1. Washington Capitals. Again. The Caps are known to finish first and then choke in the playoffs. Will the addition of Tomas Vokoun in net lead them over the hump? I think so. Alex Ovechkin will bounce back after having a (poor?) 85-point season. Look for the Caps to still be playing well into spring.
2. Philadelphia Flyers. Their goaltending questions have been answered by adding Ilya Bryzgalov. Claude Giroux and James Van Reimsdyk will fill in for Jeff Carter and Mike Richards, who were traded in the off-season. But will they have secondary scoring? Can Jaromir Jagr still have an impact? I think Philly will make a serious run for the Cup this year.
3. Buffalo Sabres. Ryan Miller is the backbone of the team in net, but can they score? Adding Ville Leino will help the likes of Jason Pominville, Brad Boyes and Thomas Vanek. So if they can stay healthy, they will be a top contender. Especially with the addition of Christain Ehrhoff on defense to go along with young stud Tyler Myers.
4. Tampa Bay Lightning. At 41, Dwayne Roloson is almost at the end, but is still productive. How much can he handle? Steven Stamkos will pot 50 goals with Martin St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier supporting him. Their defense is anchored by Victor Hedman. But are those players enough to give them a good shot at the Cup? They will make the playoffs, but won’t go too deep.
5. Montreal Canadiens. Carey Price will be good as always but are they big enough up front? That seems to be the big question. Andrei Markov won’t start the season because of injury but they still have a strong D-corps. Max Pacioretty will be a top gunner for the Habs and the addition of Erik Cole will put them into the playoffs. But how far can they go?
6. Pittsburgh Penguins. If Sidney Crosby is eventually good to go, then watch out. But who knows if he will be back to his old self if and when he comes back. The Pens did well without him and Evgeni Malkin last year, but can they do it again? If they don’t get Crosby back, they won’t finish atop the standings. Marc-Andre Fleury can steal them some games between the pipes.
7. Boston Bruins. The defending Cup champs will have another good year, but are they good enough for a repeat? They haven’t really changed their roster but I don’t think they have the motivation to win the Cup again. They should get into the playoffs however.
8. New York Rangers. With Henrik Lundqvist in net, they will be good, but do they have a strong supporting cast? The addition of Brad Richards will vastly improve their scoring, especially if he can play well with sniper Marian Gaborik.
9. Carolina Hurricanes. Goalie Cam Ward will steal games all year. But they only have Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner up front. If Skinner goes into a sophomore slump, the Canes won’t make the playoffs. They should be battling for a spot near the end of the season.
10. Toronto Maple Leafs. They added quite a few players but no one who will hugely impact the team. They are still mediocre but have improved a bit. Their deep defense led by John-Michael Liles, Dion Phaneuf, Luke Schenn, and Carl Gunnarsson will be their strong point, with James Riemer in net.
11. Winnipeg Jets. Just because they are called the Jets again, doesn’t matter. They are still the old Atlanta Thrashers led by Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd…And that’s about it. There will be a lot of hype around the Jets but they won’t give Winnipeg playoff hockey just yet.
12. Ottawa Senators. They have really gone downhill in the last few years. Their only strong player worth note is Erik Karlsson on the point. Definitely won’t make the playoffs this year.
13. New Jersey Devils. Future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur is getting way too old. It’s time to usher in a new era but Brodeur isn’t ready to leave. Even if sniper Ilya Kovalchuk can score, the Devils still won’t make a push to the playoffs.
14. New York Islanders. Once again they will finish at the bottom of the East. If Evgeni Nabakov plays net and has a strong year, they could finish a little higher, especially if John Tavares and Matt Moulson have career years. But don’t count on all those things happening.
15. Florida Panthers. They signed Jose Theodore to be their number one goalie. Really? Florida really has no players worth noting, so look for them to maybe win 25 games and finish dead last.