Can We Play in YOUR Division?

The Florida Panthers last post-season appearance was shortly after Y2K. Yeah.

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There was a time when the South-East division was the weakest in the league. Florida and Atlanta were laughing stocks, Tampa Bay had some rough stretches, while Carolina and Washington were the best of a bad lot. Then Washington took a big step forward, and started cleaning up in the standings, finishing 4th in the league in ’08-’09, first overall in ’09-’10 and 2nd overall last season. But despite a series of impressive regular season performances, post-season success proved elusive.

The Vancouver Canucks were thoroughly dominant during the 2010-2011 regular season. They scored the most goals in the league (262) and also allowed the fewest (185) for a staggering +77 goal differential, capturing the President’s Trophy as the league’s top regular-season team. Unlike Washington, they made a strong playoff run, coming one game away from winning the Stanley Cup. But they also came inches away from losing to 8th place Chicago in the first round (Patrick Sharp nearly converted on the powerplay, mere minutes into OT of game 7), and struggled at times against a far less talented Nashville team. The finals loss to Boston can be blamed in large part on injuries, but what happened in the first two rounds? Continue reading

2012 NHL Season Preview

Drew “Norris T” Doughty

Other previews:

Eastern Conference Contenders

Western Conference Contenders

The NHL regular season is still over a month away, but rosters are all but solidified. Sure there’ll be the usual competition between 20-somethings and NHL vets for a few spots at the end of the lineup, but each team’s key players are in place (ironically, excepting Drew Doughty). That means the business of predictions can begin. But first, here are some important notes on injuries.

Injuries

The single biggest reason that hockey isn’t played on paper is the potential for injuries. Last year I thought the St. Louis Blues would be the new Chicago Blackhawks. They had a young core of talented forwards like T.J Oshie, David Perron, Patrik Berglund, and David Backes, supplemented by veterans like Andy McDonald and Brad Boyes. They had just added Montreal goaltender Jaroslav Halak – fresh off a dominant playoff performance where he took the underdog Habs to the Conference Finals. Throw in a solid defence anchored by vets like Eric Brewer and Barrett Jackman, and the Blues looked poised to finish near the top-third of the Western Conference. They came busting out of the gates, cruising to a 9-1-2 record, but then it all came crashing down. Continue reading