Ok, I started writing this preview at three in the morning and it was basically a condensed version of the yearbooks. Then I read over it after four hours of sleep and decided 'screw you people, I will write 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 (see two posts down).
For each division, I put in parenthesis the names that I recommended in my post earlier this summer with things I would do if I was commish. This sport should have a bit of character, not be as white-washed and benign as other sports. So onto my thoughts on each team; now the West (Campbell), later the East (Prince o' Wales) because I am at work and they don't pay me to do this ...
Pacific Division (Smythe Division): I think the standings will remain the same from last year as the balance of power has not shifted in the least.
1. Anaheim Ducks: They replaced Dustin Penner and Teemu Selanne with Todd Bertuzzi, which will be interesting because if Bert can get any of the form back that he had before clobbering Steve Moore then the Ducks will have taken care of both at once. As for Scott Neidermayer, I hated him as a Devil, but he is a classy guy and a winner and deserves a slot in the Hall of Fame.
2. San Jose Sharks: I think it was a mistake to let Vesa Toskala go to Toronto for some draft picks. Having insurance of his caliber for Nabokov can't be replaced with a rookie, even if they were trained by the late, great Warren Strelow. I also think that tweaking their logo will prove to be a mistake but we will see once they step on the ice.
3. Dallas Stars: Defensively they are probably the best team in the NHL - their rearguards are fantastic and both of their goaltenders superstars. If anyone watched the All Star game last year -- and I bet there aren't many of you -- then you saw that Versus mic'd Marty Turco during the game. He was awesome and endearing and hopefully he makes the game again and they mic him again.
4. Los Angeles Kings: I would be in the Jack Johnson fan club, if there was one. He was fantastic at the end of last season. He hits, he fights, he plays his position well. You can always tell when he is on the ice and he stands up for his teammates, but he has to stop fighting while wearing a visor, that is chickensh-t Richie Pilon garbage. I look forward to when the Kings come to town in February.
5. Phoenix Coyotes: Poor Gretz, I don't think he fully realized what he was getting himself into. These guys suck. They really, really suck. If the league ever got smart and contracted, based on skill, this team would be candidate number one. At least Gretz still has his records (at least until Cindy breaks them).
Northwest (Brooks Division): This will probably be the most competitive division this year. Every team has improved. But, because they all have gotten better, the battles they will go through will probably run them all ragged so it will be that much harder to get through to the Finals.
1. Vancouver Canucks: They have Roberto Luongo, and let's face it, he is all they need. If he ever wins in the playoffs, I think he could go down as one of the best goaltenders in history - Roy, Sawchuck, etc. In front of him, Kevin Bieksa was great last year and I look forward to see him do it again. I also want Markus Naslund to return to form because he blew last year (screwing me in fantasy!).
2. Calgary Flames: "Hey Keenan! You suck!" Yelling that from the sixth row, next to my embarrassed dad, in the Garden was one of my favourite moments in my life. Call me lame, whatever, I don't care, it was awesome. He will either make the Flames winners, or he will burn out real quick and what a meltdown that will be on the Red Mile.
3. Minnesota Wild: I love their third jerseys and now they are adopting them as primary (but tweaking them for RBK, whatever). I have heard that their home games are incredible experiences and hope to enjoy one soon. Plus Marian Gaborik is awesome to watch as long as his groin is in good shape.
4. Colorado Avalanche: Peter Budaj is one of the most religious players in the league so he better pray to Jesus that he can hold up his part of the bargain because expectations are sky high. Scott Hannan and Ryan Smyth were fantastic pick ups (and I hope rumours prove to be true) and Peter Forsberg may return to their team to give Joe Sakic one last great chance to get the Cup.
5. Edmonton Oilers: Dustin Penner really didn't deserve all that money. Kevin Lowe probably assured the league of another lockout in two years with the offer sheet he foolheartedly gave the Duckling. Thanks, dick.
Central (Norris Division) As it was for the last 10 years, this division belongs to the Wings. Year after year, Ken Holland builds a winner. They are just too good. The Blues and the Hawks are on the upswing, and that can only be good for the NHL. Nashville should not exist.
1. Detroit Red Wings: Steve Yzerman, Joey Kocur ... how could you not love them? And they aren't even on the ice! As for the guys who are, watching Nick Lidstrom is a clinic in how to play defense. And watching Dom Hasek is a car wreck where there are cars flying everywhere but zero damage done ... totally awe-inspiring and insane.
2. St. Louis Blues: I miss John Davidson on MSG doing colour commentary but I guess he made a good decision because he is doing a helluva job with the Blues. Here is our tribute to him last year when the Blues came to town. As long as poor lil Manny Legace can stay healthy, they will return to pre-MacInnis-retirement form. However, I do not buy into the hype around top draft pick Erik Johnson, I don't think he will be all that good. We shall see ...
3. Chicago Blackhawks: I also don't think Pat Kane will be anything special, at least not for a few years (and 30 pounds). Maybe its an American thing ... Brian Lawton showed that top American picks aren't the best decisions (DP can kiss my ass). I do think that Jonathan Toews and Jack Skille will be good and with Marty Havlat and Robert Lang the offense should pick up. As long as Haaaaaaaaa-B-boolin is ok, the Hawks will begin to return to early 90's form.
4. Nashville Predators: What a colossal clusterf--k. If the league was smart they would have let the team move to Hamilton and the Preds would be in second. Instead these idiots stayed in f--king Nashville and had to break down an exciting team. Chris Mason was good last year but he isn't Vokoun. I hope they enjoy losing in an empty building.
5. Columbus Blue Jackets: Dude, seriously ... they blow. Even Ken Hitchcock won't be able to make this mess of a roster win anytime soon. I still like Manny Malhotra though!
Check back later (or tomorrow) for the East!