The leaves are turning, your tan is gone, and all the good-looking girls in your city seem to have disappeared. Yup, it must be hockey season. This year should be much of the same as the Stanley Cup winner were the only contender that was forced to make serious personnel changes.
Vancouver made some moves to get better and figure to be a force in the West. Boston added Tyler Seguin, the number two overall pick in the draft and brought in Nathan Horton, which only makes their offence stronger.
But teams like the Washington Capitals, New Jersey Devils, Detroit Red Wings and Los Angeles Kings have all decided to build on what they accomplished last year in hopes that it’s the right mix to take them to the promise land.
One team I didn’t mention there was the San Jose Sharks, as they didn’t make many moves this off-season, but the ones they did make were significant. After a pattern of strong regular season’s and disappointing playoff loses, the Sharks decided to part ways with the goaltender, Evgeni Nabokov.
When Chicago was forced to let Antti Niemi walk, San Jose jumped all over the Stanley Cup winning tender. Although many argue that Nabokov is the better player, he clearly wasn’t able to get it done when it mattered most, something Niemi just proved he was capable of.
Up front, the Sharks return a very potent line-up that features the likes of Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and emerging star, Devin Setoguchi. Joe Pavelski also figures to have another solid year and it is the emergence of these young guns that leads me to believe that the Sharks will once again be the team to beat in the West. Granted they did lose a big part to their defensive core in Rob Blake to retirement, but they are hoping a guy like Jason Demers can step in and play those big minutes.
In the East, it’s hard to argue that the Washington Capitals aren’t again the team to beat. They didn’t do much this offseason either, but there weren’t many areas that this team could have improved. Their top two lines are as good as anyone’s top line in hockey, and they have the most talented offensive defenseman in the league. They have great checking forwards and two very good young goaltenders that look poised to take the next step.
But we can talk all day about that, but the real key to this team’s success is Alex Ovechkin. He’s the most exciting player in hockey and the unquestioned emotional leader of this team, but he hasn’t been able to lift his team when it matters most, the playoffs. Last year’s first round loss to the Canadiens must have left a very sour taste in his mouth this offseason, and despite what you’ve heard about European hockey players, Ovie cares as much as anyone about playoff success.
I have no doubt that he’s going to have another fantastic statistical year, but I also believe that this is the year he takes that next step and leads this team to the Stanley Cup betting.
I see them winning the East again and going all the way to the Cup where they beat the San Jose Sharks in six games.
For all the possible Stanley Cup Final pairings, click here!