NHL Final Analysis: Northeast and Northwest Divisions

Northeast Division

Team: Boston Bruins

Current Position: 2nd
Probable Finish: 2nd
Possible Finish: 2nd, 6th-7th
Current Status: Playoff bound

Possible First Round Opponents: Washington, Buffalo, Ottawa
Probable Playoff Finish: Semi Finals

Draft Ranking: Late first round pick
Position Targeted: Best available

Free Agency and Off-Season Moves: It would be nice to have Boston’s problems. They won the cup last year, are a top seed going into the playoffs this year, and have the nucleus of their team locked up through next season. The perfect mix of grit, scoring, and toughness that spells success come playoff time. And believe it or not, they have been doing this all without their franchise forward who is still making $4 million and hasn’t played for two years. Unfortunately Marc Savard will most likely never play again. But back to their current roster, and their only real problem, which is goaltending. Thomas is turning 38 and showing signs of fatigue. The Bruins were hoping Rask would be ready to take the reins, but he has been shaky at best. Free agency might be an option here.
Status Next Season: Playoff team

Team: Buffalo Sabres

Current Position: 9th
Probable Finish: 8th
Possible Finish: 7th-9th
Current Status: Fighting for a spot

Possible First Round Opponents: Pittsburgh, New York Rangers
Probable Playoff Finish: 1st round

Draft Ranking: Mid first round pick
Position Targeted: Best available

Free Agency and Off-Season Moves: Last year Buffalo’s new owner threw his wallet on the table, and management salivated and spent to the cap. The end result was a pretty good-looking squad that everybody thought could be a contender. Fast forward 75 games and this team is desperately fighting for a playoff spot. The good news is that they are starting to gel at the right time. The bad news, they will be at the cap again next year with no room to wiggle in the off-season. They will have about $6 million, with 4 or 5 minor guys to sign including Ennis, who will probably want close to half of that. At least their franchise goalie is back at top form.
Status Next Season: Will be fighting for a playoff spot

Team: Ottawa Senators

Current Position: 7th
Probable Finish: 9th
Possible Finish: 2nd, 7th-9th
Current Status: Fighting for a spot

Possible First Round Opponents: Pittsburgh, New York Rangers, Boston Bruins
Probable Playoff Finish: 1st round

Draft Ranking: Mid first round pick
Position Targeted: Forward, best available

Free Agency and Off-Season Moves: Ottawa has to be the biggest surprise of the season. Many sports writers had them finishing at the bottom of the league (including myself). But Spezza brought his game back to an elite level, and Michalek doubled his goal and point production from the last few seasons, but the big reason, Erik Karlsson. This Norris trophy shoe-in has had the breakout of all breakout seasons. He’s put up 80 points, and has turned his -30 from last year into a +19 this year. But not only that, he’s multidimensional, young, and has blinding speed. This team is still far from a contender, but they did seem to rebuild over night and should be in the mix next year. Notable moves down the stretch include “stealing” Kyle Turris, and Ben Bishop while practically nobody was looking. This team is heading in the right direction.
Status Next Season: Will be fighting for a playoff spot

Team: Toronto Maple Leafs

Current Position: 13th
Probable Finish: 13th
Possible Finish: 10th-13th
Current Status: Awaiting the draft

Possible First Round Opponents: N/A
Probable Playoff Finish: N/A

Draft Ranking: Top 10 pick
Position Targeted: Forward

Free Agency and Off-Season Moves: Yet another year out of the playoffs, but does that make them anymore desperate this off-season? Burke made it clear on trade deadline day that this is the team he is riding into next season. Of course he will still be a buyer come July 1st – one would hope! The Leafs are getting a top pick this year, but that’s as good to Burke as a timbits player. He needs results now. Look for him to sign guys like Kulemin, Gustavsson, and Franson, whether he wants them or not, because if he doesn’t he’ll look bad for not trading them for a picks when he could have. All of his other pieces are locked up, but he will be looking to deal whoever he can to make room for whomever he can pick up. He will also try harder than ever to get that top centreman that has eluded him during his tenure. He’s at the cap, he knows this team isn’t good enough, and his back is against the wall. Let the scrambling begin! Oh and Carlyle will be wanting some muscle.
Status Next Season: Will be fighting for a playoff spot

Team: Montreal Canadiens

Current Position: 15th
Probable Finish: 15th
Possible Finish: 14th-15th
Current Status: Awaiting the draft

Possible First Round Opponents: N/A
Probable Playoff Finish: N/A

Draft Ranking: Top 5 pick
Position Targeted: Forward

Free Agency and Off-Season Moves: I know this isn’t what the Habs want, but I think it’s what the Habs need. They are going to get a top-tier talent in the draft this year, and they should be so lucky to do the same thing next year. Rebuild, and don’t be too proud to rebuild properly. Look what teams like Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Edmonton have done versus teams like Calgary and Toronto. And now’s the perfect time to do it, they have a new coach, new management, and no aging superstar. Sign your young talent, trade your aging assets, leave the veterans to free agency, sign some character guys, and give some call ups a shot. The only problem then will be Price stealing games. Well that and Montreal’s stubborn pride…
Status Next Season: Long shot to make the playoffs

Northwest Division

Team: Vancouver Canucks

Current Position: 2nd
Probable Finish: 2nd
Possible Finish: 1st-2nd
Current Status: Fighting for Presidents Trophy, playoff bound

Possible First Round Opponents: San Jose, Dallas, Los Angeles, Phoenix
Probable Playoff Finish: 2nd round

Draft Ranking: Late first round pick
Position Targeted: Best available

Free Agency and Off-Season Moves: One game away… That’s going to haunt the people of Vancouver for a long time, as this team is a few years away from remembering these years as the “good times”. Luongo and the Sedins are in their early 30’s, and the team is and will be at the cap for years to come. They need to win now. If this playoff run doesn’t yield a cup, its shake up time. Free up some cap, make some deals, and be aggressive. Due to their domination of their division the last couple of years, there’s not much waiting in the system. It’s all or nothing and the time is now.
Status Next Season: Playoff team

Team: Colorado Avalanche

Current Position: 10th
Probable Finish: 10th
Possible Finish: 7th-11th
Current Status: Long shot to make the playoffs

Possible First Round Opponents: N/A
Probable Playoff Finish: N/A

Draft Ranking: Mid first round pick
Position Targeted: Defenseman, best available

Free Agency and Off-Season Moves: Colorado is a great young team that couldn’t wait to show their talent. They’re currently fighting for a playoff spot but should really be drafting a top pick and trading up for more. They are just raw and unfinished. And even when they’re fully developed won’t be quite good enough to be a contender. But they’re so close. There is so much talent there. But the other great things about the Avalanche is, they have loads of cap space for when they need it, and nobody except their young guns are under contract. This team is a clean slate and can go either way. They can rebuild for another year or two. Or they can load up and go for it. I recommend the former over the latter, but either way the possibilities are exciting.
Status Next Season: Will be fighting for a playoff spot

Team: Calgary Flames

Current Position: 11th
Probable Finish: 11th
Possible Finish: 7th-11th
Current Status: Long shot to make the playoffs

Possible First Round Opponents: N/A
Probable Playoff Finish: N/A

Draft Ranking: Mid first round pick
Position Targeted: Forward, best available

Free Agency and Off-Season Moves: What is Calgary’s identity? They really need to sit down and figure that out. Year after year of mediocrity is unacceptable. They should really be rebuilding but as if right on cue they make a trade for another veteran player (Cammelleri) locked in a big contract. This team is at the cap, it’s incredible. I know they want to make a run with Kipper and Iginla, but that ship has sailed. They can’t even bulk this team up anymore because they have no cap space. I hate to say this but they need to rebuild, and it starts by moving Iginla. Dump some salary, get some picks, and eat that Bouwmeester contract. They are the Western version of the Leafs and it’s frustrating to see their fans suffer. At least they have had some success in the last decade though…
Status Next Season: Will be fighting for a playoff spot

Team: Minnesota Wild

Current Position: 13th
Probable Finish: 13th
Possible Finish: 12th-14th
Current Status: Awaiting the draft

Possible First Round Opponents: N/A
Probable Playoff Finish: N/A

Draft Ranking: Top 5 pick
Position Targeted: Defenseman

Free Agency and Off-Season Moves: Can you believe that at one point during this season the Wild were the best team in the NHL? Well they were, and it was a long hard drop back to reality. This is another team that could use a proper rebuild. I liked the addition of Heatley, it will put fans in the stands, but they really need to concentrate on getting some young assets. I didn’t like the Burns trade but they did get some picks, and the Zidlicky move was positive as well. These are all steps in the right direction, including the big pick this year. I hope they keep rolling in the right direction.
Status Next Season: Will be fighting for a playoff spot

Team: Edmonton Oilers

Current Position: 14th
Probable Finish: 14th
Possible Finish: 13th-14th
Current Status: Awaiting the draft

Possible First Round Opponents: N/A
Probable Playoff Finish: N/A

Draft Ranking: Top 5 pick
Position Targeted: Defenseman

Free Agency and Off-Season Moves: Edmonton is like that old barbeque in the sitcoms that just wont light, so they keep soaking it in lighter fluid until it finally blows up. Edmonton is going to blow up. The question is when, and how. This will be their last top draft pick because the kid line is too good and will put them in the mix on sheer talent alone. So I think it’s time to act. Not just because they won’t get another top pick, but for the next two years they are getting their big three (Eberle, Hall, Hopkins) for around $9 mill. After two or three years that number will double. So phase 1 would be the two-year plan, and Phase 2 the plan beyond that. Phase 1- teams never win their first year in the playoffs so they need to get in next year. First, trade big veteran contracts for any picks you can get and then drop the rest. Shed as much money as possible. Use your top pick, as well as any other picks to draft as many defenseman as you can for phase two. Buy a goalie, your probably going to pay through the nose, but it’s a must. And gritty character guys for cheap that you will need for the playoffs. Then start loading up talent, but avoid long-term contracts. Next year (after hopefully getting in), keep loading up and use a few picks as trade bait. Players will see what’s happening and want a part of it. Phase 2- It’s time to pay the big three what they deserve, so money will be tight. That means freeing up more cap space. Trade, drop, and shed once more, and pray that out of all of those defenseman you drafted, you found some gems. There’s nothing better than a young talent on an entry-level contract, which funny enough is how this whole thing got started.
Status Next Season: Will be fighting for a playoff spot


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