It's a little under
seven six five weeks until the 2007-08 NHL season opens in London, England on September 29th (blimey!) and it's time to start previewing the season. I'm starting these season previews really, really early but that's only because there's no way I can write 30 solid previews in only a couple of weeks. If I'm going to preview every single NHL team, and I'm going to try my hardest to do so, it will take all seven weeks and then some... And as you might have guessed, these aren't going to be your standard season previews.
...and today we're moving back to the Southeast Division. I know you're excited. I can barely contain myself.
- Ice Dancer Allie's favorite color is light yellow.
- [Insert obligatory joke about how bad the Southeast Division is] The Southeast's new slogan; 'We're not just Carolina and Tampa Bay!'
- The Panthers have not made the playoffs for six straight seasons and have not won a playoff series since their magical run to the finals in the spring of 1996. As a matter of fact, they have finished 4th in the Southeast five years running. That has got to be a record of some kind.
Odds for the folks at gambler's anonymous
30 to 1: Tomas Vokoun will break the franchise record for wins in a season (Roberto Luongo, 35 in 2005-06).
3 to 1: Vokoun will not be as drunk as Eddie Belfour on road trips.
Obligatory serious analysis
The Panthers didn't make it onto my list of the Top 5 Most Improved Teams this summer, but maybe they should have been on there. They added Richard Zednik and Radek Dvorak, while acquiring one of the best goalies in the Western Conference last season (despite injury), Tomas Vokoun from the fire sale that is the Nashville Predators. To add to that, the Panthers re-signed their major free agents to monster deals, including Nathan Horton (6 years/$24 million), Jozef Stumpel (2 years/$4.5), Bryan Allen (5 years/$14.5) and Stephen Weiss (6 year/18.6). The Panthers have established who their core players are, that's for sure.
The lone downside to the offseason has been the loss of forwards Martin Gelinas and Chris Gratton, who combined for 79 points in 161 games last season. That being said, the Panthers will be returning 10 players who notched at least 29 points last season. Add Dvoark and Zednik to the mix and their offense shouldn't miss a beat. Last season, the Panthers led the Southeast in scoring and were 5th in the Eastern Conference. As you might expect, the reason they finished so low in the standings was a lack of defense, which was due in large part to the loss of goaltender Roberto Luongo. With the addition of Vokoun, the Panthers have almost completely filled the gap left by Luongo. Add another year of experience to their young defenders, and this team is going to be in playoff contention come April.
Prediction: The Panthers are going to be in the thick of things come playoff time, but I think they'll finish just short; 9th place in the East.
The best looking ice girls in Florida
Chicago owns Florida in this category. So, I'll just show you some more Blackhawk Girls.
Previous Editions of Preseason Foreplay