This season, a new era begins. No Lidstrom. It has been a whole generation since this was last true. Even the limited player who was on the ice last year is better than anyone likely to replace him.

Good News

  • Datsyuk is still one of the best players in the NHL.
  • Jimmy Howard has come a long, long way and may earn the right to be called elite this season.
  • Jordin Tootoo will provide some physicality, and likely more skill than some expect.

Bad News

  • The defense is going to be ugly after losing not one but two twenty minute a night guys.
  • Last years penalty kill was not great, with the loss of four minutes among the defensemen, that won’t get better.
  • You can’t avoid asking how healthy key forwards on this team will be

Forecast

High: Bubble, if everything goes right, everyone is healthy, and everyone plays to or above their average, the team will sneak into the seven or eight spot at best, and likely end up at the nine or ten spot.

Low:  If things get ugly on he injury front, or the defense is even worse than I expect, the team will bounce down as low as the 12 spot.

X-Factor

This seasons x-factor in Detroit is the CBA. The possibility of a trade, or a the cap changing and causing mass movement of players is about all the fans in Michigan can pin their hopes on for improving this team this season.

The Bolts brought in a couple new faces this off season. After going from game seven of the Eastern Conference finals to finishing two spots and eight points out of the playoffs, it was needed. One of those additions has the potential for big impact, the rest are essentially maintaining the status quo.

Good News

  • Anders Lindback looks to be a damned impressive goaltender.
  • A healthy BJ Crombeen almost certainly moves their penalty kill up two or three spots minimum.
  • Just about all the additions to the roster have something to prove and that will make them hungry.

Bad News

  • The defense is still mediocre at the top of its performance curve.
  • Anders Lindback for all his skill and size is going to be in his first year in a new place, in a very different system, and he’s got less than 40 NHL games to his name.
  • They are still not a top three team in their own division.

Forecast

High:  Bubble team, if there are disasters in other cities they get to about where they were last year, maybe as high as the eight spot.

Low: Afterthought. Lindback needs to be Vezina quality in order to drive this team to the playoffs, if he can’t  do that while playing 55+ games the off season will be long.

X-Factor

A simple look at the roster says the team has players that it can move around. If the brain trust decides to load up and increase the quality of the defense, or the offense goes from good to world beating the team suddenly takes on a completely different quality.

The Canucks have been the whole show in a pretty pathetic division for a couple years. The division won’t be quite as bad this season and that could be either better or worse for them. As noted at the trade deadline, this team abandoned their identity then, and collapse came pretty close on the heels of doing so.

Good News

  • The Sedin’s are healthy.
  • Jason Garrison is a sound addition.
  • Kevin Bieksa is signed long term.

Bad News

  • Ryan Kesler is injured, again, to start the season.
  • No major changes have been made to a possibly complacent team.
  • The goalie drama will continue to be a distraction.

Forecast

High: There’s no question this team should win the division and challenge for another President’s Trophy.

Low: If the Luongo/Schnieder drama becomes really ugly, Kesler is out longer than expected, and one or more of the teams in the division play better there is a small chance they fall to 4th or 5th if they lose the division.

X-Factor

Whatever happens in net, or off ice this team needs an identity. The Kassian for Hodgson trade was a poor one in terms of adding an element that fits, if Luongo is indeed traded whoever comes back in his place needs to either be someone the team will rally around as a new leader, or slide into the murky waters of the Vancouver media scene without a ripple.

The Winnipeg Jets can look forward to improved defense this season. If for no other reason than health. With the exception of Mark Stuart all the defensemen played a number of games in the middles sixties or lower.  With Evander Kane as yet unsigned things at the other end of the ice could get dicey if he isn’t signed soon, or traded for a similar talent.

Good News

  • No jail time or serious legal problems for Dustin Byfuflien. That and good health could lead to a huge year for the officially 265lb defenseman.
  • If Evander Kane is signed in time to start the season, he could outstrip last years performance, last year he only played 74 games, getting dinged up a couple times.
  • The division still isn’t very strong and two or three strong performances in their own end for the season can have them in the post season.

Bad News

  • The defense is still a question mark. Defense isn’t exactly what they excel at as a unit.
  • Pavelec shows no signs of playing consistently at a high enough level for the team to do anything in the playoffs.
  • The east isn’t really any weaker this year and they finished tied for 10th last year.

Forecast

High: If they can some how score about the same number of goals as last year and eliminate twenty goals against they have a solid shot at the Bubble. Getting down to 226 goals against would be less goals allowed than half of the eastern team who did make the post season last year,

Low: Afterthought. Almost as big as their injuries last year was inconsistency even when most of their best players were playing.

X-Factor

The whole team is an x-factor, Kane’s signing or trade, the health of the defense and Pavelec’s consistency. At times they looked like they could have won the Cup for two and three game stretches last year, and at other times they looked like they’d have trouble winning a series with the Muskegon Lumberjacks.

10: Watching Gary Bettman attempt to look reasonable is their favorite past time.

9: 29 owners are still laughing over Dennis Wideman’s contract.

8: Gordie Howe has yet to threaten to beat the damn wipppersnapper owners on behalf of the players.

7: One third are busy throwing up after seeing Justin Beiber in Boston Bruins gear, the rest are still asking who Justin Beiber is.

6: The longer they take to handle the CBA the less questions anyone will have to answer about the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.

5: They just can’t wait to see what Proteau, Garroach, and Cox will write next, some of it might not be fit for a bird cage.

4: Without having taken their meds some of them don’t realize it isn’t 2004 any more.

3:  Charles Wang is waiting for the bean counters to decide if it makes more financial sense to have a quarter full arena all season or save money by not buying a years supply of rat poison.

2: The delay is all part of a marketing scheme to keep attention focused on the NHL all off season as a ploy to boost early attendance and ratings in struggling markets.

1: The owners are still looking for a way to have the All Star weekend and playoffs without having the regular season so they don’t have to pay the players at all.

0: Jeremy Jacobs and Mike Illitch have yet to twirl their pinkie rings, glare at the other owners and tell them to sigh or ‘say hello to my little friend”.

This season will see lots of players in unfamiliar situations. Some are on new teams, some have had their teams overhauled, and others will be climbing up the depth chart. With all the movement, all the acquired experience, some players are due to rise and rise fast.

Jiri Tlusty has spent two full seasons in the Carolina Hurricanes system after three years with the Leafs. In that time he’s only hit double digits in goals twice. Last season was one of those years, and this might just be his year. In his 228 career games he’s go a meager 74 points, this year don’t be surprised if he cracks the 20 goal and fifty point plateaus, 25/55 isn’t outside possibility either.

Brandon Sutter has the unenviable job of filling Jordan Staal’s spot in the Pittsburgh Penguins depth chart. The good news for him is that everyone is expected to start the season healthy, meaning even if he’s on the ice, given the Penguins depth at forward, he’ll be the third or fourth player most opposing defenses look for, at least for a little while.

Anton Khudobin regardless of who owns the title of number one goaltender in Boston by the end of the season, all Khudobin has to do to have played his last AHL game is simply play smart. If he can do a solid job even as the number two, he will get a lot of interest from other teams when he becomes a UFA next July 1.

Justin Falk I’m a firm believer the best thing you can do for a young defenseman’s development is give them a good mentor. Falk and the Wild’s other youngins are going to have Suter to lean on. Look for his points to double, and his plus-minus to get a lot easier to look at.

Bryan Allen has never been known for his offensive touch. This year he’ll be playing alongside guys like Cam Fowler, and behind Perry, Getzlaf, and possibly Ryan. If Hiller can regain his mojo Allen might just have personal best point totals, and make it to the post season for the first time in since the last lockout. With all the offensive talent on this team, him hitting 30-35 points, as much as ten more than his previous career high is almost a given.

David Perron given the injuries this man has faced in the last couple seasons, last year might be considered a breakout season. 42 points in 57 games is a solid contribution on a very defensive minded team. Do not be surprised if he pops in seventy points this season. It is more than within his talent, and that even allows for the defensive nature of the Blues system.

Sam Gagner Its hard to remember that despite the 8 point night Gagner had about an average season for himself last year. Coming into this season though, there is no reason he can’t get slotted in between top six talent. Eberle, Hall, Paajarvi, Smyth, and potentially Yakupov this team should have a good amount of offense.

On paper, the Dallas Stars may be the most improved team in the Pacific Division. That’s good for them because they needed to improve having finished seven points out of the playoffs. The bad is that hockey is played on ice and not paper, and some of their additions are likely to have less impact than people hope. That said, Dallas fans can at least take some solace in the new ownership having both patience and far, far more importantly a direction. The players moved out are guys who have at one point or anther in their NHL careers, given people the opportunity to question their character.

Good News

  • Yet more Jamie Benn, Alex Goligoski, and Loui Eriksson.
  • Richard Bachman provides some hope for when Kari Lehtonen goes down for his inevitable injury/injuries.
  • Derek Roy should make the best pivot the team has seen in a few years.

Bad News

  • The two high priced forwards the team signed in the off season will be 41 years old before the next Stanley Cup is awarded.
  • After Goligoski and Daley the defense is rather meh.
  • Kari Lehtonen will miss several games due to injury.

Forecast

High: Bubble team, if all goes well, given their offensive strength, the strength of their division, and Lehtonen’s quality of play when healthy they do have a shot at the 7 or 8 slot, or as tight as the division was last year, even the 3 spot.

Low: Lottery team, their goalie is good for a dozen or more missed games, they have two guys who will be 41, one of whom was not particularly healthy last season, and their second line center position is a myster. Their defense is nothing to write home about

X-Factor

We’ve seen several moves from the front office to shift the roster, a move for a high end defenseman, or a full wipe of everyone over 30 to rebuild hard and fast could be in the mind of the teams leadership, certainly aside from the two short term contracts to Jagr and Whitney, theyve been getting younger over the last year.

 

Well, anyone wanting to know if the Caens were going to be active this off season got their answer early. After not engaging  in  their nearly annual salary dump at the trade deadline, they went out and got some pieces. Whatever else can be said about this years squad; they have the most effective two way one and two punch at center (assuming the two Staals both play on their own lines) in the division. Stamkos is better offensively, Backstrom is no slouch, but neither has a second in the same neighborhood.

Good News

  • Holy hell the forward talent; Eric Staal, Jordan Staal, Jeff Skinner, Alex Semin are as good a set of top forwards as it gets.
  • Justin Faulk has a full season of experience to his credit and can only get better.
  • None of the other teams in the division have made any major moves to improve.

Bad News

  • As good as the forward crew is, the defense isn’t the loss of Allen and the return of Corvo really cuts into the quality of defense.
  • Goaltending is a concern, Cam Ward his worst save percentage in four seasons last year, and Boucher isn’t going to inspire much confidence.
  • It is doubtful the chaos that enveloped the Capitals last season, or the off ice concerns for the Jets will carry over to this season.

Forecast

High: Bubble team, with the funk Eric Staal was in for much of last season, and the time lost for Jeff Skinner piled onto the additions of Jordan Staal and Alex Semin the chance for the Canes to score fifty goals more in 2012-13 than in 11-12 is actually a conservative estimate since more players will slide into their proper spots on the depth chart.

Low: Afterthought.  The defense on this team is thin, while I’m not the Alex Semin detractor that certain TSN types are, he’s not going to contribute to this teams defense. I’m also not convinced Ward has the goods the be a world beater and play65+ games. Maybe if he could play 50-55 games, but you still have to wonder about what contribution Boucher can make and still allow the team a chance at the playoffs.

X-Factor

The big question for this team is how well can this teams forwards who will have to carry them do so. Realistically they look a lot like last years Flyers with how the team is balanced. In their favor is a weaker division, on the other hand their forward pool is not quite as deep.

This off-season, possibly the last in which the Flames fanbase can be reasonably certain Jarome Iginla will be coming to play in the fall, the Flames did not much to improve. They had an interesting draft, going with Mark Jankowski who some considered a reach for the first round.  They brought in Dennis Wideman for a thiry or forty percent premium on his contract, and gave up assets to get him.

Good News

  • They still have Jarome Iginla, and Jay Bouwmeester.
  • They have over three and a half million in cap space as the Cap currently sits.
  • Darryl Sutter is no longer the general manager.
  • The Edmonton Oilers are still a much worse team.
  • Mike Cammalleri has way more heart than Rene Bourque.

Bad News

  • The roster is still lacking anything that resembles a bona-fide  first or second line center.
  • The 11 NTC’s and NMC’s will make it really difficult to improve through trading, even if the bad contracts didn’t.
  • Dennis Wideman.
  • The Wild improved more than they did.

Forecast: 

High: Bubble team 7-10  if the defense and goaltending can come together well enough to cover for an offense that will continue to struggle they can squeak into the post season. It would take converting about three of last years over time losses to regulation wins, and one of hte regulation losses to a win.

Low: Afterthought. Even if the defense is the same as it was last year (14th in goals against) if  the offense doesn’t improve over last years 24th place finish, there isn’t going to be much joy in Calgary.

X-Factor

There are lots of them for this team. Jarome Iginla is rumored to be moved ef every season, and Jay Bouwmeester was the apparent target of at least two big market eastern conference powers trade talks. If one or both of these guys are moved, it rewrites the whole team. Iginla may be playing for a contract, or possibly planning to retire, either way he would want to go out on top. Then there is the infusion of players like Hudler, Cervenka, and Comeau who all have something to prove, one and all they could be upgrades or downgrades.