Some of the biggest cities are really tight to the cap, the Bruins, Flyers, and Lightning could all use a touch more cap space to deal with. Both the Bruins and Flyers are likely to lose pieces to free agency. The Canadiens are in danger of losing Ryder and Armstrong. Boston is supposedly getting attention on Seguin, and the Lecavalier to Montreal rumors won’t die until he’s retired or the Canadiens move, unless of course he does sign there.

What We Know

(By New Divisions)

Division C

Boston: After a run to the finals with lots of injuries, and some key contracts that are due, the Bruins could be in for a bigger offseason makeover than expected. With Horton headed to free agency, questions about Seguin and a previous lack of depth at that position, the right wing position is an area of need.

Buffalo: Miller rumors persist, as do rumors of trading nearly everyone. With the eighth and sixteenth picks overall, the Sabres should be able to get at least one more building block that enters the lineup and contributes within two seasons. It is an open question if that time frame is enough to keep Regier in the general managers office.

Detroit: Moving back into the eastern conference might be an advantage in start times and travel for the Red Wings, but they are no better than the third best team in their new division. They are fortunate enough to have a solid goalie, and two stars at forward, not much else is worth noting about the team with the longest active playoff streak.

Florida: The Panthers have just about declared the starting job for Markstrom by putting Scott Clemmenson on the market. Taking home a 2nd round draft pick or solid NHL player for that trade would be great. With the 2nd pick they ought to be able to solidify one position on their team. Tallon has shown he isn’t afraid to spend on free agent so don’t be surprised by surprises in Sunrise.

Montreal: Having returned to the playoffs last year after an embarrassing hiatus they need to take a long hard look at who they expect to be the core of the team going forward. There are some clashes between players that are visible on TV, they may or may not be short-lived events. But, building around a hollow center isn’t the best of ideas. It may feel wrong to do it, but making a move to ship out a good soldier or two for more cap space, less conflict and younger picks or prospects might be the best thing to do. The Norris trophy winner also has just one year left on his contract.

Ottawa: The first two questions the Senators leadership should be asking about any player they want to sign or draft are: can they stay healthy, and are we sure about that? From there fitting them into the roster or the farm system is the next step. With a bit more health the Senators might just have knocked off the Penguins. Adding a veteran playoff competitor like Briere, or Horton might push this team to the next level.

Tampa Bay: With the expiration of the Southeast division, the Lightning find themselves more in need than ever of improving a threadbare defense. In the last three seasons they’ve finished 28th, 30th, and 21st. They’ll be drafting in the lottery forever at that rate. Swapping for defense with a team deep at the position like St Louis or adding veteran Andrew Ference would be a step in the right direction.

Toronto: They made one of the more interesting moves of the offseason by picking up Bernier. Some say there was no need and Reimer was good enough, neither Nonis nor I agree. They have a clutch of offensively gifted defenseman, a lot of roster space, and decisions to be made on Tyler Bozak, Nazem Kadri and most the defense they iced last year. They are in a position of great flexibility but also a lot of vulnerability. The next two weeks will likely tell us how long it will be before the Maple Leafs next playoff appearance.

Division D

Carolina: With the Staal brother, Semin, Skinner, and Tlusty offense won’t be an issue for this team so long as Faulk and his henchmen can get the puck out of their own zone and away from the triage unit that served as goalies last season. Improving the defense could come at the cost of Ruutu or several draft picks. For the first time in recent memory the Hurricanes don’t have a huge amount of cap space either. With the new divisions configuration, they need to act and act smart.

Columbus: The Blue Jackets came within 2 points of getting into the playoffs last year. The most important thing they can do is to sign their goaltender Bobrovsky, after that getting some scoring and puck distributing touch up front will make them a much better team. With three first round picks 14, 19, and 27 as well as their own 44th pick, via trade or draft this should be a productive weekend for ‘Lumbus. If Lecavalier could be landed at a reasonable cap hit together with Dubinsky the team team could have a very strong 1-2 punch at center.

New Jersey: The Devils are rumored to have two suitors interested in buying the “financially stable” team. Its unknown what impact that will have on team activity over the next week to ten days, but the team has enough holes almost anything is a good move. A slick passing center to maximize Kovalchuk’s shot, an aggressive defender or two to keep Broduer from having to work to hard, a future goaltender so the team doesn’t experience its own Flyers like run of disasters in net going for stop gap after stop gap. It might just be a good idea to resign Henrique and Clarkson before to long too.

New York Islanders: The  Islanders really should reup with Hamonic, and if at all possible swing a deal for another blueliner with playoff experience. It also might not hurt to have an NHL worthy goaltender under contract. It is likely the empty forward roster spots will be filled with the return of some combination of Boyes, Bailey, Aucoin and prospects.  Hickey was a solid find too, his contract is up as well.

New York Rangers: A new coach is coming, and no one knows what he’ll bring to the roster. It is hoped he can perform some necromancy on the powerplay and get it to shamble along. Brad Richards is being given one more chance after playing less minutes and posting less points against the Bruins than their enforcer Shawn Thornton. Former coach John Torterella said the team wasn’t “stiff” enough. With most key position filled, the Rangers can afford to be picky with free agents, but might want to get a head start on locking up core players. Only one defenseman is signed beyond next season,  neither goalie is, and there are just three forwards who are.

Philadelphia: The bloodletting began with the Bryzgalov and Briere being bought out. It is unlikely to end any time soon as this team is a disaster cap wise and not much better on the ice. To make matters worse Coburn is one of the names most active on the rumor mill and their defense is not pretty even with him.

Pittsburgh: Kris Letang has the gratitude of Penguins scribes for giving them something to write about. He’s rejected long term huge money deals. I’ll be shocked if he’s a Penguin on opening night and even more shocked if he’s still there after the trade deadline. The Penguins still need to come to terms with the issues with Fleury, and there is something wrong with the mental makeup of this team when the playoffs arrive. They’ve lost composure and the ability to play at both ends of the ice in the same game over the last three post seasons. Maybe they should reacquire Gill and Scuderi?

Washington:  Oates had done solid work rehabilitating this team, but he can only work with what he’s given. A big roster shakeup is overdue for this team. Regardless of what they say to the media, there is too big a gap between their regular season scoring and their post season scoring for this team to believe in itself. Without that swagger you just can’t win in May or June.

Hockey fans and worse the media who cover the NHL tend to focus entirely too much on a small handful of players, and in a league with six hundred or so high end athletes that’s just a shame. Here’s today’s list of players you should take the time to watch.

Jiri  Tlusty:

You’d think that on a team with Semin, E. Staal, J. Staal, that if someone were going to be in the top ten in the NHL in goals, it’d be one of those three, in about that order. Nope Jiri Tlusty has 19 goals this season, Perhaps more interesting is that on a team with a good shot at winning the draft lottery, whose scoring is upside down by 24 goals is a plus 14.  At 18 minutes a night, and playing in all situations, Tlusty will give you plenty of opportunities to watch and appreciate.

 

Vladimir Sobotka

Best known for the type of physical game that you might expect from a guy six inches and forty pounds heavier, the Trebic, Czech Republic native is putting up his offensive season to date. A 2005 draft pick in the 4th round he’s 19th overall in games played in his draft class has always played a smart two way game and can be counted on for an aggressive penalty kill.

Sergei Bobrovsky

A .932sv% across 32 games would be impressive in any NHL goalie. For a guy to rebound from an .899Sv% last season to that is simply staggering. The only guy ahead of Bobrovsky in save percentage is Craig Anderson, who has played half as many games. Arguments for a more important goalie in the NHL, or one who has played better are really tough to make, and even tougher to believe. If you don’t believe in goalie as MVP’s, it might be time to change that belief.

John Tavares

This man is literally more valuable to his team than Malkin or Crosby are to the Penguins, than Toews is to the Blackhawks, or either Sedin is to the Canucks. He might not have the complete game of Toews, or the pull with the referees of Crosby. There is simply no argument that can be made for the Islanders being in playoff position without Tavares playing like Tavares. If you pull him from the lineup for any five game stretch this year they are a lottery team.

Alex Goligoski

When the NHL’s top defensemen are named this guy somehow never comes up. People look at the trade for James Neal he was a part of and dismiss him. This is a bad, bad thing to do. Take a look at who he’s skating with in points among defensemen, Shea Weber, Duncan Keith, Francois Beauchemin, Kevin Shattenkirk, and then look at how much more efficient he is. Some of those men play with much better forward corps, and almost all of them play several more minutes a night.

With the deadline looming, and about a bakers dozen games left for many team, it is time to take a look at what we know about all the teams in the NHL.

Pittsburgh: We know Ray Shero likes to make deadline trades, we know health is sorta returning for this team. We also know that with a current cumulative cap hit higher than next years cap, and Morrow’s decline and questionable health that this is likely a one shot deal for the guys currently in uniform.

Montreal:  It’s kinda hard to figure out why more people aren’t excited about his team. They are fifth in goals for, ninth in goals against, there only real bad component is their penalty kill. While we’re at it, Tomas Plekanec deserves way more attention than he gets, if he could drag the penalty kill into respectability, or even just score a shorthanded goal or two he’d be on my Selke shortlist.

Winnipeg; We know this team needs desperately to buy quality defense at the deadline. Adding offense wouldn’t hurt at all, but the backend needs to come first they are one of just two top eight teams in the east to allow triple digit goals already.

Boston: This team needs an attitude adjustment. They do not have the raw focus or hunger they did in their Cup winning year, what body they add isn’t the solution, the size of the fight in that dog is.

Ottawa; Clearly this is a team made up of undercover superheros, or at least the guys left on the ice. They might not go to far this year, but oh man this team has some good young talent and might even lead the conference if they were healthy. A cheap rental forward who can add to the scoring would be nice, but this team could easily produce an upset or two.

Toronto: The fact that no real changes have been made to this team since Brian Burke was fired, and it has just about locked up a playoff spot means he shouldn’t have too much trouble landing his next GM job, and probably trading for Kadri, Gardiner, and Grabovski or pennies on the dollar.

New Jersey: The Devils have spent all season proving last season wasn’t a fluke. How they’ve done this is anyones guess. They are winning right now even without Kovalchuk, It would not surprise me if they became sellers at the deadline, but in a very limited sense.

New York Rangers: We know this is either the Eastern Conference’s best bad team or worst good team.  We know time is running out on the current off ice leadership for this team. We know in order to get this level of under-performance elsewhere in sports you’d have to threaten professional cycling with accurate testing and jail time for violators. We know that if the Islanders and Devils make the playoffs and the Rangers don’t the angst in Blue Shirt nation will be legendary

New York Islanders: We know John Tavares should be getting way more attention than he does, he is after all over a point per game, second in goals, and seventh in points. If the Islanders make the playoffs, he has to be on the Hart shortlist. We know that Brad Boyes would be a frickin’ idiot to sign anywhere else next season given that he has more points in 34 games this season, than in 65 last year.

Carolina: With several games in hand their current 10th place position is deceiving, we know however they need to win those games. We know that Cam Ward isn’t nearly as irreplaceable as the faithful would have you believe. We know that Jeff Skinner (signed to a big endorsement deal by Dewey, Slewfoot and Diver) will probably not like the attention he receives night after night from top defenses.

Washington: We know that Adam Oates deserves a boatload of capital for turning the ship around on the fly without the benefit of a training camp, stable goaltending, or a team with any confidence in itself. He’s also got Ovechkin back to a point per game by using that weird thing called logic and letting him play more minutes. We also know that this team still isn’t built right and that problem still resides at a higher level than Oates.

Tampa Bay: We know that Yzerman is just as good at constructing a defense as he was at fighting.

We know he needs to fix that if he’s going to make it to his fourth year as general manager. He’s clearly good at identifying offensive talent, so swapping some of the current stable to rebuilding or needy teams for a veteran defenseman or two shouldn’t be completely impossible.

Buffalo: We know Terry Pegula can’t be pleased with the state of his hockey team. We know that with next years realignment no one with an ounce of hockey sense would pencil this team into next years standings about sixth place without major changes. We know if they blow up the team right they could have a pretty good chance at drafty both Seth Jones and Connor Mcdavid.

Philadelphia: We know the keep defenseman healthy the same way The Real World finds the mentally unbalanced to film every season. We know that no to long ago the Flyers went to the Stanley Cup finals, and have regressed further and further every year. WE know this is another team that’s due for some administrative housekeeping even if the health problems make things look worse than they are.

Florida: We know that last year despite an absurd amount of injuries the team went toe to toe with the eventual Eastern Conference champions. We know that this year, another absurd amount of injuries and dramatically poorer goaltending from the guys not named Markstrom have lead not to the Southeast division title but once again to the eastern conference basement. We know they have a couple more solid prospects in the pipeline. We know there is tons and tons for Dale Tallon and company to do.

As the playoffs loom ever nearer, the time to take a look at what teams need to elevate them to contender status is here.

The Columbus Blue Jackets are 11th in the west and just two points out of a playoff position. That said they’ve played two more games than most of the teams ahead of them. They are currently the 11th ranked defense, and Bobrovsky is the owner of a gaudy .932sv%, good for second in the NHL.

Verdict: Build

The team needs goal scoring. Currently they are dead last in the NHL in goals for and their powerplay isn’t much better. A mentor or two for Seth Ambroz and Dalton Smith either via trade or picking up the right free agents (even if they have to overpay a little) this off season makes this a playoff team easily, and if Bobrovsky stays near his current level of play, then they aren’t far off from contender status.

The Detroit Red Wings are nursing their playoff streak, which might be good setting records, but isn’t good long term for the teams chances of hoisting a cup.  Their powerplay is 22nd, their penalty kill is 17th.

Verdict: Burn

After Jimmy Howard all of this teams best remaining players are on the shady side of thirty. They number of high first and second round picks that could be piled up by moving Datsyuk, Cleary, Zetterberg and when he is healthy, Helm is more than enough to rebuild the team if they show their usual knack for picking prospects.

The New York Islanders have been rebuilding for almost as long as their centerpiece John Tavares has been alive. Coming into today they have about a 30% chance of making the playoffs.

Verdict: Bump

The team has real offensive ability, plays well together and is very young. Adding one or two pieces on the backend that gives the team a chance to play better from day one next season, and better the rest of this season will let them earn their way into the playoffs and be a vote of confidence for the coach, players and fans.

The Carolina Hurricanes are in the midst of one of their better seasons in a while. They could easily win the very last south east division title.

Verdict: Bump

Right now the team is in solid shape, they arguably have a goaltending controversy. I’m still convinced letting Allen go in the offseason was a mistake. Adding a two way defenseman who can contribute to their special teams might just push this team beyond the second round.

The Calgary Flames are 24th over all in the NHL, 13th in the West, and doing little right.

Verdict: Burn

While the Flames have some talent on the ice, and some interesting prospects in the system they have zero chance of going anywhere with this roster. Like the Red Wings, the stars of this roster are worth more to other teams than they are to the franchise short, medium, or long term. Iginla, Cammalleri, Bouwmeester, Tanguay, and Glenencross comprise almost 100% of the rosters talent, what they can return in players, prospects and picks would give the team much, much, much needed youth and depth.

The Nashville Predators had one of their best seasons ever last year. They looked like legitimate contenders for the Stanley Cup. This season, they are not at that level. Right now they sit outside the playoffs.

Verdict: Build

The Predators need what they have needed for years: offense. Patrick Hornquist can’t do it alone. In fact if he were on any other team his career points numbers would be about 20% higher. They have the defense and goaltending to compete, they need to revamp their offense.

The Phoenix Coyotes, currently owned and administered by the National Hockey League signed young star blueliner Oliver Ekman-Larsson to a sweet, sweet deal worth $33 million over six years. Of note is that the heavily backweighted nature of the contract means whoever  buys the team (may it be soon) will pay him two times as much in 2018-19 as the NHL will pay him next season. As long as he continues to improve it should still be a good price.

Don’t look now, but the Minnesota Wild are just two points out of the Northwest division lead. Sure, for the past ten decades that’s been a lot like finishing second in the Special Olympics, but this year staying close means even if the don’t overtake the flat in their last ten Vancouver Canucks, the 6-4-0 in their last ten Wild on the other hand are trending in the right direction and have allowed 8 less goals in the 26 games each has played. The Xcel Energy center will be quite juiced up in May if the return of native son Zach Parise helps spark the team to a playoff berth.

Vladimir Sobotka will play in his 300th career game tonight. #stlblues
@StLouisBlues
St. Louis Blues

 Sobotka was traded to the St Louis Blues from the Boston Bruins for David Warsovfky after the 2009-10 season and has appeared in 165 regular season games for the Blues. Warsovsky has yet to even get a cup of coffee in the NHL, Vladimir Sobotka has played an additional 9 playoff games. Currently Sobotka is fourth on the Blues in goal scoring.

The Tampa Bay Lightning waived, and their division rivals the Carolina Hurricanes, who happen to read lead the division, claimed Adam Hall. The Michigan native has played for the Nashville Predators, the New York Rangers, the Pittsburgh Penguins since coming into the NHL in 2001. Canes fans should expect Hall to slide into the penalty kill. It is interesting that the Lightning who are 13th in the NHL on the penalty kill should waive him, unless one looks down form their position rather than up. The Hurricanes on the other hand are 22nd in the league as of today and will likely give the UFA to be a workload similar to the 2:11 of shorthanded time on ice he had with the Lightning.

Monday evening, Kimmo Timonen of the Philadelphia Flyers will play his 1000th NHL game. The bastion of the blueline has been in a Flyers uniform since the 2007-08 season and will be celebrating his birthday as well. The Finnish native was drafted in the 10th round of the 1993 NHL Entry Draft by the Los Angeles Kings whom he never played a game for.

Mike Milbury thinks Mike Ribeiro of the Washington Capitals will be available at the deadline. Long his favorite team, Milbury had little more than “buyer beware” to say of the former Dallas Star and Montreal Canadien.

Filling out the Team USA roster will require a mix of youth, international experience, and attitude. The Russians, the Canadians, and the upper echelon of European teams will not be intimidated by half the roster returning, or even two thirds. Part of what will be needed is a bit of familiarity, so anyone who has played with likely players wins the tie breaker over complete outsiders.

Top Priority:

  • Craig Anderson, he’s played with Erik Johnson, he’s the best goaltender in the NHL this season, and he’s got enough of a different style from both Miller and Quick that if the coach has to make a change, the opposition will have to make adjustments.
  • Dustin Byfuglien, big body, can play defense and forward, has won the Stanley Cup has played with Patrick Kane.
  • Jason Pominville, an infusion of skill is needed and this guy has it.
  • John Carlson, is highly talented, knows the tendencies of several of the big names from some of the other national teams.
  • Max Pacioretty has turned into one of the most interesting players in the NHL. Almost a point per game player on a team that has been injury prone over the last two seasons.

Priority:

  • Kevin Shattenkirk, has played well in the very defensive system in St Louis, has also played in the more free wheeling Colorado system in the past.
  • Seth Jones, has won World Junior gold, will likely be part of team USA for years to come, even if he only plays seven or eight minutes a game, good experience for the future.
  • Alex Galchenyuk, has played with Jones internationally, and plays with Pacioretty on the Habs.
  • Rob Scuderi, no international experience, but has won Stanley Cup’s in two radically different systems, the Los Angeles Kings and the Pittsburgh Penguins, among the leaders for US born defenseman in shorthanded ice time.
  • James van Riemsdyk has had solid international experience, currently playing with 2010 Silver Medalist Phil Kessel.

Possible:

  • Alex Goligoski, the Dallas Defenseman gets overlooked a lot, but it should be noted he’s putting up almost identical offensive numbers on the far less talented Dallas team as he did with the Penguins. Has a small amount of international experience.
  • Justin Faulk, great young defenseman burdened by a poor defensive team. Has played under the flag, plays in all situations, like Jones will likely be around for the next three Olympic cycles, has played with Gleason.
  • Drew Stafford, scored 52 points in 62 games including 31 goals two seasons ago, plays with Pominville, some international experience.
  • Erik Cole, former Olympian, World Championship experience, two time thirty goal scorer, played briefly with Galchenyuk, and a season with Pacioretty.
  • John Gaudreau, speedy little pure goal scorer,
  • John Gibson, WJC tournament MVP, stud goaltender.
  • Rocco Grimaldi, speedy, agile, had two goals in the WJC win over Sweden.
  • Blake Wheeler, great reach, good speed, plays in all situations.
  • J.T. Miller, played in on the WJC gold team with Gibson, Gaudreau, Grimaldi, Jones, playing for the Rangers and getting compliments from John Tortorello.

Long Shots:

  • Emerson Etem has proved himself at the junior level in the WHL, he’s yet to make a big mark in the NHL, but he’s got speed to burn and plays on the same team as Bobby Ryan, some games for the NAHL national team.
  • Tyler Myers if he can somehow get his grove back he’s undeniably talented, has developed some aggression, and is both a good skater and puck handler.
  • Brandon Dubinsky, has had a downturn in production lately, but had a good World Championship and is a great two way player.
  • Jack McCabe, captain of the gold team, solid defender, but the defense is the area where the team is likely to have the least turnover.
  • Jimmy Howard no slight on his talent, but he’s about the fourth best American goaltender in the NHL right now. National development team veteran.
  • T.J. Oshie, depending on how the top lines shake down he might find himself tapped to captain the penalty kill effort, also plays with Backes, some national experience, plays physical.
  • Kyle Palmeri has a hat trick this season, and half of his goals have been game winners, national experience, and plays with Bobby Ryan.
  • Paul Gaustad, incredible faceoff man, great penalty killer, like Oshie could end up as a “role player”, team guy.

Given the eventual composition of Teams Canada and Russia, ensuring there is a viable penalty kill, players at all positions who can skate, and guys who won’t wilt under physical play or the bright lights of Olympic play take priority over pure skill with questionable fortitude. With a deep enough team, playing against the weaker teams gets easier because you can use your whole bench and stay reasonably fresh for the games where one bad five minute stretch can bounce you from the metal round.

 

 

This is a feature that will run about every two weeks with improbable stats and situations in the National Hockey League.

Teams:

  • that the Anahiem Ducks, the Montreal Canadiens and Carolina Hurricanes would all lead their divisions as we crept up on the halfway mark.
  • that the Vancouver Canucks would lead the Northwest division and the Washington Capitals would be in the basement of the east with identical goals for per game at 2.74.
  • the defensive minded Phoenix Coyotes would have have a goals per game advantage on the star studded San Jose Sharks of .59 goals per game.
  • the Tampa Bay Lightning would lead the league in goals per game and be in 11th place in the east.
  • of the top five powerplays by percentage, only two would belong to division leaders; Pittsburgh and Anahiem, while two more belong to teams outside the playoffs; Washington and the New York Islanders with the Saint Louis Blues leading the race for second in in the central division.
  • the New Jersey Devils who finished last season wit the best penalty kill at 89.6% would be 25th on March 2nd with a 77.4% kill more than 2% lower than even the Columbus Blue Jackets of last season.
  • on March 2nd three teams would be .500 or better when trailing after 2 periods; Chicago, Anahiem, Boston.

Players:

  • four players would have drawn at least three penalties per 60 minutes played; Patrick Kaleta of the Sabres, Dustin Brown of the Los Angeles Kings, Mark Fistric of the Edmonton Oilers and Torrey Mitchell of the Minnesota Wild. (minimum of 10 games played)
  • Jay Bouwmeester would finish 10.1% more shifts in the offensive zone than he started there while Shea Weber would finish 2.4% less shifts in the offensive zone than he started.
  • Kevin Klien of the Nashville Predators would have played the most games without getting a single penalty at 21 while playing more than 20 minutes a night.
  • of all players with at least 200 faceoffs, Paul Gaustad would lead the NHL in winning percentage at 63.8%.
  • of the top ten points producers, only six would be on teams currently out of the playoffs: #1 Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning #3 Thomas Vanek of the Buffalo Sabres, #4 John Tavares of the New York Islanders #7 Martin St Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning #9 Jakub Voracek of the Philadelphia Flyers #10 Matt Moulson of the New York Islanders
  • Sam Gagner of the Edmonton Oilers would have more powerplay points than; Nicklas Backstrom of the Capitals, Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings, Daniel Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks and Teemu Selanne of the Anahiem Ducks.
  • two time Stanley Cup champion Rob Scuderi of the Los Angeles Kings would lead the league in shorthanded time on ice per game at 4:24, an 11 second per game heavier load than last season leader Francois Beauchemin

The perennial powers in the Eastern Conference are mostly living up to their potential. It is the bubble teams, and the wild cards that are making life so interesting.  I doubt anyone outside the Francosphere predicted the Canadiens would lead the Eastern Conference at any time, and yet they do. Predicting the Capitals as a basement dweller might have been a little easier, but it still counts as a surprise.

Washington Capitals: We know Adam Oates is a first year head coach. We know he didn’t get a real training camp to break everyone in. We know if McPhee fires him the general manager is probably writing his own pink slip at the same time. We know Mike Green still can’t stay healthy to save his life.

Buffalo Sabres: We know that after hundreds of reminders as to how long he’d been in place Lindy Ruff who still has five years left on his contract is no longer the Sabres head coach. We know the team’s identity is still unknown even to the men on the roster. We know they desperately need to improve at faceoffs. We also know we’re not going to see major changes to way the team plays until the general manager departs and someone else brings in the right mix of talent and attitude.

Florida Panthers: We know that part of last years division championship was a perfect storm of divisional woes. We know that no team in the east has scored less. We know that some of their youngsters are starting to come along. We know the teams goaltending woes are a real big part of why they aren’t performing better despite the emergence of Huberdeau.

New York Islanders: We know that John Tavares is really god damned good. We know that Brad Boyes appears to have a pulse again. We know those two and Matt Moulson aren’t enough to save the team from god awful goaltending and substandard defense. We know Vishnovsky is very unlikely to stick around past the end of the season and tutor the teams young defenders.

Winnipeg Jets: We know the Southeast divisions least south or east team is not great offensively, but that their defense is worse. We know the Jets are somehow worse at home than on the road. We know that if only two of your top five goal scorers have a positive +/- 200 foot hockey probably isn’t happening.  We know that the last time a goaltending tandem let a team to the Cup without either of them having a save percentage north of .900 was probably before most of the roster were allowed to cross the street by themselves.

Philadelphia Flyers: We know that this team is unbareably burdened by eight no trade and no movement clauses. We know this team has more ability that it is showing.  We know the goaltending has again, been reminiscent of the 1980s. We know the tether for the front office and coach have got to be pretty short.

Tampa Bay Lightning: We know if the team could transfer 10% of the talent from their top forwards to their defense they’d be a juggernaut. We know if the team had a third and fourth line who anyone outside the city could name their defense might not matter.  We know that Vincent Lecavalier is playing point per game hockey for the first time since George W. Bush was president. We know that Matheiu Garon is one of the best goaltenders in the southeast division this year.

New York Rangers: We know that not many people picked this team as a bubble team. We know that their powerplay can’t be properly described without using what some would call “unprintable words”. We know the offense as a whole can be called mediocre at best. We know Rick Nash somehow managed to play two games over a couple of days before he felt the hit from Milan Lucic that is blamed for his getting taken out of the lineup.

Ottawa Senators:  We know this a very resilient team.  We know Craig Anderson’s name should be etched onto the Hart and Vezina by early April if he stays anywhere near his current 1.49 gaa and .952 sv%. We know that despite the resilience and the absurd goaltending the team needs to either make a trade or find someone in the system to contribute outside the crease.

Toronto Maple Leafs: We know the Leafs have a coach who can get the individuals on the roster to play like a team. We know James Riemer is still built out of balsa wood and bubble gum. We know Phil Kessel is probably due a goal scoring explosion sometime real soon. We know a 4.4 shooting percentage is not something anyone associates with Kessel, even when he has one. We know that Grabovski is either being unforgivably misused or just having an off year after having been in the top three in scoring for the team the last two years.

Pittsburgh Penguins: We know this team can’t hold onto a shred of discipline when playing their cross state rivals. We know they can score. We know balance isn’t how this team is build. We know they are going to have to do something really creative to get under the cap next year and have a contender.

Boston Bruins: We know Brad Marchand is contributing big time. We know Nathan Horton is a UFA at the end of the season. We know the powerplay is still “a work in progress” despite success in recent games. We know they’ve played the least games so far of any team in the NHL.

Carolina Hurricanes: We know the team has their fair share of offensive talent.  We know Justin Faulk is the future of the teams blueline. We know they lead their division by being more evenly mediocre than the other teams in their division.

Montreal Canadiens: We know believers in karma will point to the last two season and say this is just an evening of the scales. We know those folks would be better served to point to the vastly underrated Tomas Plekanec and the rookie Alex Galchenyuk who have pushed the Habs offense from 20th last season to 9th th

There were some sneaky changes in this division that make it quite interesting to watch. Hall of Famer Adam Oates is the newest coach in Washington, and the unification of Jordan and Eric Staal in Carolina among them.

Carolina: On the plus side they added Jordan Staal and have had time for a lot of guys to climb off the trainers table. On the down side, their defense is no better and almost certainly worse as a unit that it was last season. If we know anything about the southeast division it is that we know nothing about the southeast division. The Enigma on Ice that is Alex Semin is also signed to the Canes. In no particular order playing at 90%+ any of Jordan and Eric Staal, Alex Semin and Jeff Skinner are a handful, if all of them can get going and sustain it for at least a month, the team has a damned good chance despite all its deficiencies of returning to the playoffs.

Florida: Panther Power or Sun Sickness? Which propelled the team into the playoffs last year? Their own power or simply teams falling prey to the sun and fun of Sunrise? Their elimination would seem to indicate the latter, but the fact they sustained such a high place in the division pecking order under a rookie coach, with waves and waves of injuries might point towards the former. I think this team is better than many gave it credit for, and maybe nearly as good as a division win all by itself makes them appear.

Tampa Bay: Two seasons ago they were in the eastern conference finals, last year they didn’t make the playoffs. The difference? Goaltending. The biggest problem: poor defense.While Matt Carle and Keith Aulie are certainly new integers to the equation, one wonders if they will add up to a better blueline, or at least better enough to make up for the ravages of time on several of the teams aging forwards.

Washington: Will the real Washington Capitals please stand up. This team has had coaching upheavals, roster tweaks, injuries, and then finally goalie stability (just not the guy anyone expected) and now the long layoff. If Oates hasn’t devised a system to maximize the talent of his roster and can’t generate buyin quickly Seth Jones could be greeting a new rookie coach next season. If he can, the sky is the limit.

Winnipeg:A suspect backend was one of the problems last season with the team allowing 8 more goals than they scored and still being 12th overall in goals for. Grant Clitsome is a serviceable defenseman we probably haven’t seen the best from yet, but their goaltending needs to be consistent, and certain skaters need to stop doing stunning impersonations of turnstiles before this team can go anywhere, an upgrade in the form of a two way or defensive defenseman for the #3 spot or higher would work wonders as well.

Top Dog: Pack Run, this division will look very similar to what the Pacific did in the regular season last year, every one of them with healthy stars can do damage, with contributions from lines three and four or stolen games in net, it is going to be a case of who breaks, blinks or draws an idiotic reactionary suspension from the league first.