Moving right along with our Obligatory Division Previews, today we're taking a look at the Northeast Division. Feel free to check out our previews of the Atlantic and Northwest if you missed those last week.
The Bruins lead off this preview, but that's only because they're at the top of the division alphabetically. It's also because I felt like talking about them first.
Stephen Colbert has long said that Bears are the #1 threat to America, and he may be right, but he certainly wasn't thinking of the Bruins when he said that. The Bruins will be solid this year, but they're certainly not going to raise the national security threat level. And as far as I know, there is no one on the team who has an infatuation with honey or is as cute as Winnie the Pooh. All factors that will not impact the team's on-ice performance this season.
The following are some factors that will impact their on-ice performance; the return of Patrice Bergeron, Marc Savard's ability to distract the defense with his good looks, Manny Fernandez's ability to tend nets and their only major move being the addition of Michael Ryder.
What's New: We already went over a bit of the new additions but to recap; Bergeron returns, Ryder signs as well as Stephane Yelle and another year for the kids to develop (see: Kessel, Krejci, Rask, Wheeler).
Questions That Need Answering: If bears grew a fifth appendage, would they be 20% more deadly? Is there anyway we can coat Phil Kessel in honey to see how good it would taste?
Hmm... Looks like one of the girls from Four Habs Fans found her way over here. I guess at this point no one is going to read the rest of the post. I could probably say a bunch of derogatory things towards Canada... Oh, hello! I didn't see you there. Heh... That was... Awkward.
So anyway, about the returning regular season conference champions. They were really one of the surprise teams of last season, but as the season progressed it became clear that they were the head of the class in the East. The team committed to the young stallion in the stable, Carey Price, when they sent Cristobal Huet packing at the deadline. With another year and a playoff run under his belt, Price should hopefully show improvement this year. As gifted as the rest of the team is, they're only going to go as far as
Huet Price goes. Another point to watch is whether or not they can repeat as the best powerplay unit in the league. The Habs scored at a 24.1% clip last season, a very, very solid number.
What's New: Mark Streit, who was third on the team in points last season, has departed for Long Island. Michael Ryder and Bryan Smolinski (who I can't believe is still in the NHL -- he's almost 40) are also gone. Marc Denis, Robert Lang, Georges Laraque and Alex Tanguay are the notable additions.
Questions That Need Answering: Is Carey Price the real deal? Is Montreal as cool of a place to visit as Calgary (I'm thinking about going this winter)? How do you say 'really good hockey team' in French?
Toronto Maple Leafs
Ah yes, we're up to the Maple Leafs who are the butt of many jokes here and around the internets. No matter what we think, we still have to acknowledge that they do have the opportunity to win a Stanley Cup this year even if MLSE doesn't. Zing!
I'm sorry. Really. I do have to feel bad for a team that will probably be as bad as the Islanders will this season.
What's New: Curtis Joseph is back for another go-around, which is sort of surreal. Mike Van Ryn, Nick Hagman and Ryan Hollweg lead a star-studded class of additions to the roster. And don't forget about the big money guy, Jeff Finger! Ron Wilson picks up behind the bench and is probably going to be regretting the decision to do so by November. There are also the departures of Bryan McCabe, Mats Sundin, Kyle Wellwood and Darcy Tucker. It's the end of an era in Toronto, sort of. Except for the part where CuJo came back.
Questions That Need Answering: Is there anyone out there who legitimately believes this team has a chance? Can we all agree that this team is the New York Knicks of the NHL?
Where do we start with the Sabres? Things aren't looking so swell in Buffalo this winter. A year ago they finished 10th, only four points removed from the playoffs, and there's no doubt they could pull a similar feat this season. The health of the team will be a big factor in how far these guys go, as Tim Connolly and Drew Stafford missed serious time last year and are solid players. Derek Roy and Jason Pominville also had great years while filling the shoes of you know who. There's a lot of talent and a lot of depth on this team. The biggest knock, other than health, is probably that they are in a very strong division.
What's New: The only major addition is Craig Rivet on the blueline. Brian Campbell left at the deadline last season and his replacement, Steve Bernier, was sent to Vancouver during the summer.
Questions That Need Answering: This isn't a question, but Buffalo Wild Wings is an awesome restaurant. I just thought I would put that out there.
The Senators had an epic collapse last year that was well-documented. They still made the playoffs, but their season had gotten to the point where it probably would have been better if they didn't make it. This will be one of the more interesting teams to watch this season. They still have the deadly trio of Alfredsson, Heatley and Spezza but how much everyone outside of those three contributes will be a big factor in how far this team goes. Another key is the play of Martin Gerber, who has failed out a couple times as a starter and is now getting another shot -- assuming he doesn't lose the job to Alex Auld. I guess never say never.
What's New: During the off-season the proverbial house was cleaned and a who slew of fresh faces were brought it. Jason Smith, Filip Kuba and Jarkko Ruutu are the notable additions to the roster along with the aforementioned Auld. Gone are a lot of people; Wade Redden, Ray Emery, Mike Commodore, Andrej Meszaros, Luke Richardson, Cory Stillman and Martin Lapointe.
Questions That Need Answering: Who can, and will, step up for this team? Can the new-look defensive corps hold steady? How many entertaining blowups will Bryan Murray have?