Today we've taken the internet by storm. Four posts? That's Tie Domi-like crazy talk. So to cap off this quadruple post October Kickoff Party, we'll do another division preview. Tomorrow Ryan will be in to finish off the division previews with the Pacific. He's the Kevin Nash to my Sean Michaels (circa 1994), for those of you old school WWE fans out there. I do all the big flashy stuff and then he pile drives a guy or two through the mat to bring it all to an explosive ending.
If you want to check out any of our previous division previews, follow this link.
The Firefly Forest gives us some great advice regarding Thrashers and automobiles:
Curve-billed Thrashers are perhaps one of the snoopiest birds I've ever seen. If I leave a door to my house or garage open, before long a Curve-billed Thrasher will be inside exploring around. It's almost as if opening a door to my house creates a powerful vacuum that sucks them in. No car windows can be left open beyond the tiniest crack in my driveway or you'll either find a Curve-billed Thrasher inside or the irrefutable evidence that one's been there in the form of bird droppings all over your upholstery.
It's funny that they mention this. I was in Atlanta last summer and left my windows open a bit so to try and cool off the car a bit while I went into a restaurant for lunch. About an hour later I came out and went to my car only to discover that Ilya Kovalchuk and Don Waddell had pooped all over it. I knew it was them because they scampered off after I hit the 'unlock' button on my keys. Really strange organization they're running down there.
In all serious, things don't look good for the Thrashers this year. They do have a shot at the playoffs, but I honestly wouldn't peg them higher then seventh. They're in a historically weak division, so that should help, but the Lightning, Caps and Canes are all poised to very solid teams this year. The Thrashers, not so much. They did have a 34-34-8 record last season after Bob Hartley was let go, but that just isn't going to cut it and there weren't any summer acquisitions that make me think otherwise.
What's New: Ron Hainsey should help out lots on the blueline if he can continue what he started in Columbus. John Anderson is the new coach and Jason Williams and Marty Reasoner were also brought in... But they're players.
Questions That Need Answering: Why, oh why, did Don Waddell poop in my car? Can we just have the All-Star Game in Atlanta again this year so that I can attend again?
One of the nicer surprises in the NHL last year was the resurgent Washington Capitals. They won 10 of their last 11 games to take the division crown from the Hurricanes by two points. The team re-signed a lot of their own young during the off-season, with the only major moves being letting long-time goalie Olaf Kolzig sign with Tampa and snapping up Jose Theodore. Trusting your netminding to Theodore is questionable, but he did have an excellent year last year. He's back from the netherworld where goaltenders go to die and here to destroy the living. I suggest evacuating the DC area immediately.
What's New: The goalie. A rejuvenated fanbase.
Questions That Need Answering: Can AO actually improve upon last year? Does thinking about that give you nightmares, too?
Has any team ever had a wilder off-season than the Lightning in the history of off-seasons? I can't say I remember one. I don't even know where to start with this team. There's the rockstar owners, the TV analyst turned coach (Have you heard of him?), the one and only Gary Roberts and the list goes on and on. Most teams don't have decades like this. The Lightning packed a whole bunch of wild moves into three months. But I'm getting off-topic, I'm not done here. They also added Ryan Malone, the #1 pick in the Stamkos Lottery, Vaclav Prospal (again), Mark Recchi, a division rival's netminder, Matt Carle and Andrej Meszaros. Whew. I'm gonna sit down for a minute.
What's New: In addition to everything, there are also now big expectations. With all those additions, it will be interesting to see if Coach Melrose can it all. But with such big acquisitions also come expectations. This team is expected to win and they are expected to do it now. This team is also really, really scary. They could either implode and go down in a spectacular ball of fire or they could be one of the top teams in the East. I don't think anyone is really sure what to expect right now.
Questions That Need Answering: How long till this circus falls apart? If this were really a circus, who would be the bearded lady?
The Canes stood pat this summer, making some minor additions here and there. Unbelievably, they missed out on both the division title and the 8th playoff spot by two points last season. It gave meaning to the term 'Southleast' but this year it looks as if the division is poised to shake that moniker. The Canes are one of the teams looking to do just that. They did lose Bret Hedican and Glen Wesley, two important parts to their defense, but they don't look like they will be taking a step back this year. Joni Pitkanen was a nice addition and they added the re-born Sergei Samsonov in January and he put up 32 points in 38 games. How that happened, scientists will never know.
What's New: Erik Cole is out, as he was dealt to Edmonton for Pitkanen. The defense is going to have a much different look to it.
Questions That Need Answering: Would this really be a Hurricanes preview if I didn't say the word NASCAR? (sorry)
There were big shake ups in South Florida this summer as the Panthers made a multitude of moves (say that five times fast). The most notable was the FedEx-ing of Olli Jokinen out of town. He was shipped to the desert prison of the Coyotes for Nick Boynton and Keith Ballard. Jacques Martin stepped down as coach and named Peter DeBoer his successor. The team also picked up Bryan McCabe and Cory Stillman on the free agent market.
What's New: A lot. A new coach and lots of fresh faces around the organization. The defense should be solid and up front the team is putting a lot of trust into a group of young kids. It should be an interesting year in Florida.
Questions That Need Answering: Can the Panthers please start making and selling a cologne called Sex Panther? That would be hilarious LOUD NOISES