As promised, here is my Eastern Conference preview, why I care (or not) and what I am watching (or not).' If you want real team previews, throw down some cash for the THN book. I worked on this here and there over several days so hopefully it doesn't come off as too disjointed.
For my ramblings on the Western teams, click here. The names in parenthesis are the ones that each division should be called, enough of this boring geographic bullsh-t.
Southeast (Calder Division)
1. Tampa Bay Lightning: What a ridiculously top-heavy team. But no matter how good Vinny Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis and Brad Richards are and how bad their goaltending is, the Bolts are hard to watch. I just no not enjoy watching them, donno what it is. And now they have ugly jerseys too, so why bother?
2. Washington Capitals: Now this is a team that I can't wait to watch. They have heroes in Alex Ovechkin, Olaf Kolzig and now Michael Nylander. They have villains in Donald Brashear and Tom Poti. And man do I haaaaaaaate Poti. I am quite sad to see him gone from the Isles, it was much easier to loathe him there. Here I just have to hope he doesn't do anything too stupid that ends up hurting Ovie. But back to the point, they should be fun to watch. Especially in their nice, new uniforms.
3. Florida Panthers: I can't think of any real reason to watch them. Eventually they may be good, Vokoun in net will get them another 10 wins or so, but there is no flash or spark. I am interested in seeing this Cory Murphy guy they are importing to run their power play. After all, they can't seem to trust Jay Bouwmeester to do it, the guy can't even drive himself to the rink anymore.
4. Atlanta Thrashers: Now they may have their famous fans, but they stink, especially after mortgaging their future just to lose to the Rangers in a sweep. Hopefully Hossa can repeat his 100 point effort of last season, my fantasy season depends on it!!
5. Carolina Hurricanes: I have read all sorts of things that predict these guys will return to Stanley Cup form. I really don't think so. While Cam Ward is a nice guy, I think he will prove to be Steve Penny. Good kid though, gave me an autograph once.
Northeast (Adams Division)
1. Ottawa Senators: So they got an ugly new logo, they still have some great players. Dany Heatley can score a helluva lot better than he can drive and Anton Volchenkov is the best shot blocker in the league. Combined with their goon Ray Emery, they are great to watch.
2. Toronto Maple Leafs: Yeah, this is pretty damn far fetched, but you never know. As much as I hated him as an Islander, Jason Blake is pretty damn good and should be the help Mats Sundin needs to get into the playoffs (hope they made amends). Then again, they are the Maple Leafs, and something will go wrong. Adding Vesa Toskala and dealing away Tuukka Rask will likely prove to be a massive mistake but we shall see.
3. Montreal Canadiens: The Habs blew it last year to their biggest rivals on the last game (which was an incredible game to watch). So you gotta figure that they will come out with a chip on their shoulder this year. While Huet and Halak will likely start the year as the goaltenders, Carey Price will eventually take the job and may very well become the next Ken Dryden.
4. Buffalo Sabres: While they were good last year, 7.7 seconds was all that separated them from a second round defeat by the Rangers. And now we took Drury from them and Briere bounced to Philly. They still have Ryan Miller, so they should be able to hold their own. Oh, and I am a big fan of Andrew Peters, probably the classiest enforcer in the NHL.
5. Boston Bruins: My dad will not want to accept this, but the Big, Bad Bruins blow. Even with Zdeno Chara, and now Manny Fernandez, they still suck on offense ... and defense ... so don't expect much. I am quite thankful to them for one of the highlights of my season.
Atlantic (Patrick Division)
1. Pittsburgh Penguins: I really loathe Cindy Crosby but damn is he fun to watch. The guy is going to turn into a shark - now he had a taste of the playoffs, and I think he will carry the Pens even farther. They added Petr Sykora, who the Rangers shouldn't have gotten rid of, but still have no backup goaltender for Fleury.
2. New York Rangers: Because I am so superstitious, I don't want to jinx anything about our boys, but I will say that I think Marc Staal needs a shot at a job, I can't wait to see Chris Drury take a last second shot and Marek Malik still needs to be shot.
3. Philadelphia Flyers: Now the horrible Sporting News hockey preview asked "can you say worst to first?" for them, and then ranked them in third. Third, not first. The Penguins are better and the Rangers (hopefully) are better but the Flyers won't repeat their mess of last season. If Briere and Simon Gagne have any chemistry at all, Philly will be a force to reckoned with again, even if they are a far cry from the Broad Street Bullies.
4. New Jersey Devils: Marty will carry them again, and having a Sutter as coach will make them hard to play night in and night out. Losing Gomez and Rafalski will hurt their power play, but little else. Now moving to Newark, that will hurt their attendance. I just hope I don't get shot when I go there.
5. New York Islanders: I am even more mad at them than usual; they let Tom Poti go to Washington. What better situation for me is to have my most hated player on my most hated team??? For what to expect, Nolan will get the most out of his players, but they blow and won't get all that far. Good. Most of their fans are rude and ignorant, their arena is a dump and most of their players don't belong in the NHL. Screw 'em.