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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Southeast Division Analysis

Carolina: Carolina is the reigning Stanley cup champion and no one expected it. They've lost Martin Gerber, Mark Recchi and Doug Weight, and this will have an impact on the leadership in the lockeroom. It will be difficult for the 'Canes to win the big prize again. Lots of teams have adjusted to this new NHL and the 'Canes will face a tough opposition inside the conference. They are basically the same young and speedy team and you can expect them to have a very good season. The big question is : Can Cam ward can repeat his performances of last year?

Florida: With Keenan as a GM, everything was possible including the worst, that's why he got fired too late. He basically destroyed the team in St. Louis and the Panthers fans are very lucky that he got the gate sooner then later. The Panthers trade of one of the best goalkeeper in the NHL, was because of the bad relationship between Luongo and Keenan. Now, the Panthers are stuck with an aging Ed Belfour and an unproven Alex Auld to keep the puck out of their net. The addition of Bertuzzi won't help them since he's not the same player as he was before the Moore incident, but Ruslan Salei should stabilize and help the young defensive corps. The Panthers are young and skilled but i don't see them in the playoffs; not with the kind of goaltending they have this year.

Washington: Basically the same team and they didn't add a lots of players since Brashear, Pothier and Zednik cannot be consider as "premium" players. They have the rookie of the year in their roster and, oh boy, did he make some special goals, last year! Like the Pens, Washington is a project but with a guy like Ovechkin to build on, Washington will be fine in, 2 or 3 years, if the proper work is done.

Atlanta: The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of the NHL. You never knows what kind of team will show in a particular night. Sometimes, they are flying, buzzing around your net and play like Stanley Cup champions. In another game, they are flat and lazy. The team have snipers like Kovalchuk and Hossa but they have the same problem as the B's had last year. The threat will come from one single line. They re-sign Lehtinen which is very good but the addition of Steve Rucchin will not replace the loss of Savard at center. A good team without consistency and until they find a solution regarding their rollercoaster performances, I don't see the Trashers in the playoffs.

Tampa Bay: Lecavalier, St. Louis and Richards are sure values and they will have to produce if the team want to make the playoffs. The addition of Marc Denis is very good but it's tough to evaluate his impact on the team. In Columbus, Denis was inconsistent but had a so-so defensive corps. Will he will be better in Tampa? The lost of Pavel Kubina will have an impact and I don't see Luke Richardson or Filip Kuba as the solution. The offense will be OK but all the teams in the conference have adjusted to the new NHL rules. Will the Tampa Bay's defense will step up and rise to the occasion?

1- Carolina
2- Tampa Bay
3- Atlanta
4- Washington
5- Florida


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