By Douglas Smith
This is the fifth in a series of six updates to give you a look at the rest of the NHL this offseason. The Northeast was almost an afterthought in the Eastern conference only to have its fourth place team make a run to the Conference finals.
At the end of each summary we will highlight just one blog for that respective team, but there are many quality sites out there if you care to search for them. Please share your comments on the rest of the teams across the NHL as we fill the void of the offseason.
Recap: The Bruins had a hard time repeating their effort from the 2008-2009 season, but still found enough success to make it into the playoffs. The biggest issue facing Boston was scoring. Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci each had 52 points on the year to lead the team. Tuukka Rask took over for Tim Thomas in net and had a 1.97 goals against average. The Bruins found some momentum after beating the Philadelphia Flyers in the Winter Classic, but the Flyers would have the last laugh. Boston would relinquish a three game and three goal lead in game seven to the Flyers in the Eastern Conference semi-finals. How will this weigh on the Bruins this coming year?
Offseason Thus Far: The Bruins had the benefit of picking second in the NHL entry draft and were also active with signings during this off-season thus far. Boston selected highly touted prospect Tyler Seguin with the second overall pick, a player that very well could make an immediate impact. Shawn Thorton and Dennis Seidenberg signed extensions to stay with the team as well. General Manager Peter Chiarelli also pulled off a trade for Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell from Florida. Veteran Mark Recchi decided to it was worth another year in Boston and resigned too. Within the next day or two we should hear the results of Blake Wheeler’s arbitration hearing, which Boston is supposed to accept and pay up. I expect it to be just above the two million a year mark.
Analysis: If you and three buddies want to play golf with Thorton, make sure you gather up $1600. Hey, it's for a good cause. However, once the Bruins get off the greens they'll look to find the scoring touch this coming year. With Horton being a veteran, even at 25-years old, they hope he'll mesh with the rest of the team to increase the goal output of last year. The top lines are a guess at the moment as Horton, Bergeron, Krejci, Recchi, and Marc Savard figure to all see time together. As long as the team can get over the failure in the playoffs, they should be just fine. Will Rask keep his numbers that low? That's yet to be seen.
Blog: The Bruins Blog
Recap: What would this team have been without Ryan Miller’s ability as the top goaltender in 2010? He stole several games for them and was even an Olympic hero despite losing the Gold Medal Game. He was the story for most of the year for the Sabres, but lets not forget the great rookie performance by lanky defensemen Tyler Myers. Myers registered 48 points coming in at fifth on the team in scoring. Another story was the relative health of Tim Connolly playing in 73 games and registering 48 assists. Still it was Miller that managed to have the weight of his team and hometown fans combined with, well, the weight of a country on his shoulders and still perform exceptionally. Though Buffalo would exit the playoffs early despite the hardware worthy seasons of Myers and Miller.
Offseason Thus Far: Having the Vezina and Calder award winners on your team could make a team smile about the future, but most would tend to think the taste is still bitter from the exit this past year. To help Myers on the blue line, the Sabres signed Jordan Leopold after the Penguins went in another direction. Two other veterans will be a part of the Buffalo team next year as Patrick Lalime will return and veteran Rob Niedermayer joins the team on a one-year contract. They also avoided arbitration with Patrick Kaleta signing him to a two-year deal. Despite the moves, the blog linked below has an interesting take on the make up of the team.
Analysis: With Miller in net this team will always be among the favorites to make the top eight in the East. As with any team, health is a major issue, but Connolly and Thomas Vanek will need to stay healthy for the team to stay competitive. While the Sabres currently have cap space, if the team doesn’t perform, many rumors will fly as they do every year regarding trades. The hunch says that this team will still be intact heading into April, but this could be the last year on the team for Connolly and Steve Montador.
Blog: Sabre Noise
Recap: Need I remind you what the Canadians did in the playoffs? For a lot of Pens fans they went from the team everyone was rooting for to the one that everyone hated. They snuck into the playoffs as big underdogs from the start. The jokes about how short their top line was could be heard in every city they visited. Mike Cammalleri silenced a lot of those jokes in the playoffs by seemingly picking his spots as soon as he had any space to shoot. The performance of Cammalleri, the outspoken nature of youngster P.K. Subban, and the superman-like job between the pipes by goalie Jaroslav Halak overshadowed any issues of the regular season. Fans were left with nothing but hope, but it is Montreal so they quickly turned their attention to the offseason questions.
Offseason Thus Far: Montreal has a lot of money tied up in Cammalleri, Gomez, Plekanec, and Brian Gionta and Halak may have been a casualty of that. Halak is now a member of the St. Louis Blues while the other Habs goalie from last year, Carey Price, is still a restricted free agent. The length may be the sticking point because of how the terms could impact the salary cap. This leaves newly acquired veteran Alex Auld as the lone goalie on the roster, but the Habs also have Curtis Sanford in the wings just in case. This was after they acquired the rights for Dan Ellis, but lost out to Tampa Bay. Montreal also acquired Dustin Boyd this offseason and resigned Maxim Lapierre. However, they have made it clear that Glen Metropolit and Dominic Moore will not be returning to play for the hockey club of Canada.
Analysis: The goaltending question marks are far and away the biggest issue facing the Habs. Offensively, they showed that the guys on their roster have the touch and can pick up each other’s slack. On defense, Josh Gorges, former Penguin Hal Gill, and Ryan O’Byrne are all very solid. Price knows he is the best option right now so he and his agent can be patient. The Habs have signed a back up, but there's no way they can rely on Auld to carry the load, so this could get interesting.
Blog: Yves on Habs
Recap: Ottawa simply had to get out from under Dany Heatley situation and showed to have the will power to do so as the season went along. They did battle some injury problems with Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, and Chris Neil missing at least 10 games a piece. They also juggled goalies with Brian Elliott getting 48 starts, Pascal Leclaire starting 31 and Brodeur starting three - Mike Brodeur that is. He was 3-0-0 in those games allowing only three goals. Despite a five game losing streak in mid-March, the Senators would win the next six and secure a playoff spot, respectively. They fended off elimination with a three overtime game five win over Pittsburgh only to lose game six after having an early 3-0 lead at home.
Offseason Thus Far: Another offseason, another star player with a supposed trade request. Spezza seems to be staying put as the Senators highest paid player. Also, it took 14 minutes after the free agency period opened for news of a three year deal with our beloved defensemen Sergei Gonchar. Back in the fold are Jesse Winchester and Nick Foligno. An interesting addition is that of Roman Wick, which you may remember from the Swiss Olympic team.
Analysis: There are still some questions with Senators’ free agents like Andy Sutton, Chris Campoli, and Peter Regin. This is illustrated on the Senators’ own website as it is easier to find a list of prospects, rather than the current roster. The teams veteran leadership will allow them to fight in the division, but the teams with teams like Boston and Toronto improving [on paper] the fight might be tougher this year. Leclaire will get his shot to be the number one goalie again as well.
Blog: Another Sens Blog
Recap: The Leafs started bad last year and it would not get much better as the year progressed. It took new Leaf Phil Kessel a while to get comfortable and President and General Manager Brian Burke was doing his best to keep everyone on edge about his next move. He swapped out a bunch of guys with Calgary and quickly began eyeing the future seasons as well as balancing his duties with the U.S. Olympic team. Three Leafs played all 82 games for the team – Tomas Kaberle, Francois Beauchemin, and enforcer Colton Orr. Mike Komisarek would be lost to injury, which only added to the troubles of Toronto’s season.
Offseason Thus Far: Because of the Kessel deal, the Leafs had to watch the Bruins take the second spot in the entry draft. The Maple Leafs would have to wait until day two to make a selection and also hung on to Kaberle despite constant trade speculation. He has a no-trade clause that kicks in during the final year of the contract and then becomes an unrestricted free agent next year. However, on the eve of free agency, the Maple Leafs acquired Kris Versteeg from Chicago in a deal that sent three unproven players back to the Blackhawks. Colby Armstrong and Brett Lebda also signed on while Nikolai Kulemin and John Mitchell resigned with Toronto. With Burke at the helm, Toronto is never really a quiet place, so stay tuned.
Analysis: Given the start Toronto had last season, there is no doubt that they are an improved club. They will have a full year with goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere while the 25 year old Jonas Gustavsson preps to take over in net. Toronto has some good young talent in the wings as well, like Nazem Kadri. The top four defensemen, Beauchemin, Kaberle, Komisarek, and Phaneuf are a solid grouping and all Leafs fans hope that Jeff Finger plays up to his contract. They will be improved, but team chemistry could be an issue.
Blog: Bud Blog