Gustav Nyquist of the Detroit Red Wings was suspended six games for this hit.

Here’s how he defended himself from his actual transcript:

10: “Dennis Wideman said getting suspended was a great way to spend time with family without the distractions of work.”

9:  “I was having flashbacks about all the rats in The Joe and well, Spurgeon’s about the right size.”

8: “He whispered ‘You’re by Bieber and I’m Chris Pronger’ when he mashed me into the glass.”

7: “Chris Simon bet me his investment with Bernie Madoff I couldn’t beat his biggest suspension.”

6: “I was kinda hoping if I got suspended for something stupid enough no one would notice how bad my numbers are this year.”

5: “Have you heard Zetterberg’s ‘When I was your age!’ stories? You’d do anything for some time away from them too.”

4: “Guys, come on, he said Koivu was better than Datsyuk!”

3: “Coach said if take the heat off of how bad we are for a couple day I can pick my linemates for the first ten games next year. Assuming he’s here that is. ”

2: “Spurgeon said he was taller than me and I was just trying to knock some sense into him.”

1.4: “I was actually hoping for a longer suspension so i didn’t have to be on the ice when the Wings were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.”

1: “I’m not sure why you’re suspending me, Abdelkator does stuff like that four times a month without a call from you guys.”

The Atlantic Division is probably the easiest of the four divisions to break down. The three teams that highlighted the division last year are all back with little to no change. The rest of the teams are not greatly changed either. If you missed the other previews just click the division name Metropolitan Central Pacific.

Top Shelf

Tampa Bay Lightning

This team is legitimate. Victor Hedman has emerged as a top level defenseman and the rest of the defensive group is solid. Ben Bishop is a high end goaltender. Up front is Steven Stamkos, the other forwards Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, and more proved themselves formidable last year as well. The addition of Stralman to the roster just makes the team even better. When the playoffs start this season don’t be surprised when this team is in the top three, don’t even be surprised if they are at the top of the division.

Montreal Canadiens

The Habs put up a hell of a fight last spring even after Carey Price went down. Since then they brought in P.A. Parenteau and removed some older, slower players. The blueline is likely to be younger than last year as well. Nathan Beaulieu and Jarred Tinordi are with the organization, Douglas Murray and Francis Bullion are not currently signed by the Canadiens (or anyone else). You can still ask “who’s going to score”, but recent history has shown that it mostly doesn’t matter if Price is playing well.

Boston Bruins

They lost future hall of fame inductee Jarome Iginla and at this point most of the team is waiting for the trade ax to fall. Even with the losses of emotional catalyst Shawn Thornton and Jarome Iginla the team isn’t a lot worse off than it was last year. The biggest question mark on for this team hovers over the real health durability, and game readiness of Seidenberg, Eriksson, Kelly, and McQuaid. Eriksson started to look better as the reason wound down, but the other three are still complete unknowns.

Wild Cards

Detroit Red Wings

In order for this team to be in the playoffs they have to get consistent star level contributions from players like Tatar, Nyquist, Joakim Andersson and more as their top level players just don’t cut it anymore. Datsyuk has already suffered an injury, Zetterberg is always just one more hit (or maybe a stack of #Pennercakes ) from a month of rehab. While I honestly expect the team to be on the outside looking in when the season ends, the brain trust in Detroit keeps surprising me.

Toronto Maple Leafs

This team should not be as bad as they were last year. I don’t think they can win the division, but in addition to a healthy David Clarkson (we hope), they made smart additions with Mike Santorelli and Roman Polack. Also of note is the return of Leo Komorov. If all are playing near peak, those four players alone are nearly enough to get the squad back into the playoffs even without David Booth who to no ones surprise is again injured. It is pretty likely that if this team isn’t in playoff position around the trade deadline they are not going to look very similar next fall.

The Rest

Ottawa Senators

The Ottawa Senators can hope for better health this season, it was a factor in last seasons finish.  With the departure of Jason Spezza, they have lost raw talent. There is however an enormous amount of room for young players to prove themselves. Mika Zibanejad, Eric Gryba, Codi Ceci, Alex Chaisson and the rest can finally go out on the ice a prove to the world where they truly stand in the NHL and hockey world. There isn’t much ahead of them on the depth chart, and who knows if they, Jared Cowen and the rest all have healthy productive seasons they might just get to bonus hockey. If you see that happening, I’d advise you not to bet the rent money, or even the tip on a mocha latte.

The Buffalo Sabres

When your first line center is horse raise between Zemgus Girgensons, Tyler Ennis, and Cody Hodgson, that tells you about where your season is headed. When fans show up to a USA hockey event with McDavid Sabres jerseys, its a sign fans know it too. Unquestionably the best unit of this team is the defense. Tyler Myers is the best known member of the group, but Josh Gorges and Andrej Meszaros have been through the wars and know their way around the NHL, Jake McCabe has an excellent amateur pedigree and I expect him to develop well. Last year they have 21 wins, I’d bet on them being within no more than six either way of that this year.

The Florida Panthers

The Cats might just surprise people a time or two this season. Nick Bjugstad, Aleksander Barkov, and Jonathan Huberdeau have all had a tour of duty in the NHL, and won’t be wide eyed rookies this year. Jussi Jokinen and Dave Bolland will help thicken up the top six, and Derek McKenzie and Shawn Thornton will play important bottom six minutes. Roberto Luongo on the backend makes a big difference in net. Don’t expect them to win the division (or even more than they lose) but expecting them in the NHL’s bottom five in April might not be realistic.

Across the internet writers are asking the question “Why won’t anyone sign in Detroit this year?” that questions is pretty easy to answer even from the outside. The problem is getting the answer through to the inside. While Anton Stralman, Brad Richards and the rest of this years UFA class aren’t guys who are going to reshape a franchise, they all have the ability to be difference makers.

One of the other things that all these players are is heady. Whatever Brad Richards might have been seven or eight years ago, he isn’t a who relies on pure athleticism to earn his ice time. Anton Stralman’s game came into its own as he learned to use his body, position it, and read plays at the level of an NHL defenseman expected to contribute for twenty plus minutes a night. Christian Ehrhoff was just bought out, but still took a one year deal with a contender who is going through a makeover with coach, general manage and significant roster turnover rather than go play in the more stable Detroit organization.

The two word answer to why no free agents signed there this year is; Daniel Alfredsson. Not because anyone thinks he’s a bad guy. Not because he’s impossible to play with, or even because they think he’s going to get too much ice time. The reason is simply what he represents. The Red Wings are still acting as if he is still a viable top six forward who can be a nightly difference maker. Alfredsson isn’t the only guy who the front office is seeing a five years younger version of instead of they player they actually have. While admittedly Lidstrom was a different case, anyone who thinks he was close to the pinnacle of his powers in his last three years in Detroit is invited to leave the narcotics alone and enjoy a long, careful detox.

Alfredsson hasn’t cracked 60 points in the last four seasons. In the past five seasons he’s missed 62 regular season games, he’s got tremendous heart, he’s a natural leader but what he isn’t is someone you should be waiting upon to decide the future of your franchise. Mike Ilitch and everyone on down in the organization have their head turned over their shoulder looking back at the past greatness of the the team as a whole, fragile star Henrik Zetterberg, fading superstar Pavel Datsyuk and the rest of the roster are not fit to challenge for the Cup. The current roster is slightly less than half as talented as the last one to win a cup more than half a decade and hundreds of man-games lost to injury ago.

The Red Wings are as myopic is the Buffalo Sabres were three years ago. They should know better, they’ve seen great teams far, far more recently.Why aren’t free agents signing in Detroit? That answer really is simple, they want to win in the future not live in the past.

This summer the Florida Panthers an Stephen Weiss parted company. The 30 year old Toronto native had played 654 regular season games as a member of the Sunrise squad.  In all those seasons he only saw the playoffs once. When that time came to an end, he left for what many pencil in as a playoff lock each year. Stephen Weiss, like Daniel Alfredsson went to Detroit to have a shot at a cup, with just four points in 26 games, he is not living up to his end of the bargain.

The contract Weiss signed made him the third highest paid skater on the team. Entering tonight’s action Weiss has 13 players ahead of him on the wings roster in goals. Sixteen men are head of Weiss in total scoring. Weiss has had injuries, but he’s not played well even when he’s been healthy. His shooting percentage is down, he isn’t scoring, and he looks out of place on the ice, when he’s visible at all.

A buyout would be a rare thing for the Detroit Red Wings, and should only be considered in light of the status of the rest of the team. Zetterberg, despite edging reluctantly into the latter stages of his career isn’t even in the top five for age on the Wings, one of the NHL’s three oldest teams.Datsyuk will be 36 before the start of next season, those two are the heart and soul of the team. Add in Alfredsson, Bertuzzi, Samuelsson, Cleary, and Franzen as players currently 33 or over and you might get the idea this team is in for an enormous amount of turnover. While defensemen tend to stick around at the peak of their powers longer, it should also be noted that Niklas Kronwall will be 33 before the season ends.

With this year’s Winter Classic part of the plan to fund a (long overdue) replacement for the Joe Louis Area soon to pass, and the decades long playoff streak coming to an organic end, it might just be time to accelerate the rebuild. With the need to let younger, hungrier and more talented players like Tomas Tatar, Tomas Jurco, Riley Sheahan, and Danny DeKeyser needing both new contracts and more responsibility to build the future around, Weiss could find his stay in Detroit shorter than expected.

What the decision will come down to is the Red Wings front office level of belief in Weiss’s ability to bounce back to the level of an average 2nd line center he’s played his career as. With multiple wrist injuries, ankle issues, groin issues, knee problems, shoulder ailments and the ubiquitous “upper body and lower body” injuries that belief might be hard to muster in any quantity. The other factor will be what they expect the rest of their elder players to produce in the next three years. While Datsyuk and Zetterberg are likely to be productive at least two more years each, they might better serve the team on someone else’s roster in exchange for younger, healthier, and less expensive assets.

It can be argued that the Wings owe it to Weiss to give him a full season, or that his health problems are just poor luck. Those arguments are not convincing. More importantly, the health one has more than enough momentum to make it clear this signing was questionable in the first place, and won’t improve in the future. With the need to spend to the salary floor, even if Ken Holland and company decide not to buy him out, it is an open question if Weiss will play for the Red Wings next season.

With so few of the division’s teams actually on the Atlantic, or even within an hour or two’s flight of the ocean, the name is a mystery. So is the number of teams that will see the second season. The top two are a gimmie, the next four are just a hairs breadth apart.  With three teams boasting Norris trophy winners, and two Selke winners you’ve got a very tough division to climb the ladder in.

Montreal Canadiens:

Good news: Never underestimate the impact of healthy, mobile, two way blueline. PK Subban, Markov, and company are more than a handful.

Bad news: Carey Price wore out last year from being played too much, this year they have the same backup goalie.

Buffalo Sabres:

Good news: The team is returning the highly likeable Tyler Ennis, and is clearly intent on playing the next stars of the team as much as they can.

Bad news: The lingering trade rumors around goalie Ryan Miller and Tomas Vanek are likely to drag the team below even its modest talent levels.

Detroit Red Wings:

Good news: Datsyuk is still wearing the winged wheel, as are Zetterberg and Kronwall.

Bad news: The off season addition don’t put the team over the top.

Toronto Maple Leafs:

Good news, John Scott didn’t manage to kill Phil Kessel in the preseason, and Tyler Bozak is looking energized.

Bad news: Coaches who drive one good player out of town for unknowable reasons, probably won’t stop their.

Ottawa Senators:

Good news: A healthy Spezza with an angry Bobby Ryan is a recipe for magic.

Bad news: With the players moved for Bobby Ryan, they sacrificed some youth, and maybe a little depth.

Florida Panthers:

Good news: They added a veteran goaltender in the person of Tim Thomas, and they picked up ownership that may just open the money tap.

Bad news: The Panthers don’t have much depth at any given position.

Tampa Bay Lightning:

Good news: Stamkos, Stamkos, Stamkos and some guy named Martin St Louis.

Bad news: Those are 100% of the teams valuable players.

Boston Bruins:

Good news: Savvy off season moves make this team arguably better than the one they won the Stanley Cup with.

Bad news: The only position you can’t say that about is goaltending if only because they’re backup is clearly a backup.

Top three teams:

Boston Bruins, Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens.

The Bruins are clearly the cream of the crop, The Senators probably have the best goaltender in Craig Anderson when he’s healthy, and the Canadians have admirable depth at forward and defense. The Red Wings, and Leafs are within striking distance of an assured post season berth. The rest of the division would all require some form of hefty upgrade between now and Thanksgiving.

October 1:

The Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens will get the headlines, but if you want the best game of the night, it isn’t this one. It isn’t The Winnipeg Jets and Edmonton Oilers, it is the Washington Capitals taking on the Chicago Blackhawks in Chicago, you’ve got a banner raising, the return of Russian Olympic torchbearer Alex Ovechkin, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, John Carlson, Mikhail Grabovski, and Brooks Laich all ready healthy and ready to go.

The star power on both sides is great, goaltending is about equal. This may be the best game of the week.

October 2:

With just three games on the docket, another easy choice. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Philadelphia Flyers both underwent huge roster turnover since last spring. One was a playoff team and may manage it again, the other needs to get into the playoffs or heads will roll. James Van Riemsdyk and Luke Schenn will faceoff against their old teams, and it least one of roster will sport a different goaltender than the last time these two teams met.

October 3:

This is an almost impossible night of coverage to choose from. The Boston Bruins and Tampa Bay Lightning always put on a good show, and this will be the first night on the ice for the Bolts new captain. The Minnesota Wild and Los Angeles Kings should be a good tilt, the jilted former champions versus the rising power looking to wash away the stain of being pushed out of the playoffs so easily. The Saint Louis Blues and Nashville Predators will square off with what could be two of the best backends in the NHL.  But the game of the night will be the San Jose Sharks and their playoff feast the Vancouver Canucks. The changes in the Canucks lineup and coaching will make the game even more compelling.

October 4:

Friday night will be a smorgasbord of NHL action. The game of the night is easily the Ottawa Senators and the Buffalo Sabres. These two division rivals will square off with both hoping to be in the top three in the new Atlantic division. With Boston and Montreal to compete with every point, every game, every shift counts and these teams know it. Ottawa was in the mix last year, but new captain Jason Spezza will want to bring the boys to the top of the standings from the starting pistol to the final horn.

October 5:

Saturday’s game of the night is easy: Original 6 action. The Boston Bruins host the Detroit Red Wings. Both the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins were laid low by the Chicago Blackhawks last June. With the Red Wings playing as an eastern conference team for the first time in a generation, both fan bases will have to work overtime to get this rivalry to something with a bit of hate in it. Kronwall and Lucic will provide devastating open ice hits, Bergeron and Datsyuk will be on display as three zone aces, Tuukka Rask and Jimmy Howard will be in the crease making their case for inclusion on their nation’s Olympic rosters for Sochi, and Zdeno Chara and Henrik Zetterberg will be captaining each ship in the first of five regular season battles.

Last season’s Red Wings had to live with the reality of a Lidstrom-less existence. It showed more in their finishing 21st in goals for than other parts of their game. Datsyuk and Zetterberg put in heroic efforts over the shortened season that the two aging stars may or may not be able to duplicate in a full season. Jimmy Howard turned in a career year for GAA and nearly matching his previous best sv% as well. The Red Wing’s in the standings swung back and forth like a pendulum, bringing them back and forth from 11th to 4th and finally coming to rest with them in 7th place. In the opening round of the playoffs they squared off against the Anaheim Ducks, and quickly fell behind. The Ducks proved unable to put them away and then take the eventual Cup winners to seven games.

In the off season they added the soon to be 41 year old Daniel Alfredsson and former Florida Panther Stephen Weiss. They’ve also gotten their wish to shift from the west to the east. The travel schedule may be more brutal in the west, but the physicality of hockey isn’t quite the same. The Philadelphia Flyers, Toronto Maple Leafs, New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricanes and New York Islanders will all happily throw the body at a prodigious rate and there are other teams not far behind. To open the season, the Wings make themselves known to their new conference rivals interrupted only by a clash with the Coyotes. Opening night will have them hosting the Buffalo Sabres before packing up for Raleigh and a date with the Carolina Hurricanes. On the backend of a Friday/Saturday set on the road they face the new look Boston Bruins, before going home to the Coyotes and Flyers.

Number of days 1-5: 10

Number of cities: 3

Best opponent: Boston Bruins

Weakest opponent: Buffalo Sabres

Home games: 3

Projected points: 5

Alfredsson is quoted as saying going to Detroit was a selfish move because he wanted to win. Given the lack of difference overall in quality between his old franchise and new one, we’ll have to see how well that works out. The Olympics could also trip this team up. Datsyuk and Zetterberg will undoubtedly get tapped for their national teams, and Ericsson and Kronwall would be unsurprising choices as well, there is even a chance Alfredsson gets to pull on the national jersey one more time. What that means is almost all their best player could have extra strain, wear and tear, injuries and travel time or illness before the second half.

The Red Wings extended their playoff streak for yet another year limping into the playoffs just one point over 9th place Columbus. They went up against the seemingly unstoppable Anaheim Ducks and proved they had the killer instinct the Ducks lacked.

In the second round they were exposed. There are really only two issues with the Red Wings. What’s wrong with them? The question answers itself if you put on your opposing coach thinking cap and ask which players other than Datsyuk, Zetterberg and maybe Kronwall you have to game plan for. Not just who plays a lot of minutes, but who can impact the game.

Depth, is part of the issue. They have two elite, if aging forwards, an no one behind them who can be relied upon to put up 50 points in an 82 game season, or a defenseman who can be counted on to play 25 minutes of shutdown hockey a night. The answer is simple. No one. They have a lot role players. They just don’t have anything else. After their top two players, the run off from 3rd to 12th player isn’t very steep. The defense is just as badly off. You have one player at the top of the heap, and the everyone else is almost completely indistinguishable by ice time. Almost no real difference between the best and worst by ice time at even strength, short handed or powerplay.

Identity is the other thing the team lacks. There’s almost none anymore. With Bertuzzi and Tootoo in the lineup this certainly isn’t the Yzerman era Wings, nor is it the slick skating, smooth passing version of the team that allowed them to carry Osgood to a couple cups. They still have some skill, but they just don’t have the old level. While their two skill players can still leave opponents stunned with their razzle-dazzle, the Wings just aren’t a skill team anymore. They have one or two guys who can hit and hit hard, but I don’t think anyone sees this Wings team as a Flyers or Bruins type rugged roster. The Red Wings also have a compliment of muckers, but this team is no more built to grind it out than they are to drop the gloves and beat their opponents up. The current roster is a hodge-podge, a manticore without a strong emotional center give them focus. The plus side is that Howard is a much better goaltender than Osgood was at any point in his career. But he’s not (yet?) at the elite level that would allow the team to build around him as their franchise cornerstone. He’s solid, a clear number one starter, but the word elite does not stretch to encompass his careers portfolio to date.

If the Red Wings want to rebuild for the long term, they have to scour the roster back to its foundation. That means trading Zetterber and Datsyuk for as much as can be gotten and spending a year or two in the lottery and drafting well. If they want to go for a short term buildup and try to maximise the years left in their ageing stars, they certainly have the roster spots and cap space to go after whoever they want. With just two defenseman and five forwards signed in addition to Jimmy Howard, they have half their cap free to fill the roster. That does include the need to resign Datsyuk if possible as he’ll be a UFA on July 5. With forwards like Nathan Horton, Jarome Iginla, Daniel Alfredsson, and then younger players like Tyler Bozak, Bryan Bickell, and David Clarkson they can go in any number of directions.

They have the money, organisational depth is in question, but given the UFA’s they haven’t landed in the last few years, is anyone willing to go there from other markets?

For part one of this series click here.

#1 Vs #8

The Chicago Blackhawks seemingly have everything going this season. They have two goalies putting up top flight numbers. they have an upgraded defense that has allowed Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook to reclaim the form that helped the team win the Cup a few years back. Better still, they have arguably the best forward group in the NHL; Toews, Kane, Hossa, Saad and Sharp.

The Minnesota Wild are that new kid in playoff town no one knows quite what to make of. On paper the Wild have every tool they need to be dangerous, and even contend. In reality, they lack playoff experience, especially with Pominville and Heatley on the shelf. Add that to five of six blueliners who have never seen the NHL playoffs, and you have a recipe for a dicey playoff series.

Players to watch:

For the Wild, don’t be surprised if rookie Charlie Coyle comes up big in spots, Setogouchi is a threat, and Mikko Koivu is never to be underestimated.

On the other side of the puck for the Blackhawks, Kane, Hossa and Toews can all take over games individually.

Edge:

Chicago, it isn’t purely the quality that they lead in, it is the playoff experience, particularly on the blueline that will decide this series.

#2 vs. #7

Anaheim Ducks have almost no pressure this year. Sidney Crosby and the Penguins are drawing an inexplicable amount of attention, and Chicago was start to finish the best team in the NHL. The Ducks simply have to get on the ice and execute. They have savvy older veterans in Koivu and Selanne. They have high quality younger veterans still in their prime in Ryan, Getzlaf, and Perry. They also have a surprisingly strong backend in net and on the blueline. They don’t have any dominant or elite players there, but they do have several really good ones.

The Detroit Red Wings have made the playoffs again keeping their two decade long streak intact. They have Jimmy Howard who again very quietly put up impressive numbers, they have Datsyuk, and Zetterberg. These are not your Dad’s Red Wing’s though, they just don’t have even one elite talent on their blueline, much less two or three as they have had in years past.

Players to watch:

If the Wings don’t have Howard playing top notch goaltending, they don’t have anything, For them to win,  guys like Tootoo, Smith, and other role players will have to elevate their game.

The Ducks need to have their defense continue to smother their opponents, and have at least one of their goaltenders show up and never take their eyes off of Zetterberg and Datsyuk.

Edge:

Wings can’t win this if the Ducks show up and execute. It’s just that simple.

#3 vs. #6

Vancouver Canucks, it is put up or shutup time in Vancouver. They drama in their net has covered up the fact that this isn’t as good a team as it was in years past. They only won their division by four points, by comparison the Washington Capitals won by 6, and of the six division winners this is the team that scored the least this season. The Sedin twins combined for less goals than Jiri Tlusty. They put up the mediocre season numbers with three of the bottom four teams in their conference playing in their division.

San Jose Sharks are also at the point where if they don’t win the Cup it is tie to break up the band. Marleau, Boyle, and Thornton don’t have many more years left in them and behind them there isn’t much to write home about. What gives this squad a bit of believability is that Niemi, who was part of the Chicago cup run, has turned in the best regular season of his career and played in 43 of the teams 48 games.

Players to watch:

Ryan Kesler and Kevin Bieksa are two guys you should never ever count out, for the Canucks to do well, these two will likely be the biggest impact players.

Joe Thornton appears to have learned how to play big in the playoffs, and Raffi Torres (when he plays clean) is a surprisingly good playoff player.

Edge:

This series is almost a push, but I give the edge to San Jose, Thornton, Marleau, Couture are are better right now than any three forwards you can name for the Sharks, and with Schneider’s injury and the general chaos in British Columbia I don’t like the Canucks chances.

#4 vs. #5

The Saint Louis Blues boast some damn fine players no one talks about because the team is too far south. David Backes is a game changer, Pietrangelo is one of the best defensemen in the game, and Chris Stewart turned in more points in 48 games this year than he did in 79 last year. Goaltending is clearly this teams weakness, but with Oshie coming back the team gains immediately in two way play.

The reigning champions the Los Angeles Kings have to get scoring from more people than just Jeff Carter and Dustin Brown, if for no other reason than Jonathan Quick is not as good this year as last. They’ve gotten a slight refresh adding Regehr and injecting Muzzin into the lineup, but the roster is really almost identical. You have to question the teams hunger a little.

Players to watch:

Drew Doughty emerged as an elite two way defenseman during last year playoffs establishing his bona fides in his own end in addition to the offensive ability he’s always displayed, he and Mike Richards who is frequently overlooked on this team will be crucial to this team going anywhere.

For the Blues, Vladimir Sobotka just finds an extra gear in the playoffs and he can tilt the ice, but he won’t be enough, Bouwmeester, Oshie, and Perron will have to show up and put in work.

Edge:

This is a push, the Blues I think have the edge in hunger, the Kings have the edge in knowing how to win in the post season.

Total Wins by eliminated teams this round; 9