes) Teemu Selanne to an already talented team should make the
Sharks a force to be reckoned with. This is a team that is hungry and
well-coached. They are about to make the jump into the upper echelon
of the NHLâs superpowers.
2. Dallas Stars: The Starâs troika of centers (Mike Modano, Joe
Nieuwendyk and Pierre Turgeon) is unparalleled in the league, but
adding Pat Verbeek, Valeri Kamensky and Donald Audette does nothing
for team speed. Their season hinges totally on the iffy psyche of
3. Phoenix Coyotes: Wayne Gretzky has put together a younger, faster,
hungrier team, albeit a less talented one. The Coyotes have nothing
to lose, and could surprise a lot of teams this season.
4. Mighty Ducks of Anaheim: I think the Ducks will be better this
season. Bryan Murray has a history of making a significant difference
in his early years with a new club, and the Ducks will have a
rejuvenated Jeff Friesen and a healthy Paul Kariya from the start of
5. Los Angeles Kings: I have a hunch that the Felix Potvin effect
will lose its glow this season. Steve Heinze is not a sufficient
replacement for Luc Robitaille.