Monday, August 13, 2007

A few thoughts on the poll

In case you missed it, I put up a poll on Friday night looking to answer the time-honoured question of 'Who's the worst team in the Eastern Conference?'

Close to 700 votes later, I'm not sure we're any closer to answering it.

I'm going to leave the poll going until the start of the regular season, so at the risk of influencing future votes, here are a few thoughts:
  • The Islanders certainly could be the worst team this season. A first line with Bill Guerin and Mike Comrie shouldn't inspire confidence in anyone. But, then again, a lot of people picked the Isles to be bottom feeders last season and they made the playoffs, and losing Alex Yashin isn't quite the heartbreaker it seems. Sure, there's a sideshow in the front office, but there's also a lot of on-ice character here with guys like Mike Sillinger and Brendan Witt, and Rick DiPietro is looking like a bargain now, nevermind 10 years from now. I don't think this is a playoff team this season, but Ted Nolan doesn't coach last-place teams.

  • Likewise, the Maple Leafs aren't finishing last this season. As someone pointed out in the comments on that thread, Toronto narrowly missed the postseason last year with Andrew Raycroft in goal for 70-plus games.

  • The Panthers, to me, might be the NHL's most-improved team this season. They were incredibly strong down the stretch last year, and with Tomas Vokoun in net and their youngsters finally coming of age, I'd put a playoff appearance somewhere in the 50/50 range. (And Jay Bouwmeester could win the Norris Trophy in the next few years.) It's been a long, long time since we've seen Florida in the postseason (1999-00), but Jacques Martin knows what he's doing down there.
Who does that leave? Washington and Boston are probably the most likely candidates, but it's certainly going to be close. I don't expect the East will have any team more than 10-15 points out of the playoffs this season, so we're really looking at things like shootout results and injuries deciding it.

If any of the bubble teams loses a starting netminder, watch out. I know that's what Brian Burke is hoping for.


At 11:34 a.m., August 13, 2007, Anonymous David Johnson said...

The east is going to be crazy tight this year as most of the non-playoff teams improved themselves, sometimes dramatically, while the top teams generally fell back some. Ottawa, Buffalo and New Jersey have all lost talent and/or depth and probably aren't as good. Philadelphia (Briere, Timonen, Biron, Hartnell, etc.), Washington (Poti, Kozlov, Nylander, Backstrom), Boston (Fernandez), Florida (Vokoun, McLean, Zednik, Dvorak), Toronto (Blake, Toskala) have all improved themselves to varying degrees. Last year there were 7 teams between 86 and 94 points and this season it could be even tighter.

As for who will finish last I would say Boston, Washington and the Islanders are the top candidates but don't be surprised if another unexpected team falls back like the Flyers did last year. It would not surprise me if Carolina takes another step back. Montreal and Tampa are potentially other surprise cellar dwellers.

At 11:46 a.m., August 13, 2007, Blogger saskhab said...

Anyone can finish anywhere, and if anything, there are fewer top teams this year than last. To me, I agree that Florida should make the jump to a playoff team this year (although I consider McLean, Zednik and Dvorak to be lateral moves at best and sometimes a downgrade since they lost Nieuweyndyk, Gelinas, and Roberts). To me, though, none of those middle teams seperated themselves into the bottom or the top group of the conference, so it'll all be on developments that occur during the season such as injuries, trades, goaltending, breakthrough performances/major slumps. Pretty much unpredictable scenarios (aside from goaltending, which is an inexact one as well but I try).

As a whole, the conference got better goaltending so goal scoring should be down a little.

At 1:21 p.m., August 13, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Adding my two cents worth, what we are seeing is the effect of the salary cap kicking into gear causing all of the teams in the east to move towards common mediocrity.The good teams are generally getting worse and the bad teams better.

At 1:25 p.m., August 13, 2007, Blogger Chemmy said...

Hooray, I'm someone!

At 2:39 p.m., August 13, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Florida is always playing well at the end of the season because there's no pressure.

They have good youngsters and now a decent goalie.

Captain Jokinen will score 80-100 points but when Roberts and Nieuwendyk couldn't get along with Jokinen what does that tell you?

Two Stanley Cup winners and one player that has never played in Stanley Cup playoffs.

At 4:04 p.m., August 13, 2007, Blogger PPP said...

Chemmy, you're "someone" but you're not "Someone".

At 4:28 p.m., August 13, 2007, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Sorry Chemmy — I should have looked up who made the astute comment :)

At 6:19 p.m., August 13, 2007, Blogger Chemmy said...

It's not so much an "astute comment" as I am a "Leafs homer".

At 7:40 p.m., August 13, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Last year, for the Panthers, Gelinas was a consistent contributor, but Nieuweyndyk retired due to a back injury, Bertuzzi was hurt all year then traded at the deadline, and Roberts was injured about half the time prior to his trade. So yes, Mclean, Zednick and Dvorak are all lateral moves, but they are upgrades, to the extent that they play...


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