Sunday, September 30, 2012

Taking Off...Slowly

WINNIPEG JETS

2011-12 record: 37-35-10 (84 points)
missed the playoffs
Captain: Andrew Ladd

The Winnipeg Jets were at one point in the season, in first place in the Southeast Division.  However, that moment of elation would not last, as their struggles away from MTS Centre would doom them to another year of no playoffs.  Still, the people of Winnipeg will be behind this team, and players such as Evander Kane, Blake Wheeler, and Andrew Ladd give them good reason to stick around.  Olli Jokinen was the major addition, and he should give the Jets a number one center that they lacked last year.  It would help if Alexander Burmistrov and Patrice Cormier start living up to their expectations.  Defensively, Dustin Byfuglien is an offensive force from the blue line, but Tobias Enstrom is the rock of that unit.  However, Enstrom missed time to injury, and he will need to be healthy for a full season if Winnipeg hopes to make the playoffs because the depth on the blue line drops off significantly, especially since Zach Bogosian will miss most of the season to injury.  Ondrej Pavelec needs to be more consistent, but he also shows signs of being a good starter in the league.  Al Montoya is the backup, which would spell trouble if Pavelec is out for any significant period of time.

Prediction: 12th in the East

Band: Elis/Zirkonium

The little country of Liechtenstein has produced a metal band in Elis, who were well on the way to big things until original vocalist Sabine Duenser died in 2006.  Since then, Elis managed to release two more albums (including Duenser's final album with the band in Griefshire), but were never the same after that.  Two vocalists later, they decided to call it a day as Elis and are now Zirkonium.  The Thrashers had a similar path, but bad ownership led them to become the Jets.

I do not have any material for Zirkonium, as they formed about a month ago, so to that end, I will provide this teaser of Zirkonium:


And some Elis material:


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Capital Improvements

WASHINGTON CAPITALS

2011-12 record: 42-32-8 (92 points)
Lost to NY Rangers in Conference semi-finals
Captain: Alexander Ovechkin

The Capitals were heavy favorites to win the Stanley Cup at the beginning of the season.  Then, November rolled around, and they stunk so bad that Freshwave  was installed (read: Bruce Boudreau was canned for Dale Hunter, who then decided to take his puck and go home to London Knights).  On the dying days of the season, the Capitals barely snuck into the playoffs and knocked off Boston before succumbing to the Rangers in seven.  Offense was ordinary, as none of the premier weapons in Alexander Ovechkin, Niklas Backstrom, or Alex Semin had particularly good years.  Semin is now in Carolina, and now, it is up to Ovechkin and Backstrom to get back some of what they lost.  The blue line, long perceived as a strength, was anything but, as Mike Green missed most of the season and no one really stepped up.  This year will be Michal Neuvirth and Braden Holtby battling for the starting goaltender role, and Holtby has the advantage of being the one who has played well more recently.

Prediction: 6th in the East

Band: Korpiklaani

When Korpiklaani started out, they were the fresh, new thing in metal.  Now, you wonder if they will ever be anything more than a curiosity.  The Captials are hoping to be more than just a perpetual bridesmaid.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

New Goalie, Same Results?

Because I'll likely be away from the computer for much of the day tomorrow, you will get the preview for that day tonight.

VANCOUVER CANUCKS

2011-12 record: 51-22-9 (111 points)
Lost to Los Angeles in conference quarterfinals
Captain: Henrik Sedin

For the second year in a row, the Canucks were the President's Trophy winners.  However, that felt like less of an accomplishment than before, and those fears were founded in the opening round loss to Los Angeles.  These were clearly not the Canucks that were a win away from the Stanley Cup in 2011, and certainly, they won't be that team this coming season.  For one, Cory Schneider is now the starting goaltender, whether Roberto Luongo is there or not.  The jury is still out on whether trading away Cody Hodgson for Zack Kassian was a good idea, as Kassian certainly has the size and fight necessary, but does he have the discipline and motivation?  Not having Ryan Kesler for a month or two will be a big deal, as he hasn't been healthy since the 2011 playoffs, and his health is a major thing to look at if the Canucks wish to make a deep run again.  Defensively, Jason Garrison was brought in, and he will be counted on to be a younger version of Sami Salo, who left for Tampa Bay.  There is no real number one defenseman, but there are plenty of solid players in the group, but there is likely room for either Kevin Connauton or Chris Tanev to crack the lineup.  Offensively, good health willing, the Canucks will be secure in this area.

Prediction: 1st in the West

Band: Judas Priest

Judas Priest is near the top when it comes to heavy metal in all eras.  However, they are second (and possibly third) fiddle in their own country.  The Canucks are near the top, but have never reached the top.  Does that change this year?

And yes, I deliberately picked this video because what can I say, it's a guilty pleasure.

Leaf Burning

TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS

2011-12 record: 35-37-10 (80 points)
missed the playoffs
Captain: Dion Phaneuf

The Toronto Maple Leafs were on their way to the playoffs by the end of January.  Unfortunately, the season ends in April and when February reared its ugly head, the Maple Leafs reverted to their futile ways, from a losing streak that knocked them into New York Islanders territory to a lifeless 8-0 drubbing by Boston that would see the Bruins sweep that season series.  Ron Wilson was a casualty in all of this, and Randy Carlyle took his place.  Should the Maple Leafs miss the post-season again, it will be more than just the coach getting fired.  Getting there will be a harder climb, particularly when your goaltenders are James Reimer and Ben Scrivens...not exactly a winning combination.  On defense, there is the mercurial Dion Phaneuf, solid, if unspectacular Carl Gunnarson, and a bunch of question marks after that.  When the most likely call-up from the minors is a guy named Korbinan Holzer, you know your blue line has problems.  The top two lines are actually good, but lack a true number one center.  The fact that the Leafs are trying new acquisition James Van Riemsdyk at center tells you all you need to know about the team's problems.  In the interim, the wings in Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul, and Van Riemsdyk (if the center experiment fails) should provide some good offensive numbers.

Prediction: 14th in the East

Band: Iced Earth

Love them or hate them, Iced Earth is constantly in the discussion when it comes to metal bands most everyone is familiar with...and sometimes, it's for reasons other than music.  The Maple Leafs are a polarizing team that fans can't turn away from, even if the team is a train wreck waiting to happen.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Winterhawks Report: Week 2

This week, the Portland Winterhawks will be at home against Kelowna for two games.  Kelowna will be looking to do better this weekend than they did against arch rival Kamloops, who I firmly expect to be near the top of the British Columbia Division.  Kelowna has a lot to prove, but so does Portland, and I doubt the Rockets will have enough firepower to match the Winterhawks.  Next report will be Monday, and it will likely be the only report of the week, as I will be out in Portland (but not to see the Winterhawks, unfortunately, as they will be in Saskatchewan that weekend).

Striking Twice

TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

2011-12 record: 38-36-8 (84 points)
Missed the playoffs
Captain: Vincent Lecavalier

There is plenty of offense in Tampa, and Steven Stamkos leads the way.  What kept Tampa Bay from making the playoffs was goaltending, as in it was an epic kind of terrible.  Anders Lindback is a tall goalie, but will he be able to handle a full season?  The Lightning are banking on him fulfilling his potential because other than Mathieu Garon, the Lightning have no proven guys in goal.  Defensively, there is good depth, but it would be so much better if Victor Hedman takes that next step.  Stamkos is the man on offense, but he has a lot of help in Martin St. Louis and Teddy Purcell.  Secondary scoring would be nice, and that is where Brett Connolly could very well fit into the picture, as he didn't have such a good rookie year last year.

Prediction: 8th in the East

Band: Hammerfall

Hammerfall was the talk of the metal scene in their early days, but were rapidly exposed after about, say, their third album.  The Lightning are the talk of the NHL with their offensive prowess, but goaltending tempers all talk about them.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Searching for its Bite

SAN JOSE SHARKS

43-29-10 (96 points)
Lost to St. Louis in Conference quarterfinals
Captain: Joe Thornton

The story of the San Jose Sharks last season was that they fell considerably short of their usually high expectations.  A favorite for the Stanley Cup at the beginning of last season, they barely squeaked into the playoffs and were promptly disposed of by St. Louis in the opening round.  Most of their offensive stars suffered career lows, and their biggest problem, secondary scoring, was not addressed in the offseason.  It will be up to the likes of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, and Ryan Clowe to recoup some of that lost offense.  Martin Havlat was supposed to be a difference maker, but he couldn't even get over the boards without getting hurt.  A full season of good health will go a long way in his hopes for a rebound.  Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski had good years, but they shouldn't be your bell cows for offense just yet.  Defensively, there is depth, but not a lot of grit, something that the re-acquisition of Brad Stuart hopes to resolve.  Dan Boyle is on the wrong side of 35, and he saw a drop in offensive numbers, so it will be up to Brent Burns to be more of an offensive force.  Antti Niemi is alright as a starting goaltender, but if the Sharks hope to entertain a long run in the playoffs, he has to be better than what he is.

Prediction: 7th in the West

Band: Stratovarius

Stratovarius is often talked up to lofty heights, yet isn't quite what everyone says they are.  The Sharks are often pre-season favorites for Stanley Cup contention, but they fail to even reach the Finals.


First Weekend of the WHL

I said that I would try to do a wrap-up of the WHL action on Mondays and previews on Wednesdays.  However, since there are games on tomorrow, combined with the fact that I forgot to do a review yesterday, today is a combination of the two...sort of.  Tomorrow's games are Brandon welcomes Saskatoon, Edmonton goes to Lethbridge, and Regina takes on Swift Current while Thursday's game is Everett heads to Kennewick, WA to take on Tri-City.  As for last weekend's games, you know by now that much of the focus will be on the Winterhawks.  The home opener against Seattle wasn't very good, with the team dropping a 5-2 decision, but the Saturday and Sunday games proved to be kinder, as the Winterhawks won 6-2 against Seattle and 4-2 against Tri-City.  There are still some things to get fixed, such as the goaltending. You're not going to play well every night, but it is important to bounce back, as Brendan Burke did against Tri-City after getting shellacked by Seattle on Friday.  Nic Petan leads the league in scoring after one weekend, and unsurprisingly, three of the five at the top of the leaderboard are Winterhawks, with Petan, Troy Rutkowski, and Oliver Bjorkstrand making up that trio.  Ty Rattie is expected to be the best player for the Winterhawks this season, but he does need to play a little more under control, as he was benched by the WHL for Sunday's game for a crosscheck and game misconduct on Saturday.

Monday, September 24, 2012

We Got the Blues!

ST. LOUIS BLUES

2011-12 record: 49-22-11 (109 points)
Lost to Los Angeles in Conference semi-finals
Captain: David Backes

The Blues were heading to another year of no playoffs when they decided to make the coaching change, with Davis Payne out and Ken Hitchcock in.  The result was a division title and a two-headed goaltender system that worked to near perfection.  Whoever is starting, be it Brian Elliott or Jaroslav Halak, the Blues feel secure most nights.  Of course, the blue line could use some depth, but it's nice to have Alex Pietrangelo to build around, as he is pushing his way into Norris Trophy discussion in the near future.  Offensively, there is no real superstar, but Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz could be pushing for top six forward consideration.  David Backes is a perfect fit as captain, and David Perron should see his numbers spike with a full, healthy season.  T.J. Oshie was signed to an extension, and now would be the time for him to start playing to his full potential.  A bounce back season from Chris Stewart would be nice, too.

Prediction: 3rd in the West

Band: Swallow the Sun

Once thought to be a breakout candidate, Swallow the Sun is just now getting their recognition due, even if it came in an unusual manner.  The Blues had a similar breakthrough in a not-so-usual manner.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

March of the Penguins: the Sequel

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS

2011-12 record: 51-25-6 (108 points)
Lost to Philadelphia in Conference quarterfinals
Captain: Sidney Crosby

For a while last year, the Penguins were battling the New York Rangers for the Atlantic Division, and they figure to do so again this year.  However, the playoffs rolled around, and the Penguins folded faster than you could read this sentence.  The most obvious question mark is Sidney Crosby, who will have to show that he's fully over his concussion issues.  Yes, he is still a game changer, but he can't change the game from the press box.  Evgeni Malkin is the team's best player (until Crosby can prove he can play an entire season again), and the Hart Trophy is proof of that.  The team won't have Jordan Staal, as he was flipped for Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumolin, and a pick that became Derrick Pouliot.  The only real dropoff in that trade is one of talent, but Sutter will slide into the third line center role seamlessly.  Defense is an issue outside of Kris Letang, as evidenced by the team's pursuit of Ryan Suter.  Yes, there are prospects, but no truly proven commodities at this point.  Marc-Andre Fleury was great in the regular season, but he too, folded in the playoffs.  Too much time on the ice was part of the issue, and Tomas Vokoun should shoulder some of the load.

Prediction: 4th in the East

Band: Iced Earth

A lot people love Iced Earth, but a lot of people hate Iced Earth, too.  The Penguins are in a similar boat.


Saturday, September 22, 2012

Pha-Hoe-Nix

Before I get to today's team in the 2012-13 NHL Season Preview (lockout proof), I do have to address the 5-2 drubbing the Portland Winterhawks took against the Seattle Thunderbirds.  No one ever said it was going to be an easy road, and certainly, not having two of your best three offensive options is not good.  The goaltending will get better as the season goes on, but there are growing pains to get through, and I believe Brendan Burke will be good at the end of the year.  The blue line is a work in progress, but I think it, too, will be where it should be, and likely the best part of the team.  Now, that I'm done with my Winterhawks report, on to the NHL team:

PHOENIX COYOTES

2011-12 record: 42-27-13 (97 points)
Lost to Los Angeles in Conference Finals
Captain: Shane Doan

The Coyotes have been predicted to finish out of the playoffs in each of the last three years, and each year, they've made the playoffs.  This past season was undoubtedly their best yet, as they made the Conference Finals with Mike Smith in goal.  Yes, the same Mike Smith who couldn't stick as a starter in goalie-starved Tampa Bay.  It's about time we give due to the coaching staff, who has not only resurrected the career of a player, but also maximized the team's abilities.  It begins with Shane Doan, who will be finishing his career in Phoenix after signing a four year deal to remain with the team.  Radim Vrbata is the goal scorer on the team, but beyond that, it's scoring by committee, and Martin Hanzal and Mikkel Boedker are ready to take the next step after having their coming out party in the playoffs.  Defensively, there is a great deal of depth, with Brandon Gormley and David Rundblad likely having to fight for the last spot in the top six.  Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson are as good as it gets when starting the offense, but Ekman-Larsson is not too far from being the best of a solid group.

Prediction: 8th in the West

Band: Ancient Rites

A band that has been around for a while, Ancient Rites hasn't quite gotten the recognition they have deserved.  For a time, that changed in 2008.  The Coyotes are hoping that recognition lasts longer.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Opening Night in PDX

With the NHL on lockout (and me growing a lockout beard), plus my annual Portland trip upcoming, it's no coincidence that today is going to be about the WHL's Portland Winterhawks.  Tonight, they open at home against the Seattle Thunderbirds, and return Ty Rattie, Brendan Leipsic, Tyler Wotherspoon, and Derrick Pouliot, all of whom were drafted in the NHL Draft at some point.  Troy Rutkowski has been named captain, and given that he is one of the overagers, that leadership will be vital in reducing the impact of Sven Baertschi, Brad Ross, and Joe Morrow all graduating.  Brendan Burke will be the starting goaltender, replacing Mac Carruth, who also graduated this past season.

For WHL coverage this season, I will report on Monday to take a look back at the past weekend's games and on Wednesday to take a look at the upcoming games of the weekend.  Hopefully, I will stick to this schedule.  Of course, anything of significance that pertains to the Winterhawks will be covered, as well.

(Blue line) Help Wanted

PHILADELPHIA FLYERS

2011-12 record: 47-26-9 (103 points)
Lost to New Jersey in Conference semi-finals
Captain: TBD

The Flyers took it on the chin when it came to the health of their blue line, and that figures to be the case once again.  It began with Chris Pronger, who may have to retire (read: will retire), and it claimed Andrej Meszaros and Andreas Lilja this off-season, with Meszaros out for the year and Lilja missing the first two months of the season.  Is it any wonder why the Flyers tried to go after Shea Weber?  Their biggest acquisition was Luke Schenn, who will benefit from a change in scenery and the idea of playing alongside younger brother Brayden.  Brayden put up decent numbers, but he was hardly the focus of the Flyers' offense, as both Scott Hartnell and Claude Giroux emerged as the team leaders.  Daniel Briere can still be counted on for the clutch goals, and Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Jakub Voracek, Matt Read, and Sean Couturier give the Flyers assurance that their forward production will be good for years to come.  Ilya Bryzgalov is the starter, but one has to wonder if the Flyers will ever solve their goaltending problem.  Recent starting reject Michael Leighton is the backup, and no one really knows where Bryzgalov's head is when it comes to the big games.

Prediction: 5th in the East

Band: Burzum

Infamous for things other than the music, Burzum has been all over the place and no one really knows what is truth and what is not.  The Flyers are equally tough to figure out, and yet like Burzum, the Flyers still have their fans.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Centurians Reignited

OTTAWA SENATORS

2011-12 record: 41-31-10 (92 points)
Lost to New York Rangers in Conference quarterfinals
Captain: Daniel Alfredsson

Last year was supposed to be a rebuilding year for Ottawa.  However, something happened and now Ottawa has much higher expectations.  Yes, they will be without 30-goal scorer Milan Michalek to start the season as he recovers from surgery.  However, Jason Spezza remains, and he had the best season of his career to date, finishing fourth in the league in scoring.  Erik Karlsson also remains, and he only took home the Norris Trophy after leading all defensemen in scoring by 25 points.  Don't forget about Daniel Alfredsson, who rebounded nicely from a disappointing 2010-11 season to put up respectable numbers.  He is the face of the franchise, and is a player others gravitate towards.  Kyle Turris found a comfort zone in Ottawa, and it will be expected that he will take that next step forward, as will Zack Smith and Guillaume Latendresse.  Chris Neil and Chris Phillips are pillars on which the Senators have built their teams for years, and that figures to be the case again this season.  However, the Senators will need to shore up their defense, as 6-5 shootouts are not going to cut it every night.  Craig Anderson pulled out victories when there shouldn't have been one, but a 2.84 GAA is not championship material.

Prediction: 7th in the East

Band: Mago De Oz

There is never a dull moment with the Spanish folk metal band Mago De Oz.  Ottawa has similar moments, and it would be wise to play all 60 minutes against them.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

More WHL Previews

Saturday will be the day four teams open their WHL season.  Everett opens against Prince George and Spokane and Tri-City will play one another.  In the Everett vs. Prince George game, the Cougars will hope to find the offense that so often eluded them last season.  Everett didn't fare that much better on offense, but Ryan Murray will be a difference maker on the blue line if he has to stay in the WHL.  Tri-City was the U.S. Division Champion last year, but met a bitter defeat at the hands of the rival Portland Winterhawks.  They will be looking for redemption this year, but will do so without two of their top three scorers and goaltender Ty Rimmer, who was traded in the off-season.  Spokane was a distant third in the division, but they are a team not to be taken lightly.

Rave Reviews

NEW YORK RANGERS

2011-12 record: 51-24-7 (109 points)
Lost to New Jersey in Conference Finals
Captain: Ryan Callahan

The 2011-12 season was almost the smash hit the Rangers were hoping for, but cross-river rivals New Jersey ruined the ending.  This year, the Rangers are once again the prohibitive favorite to come out of the Eastern Conference.  No Marian Gaborik for a month?  No problem, as the Rangers have Rick Nash at the expense of Brandong Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, and Tim Erixon, all of which were expendable by Rangers' standards.  The middle is quite strong, with Brad Richards, Derek Stepan, and Brian Boyle manning the top three lines.  Nash, Gaborik (when he returns from injury), Ryan Callahan, Carl Hagelin, and rookie Chris Kreider make for an equally strong wing.  Despite losing Erixon, the Rangers are still good on depth on the blue line, as Ryan McDonagh has emerged as a solid option.  Dan Girardi sets the tone with his shot blocking prowess, and Marc Staal and Michael Del Zotto are the table setters for the forwards.  A solid blue line is not wasted thanks to Henrik Lundqvist, who was finally recognized as the best goaltender last year with a Vezina Trophy, and he finally put most of the "can't perform in the playoffs" voices to bed with his performance last year.

Prediction: 1st in the East

Band: Blind Guardian

Blind Guardian is a lot of flash, but it is the not so noticeable quirks that make up their staying power, which has lasted for a while.  The Rangers hope for a similar length of success, and they have all the tools to make it happen.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Journey to the Ed Chynoweth Cup

The journey to the Ed Chynoweth Cup begins in earnest on Friday, as most of the Western Hockey League teams will being play on that day.  I already covered the Thursday game, which will feature the last two Ed Chynoweth winners in Edmonton and Kootenay.  Today, I will take a look at one game from the Friday schedule, and if you've been reading this blog for a while or know me very well, you know which game I have my eye on.

The Portland Winterhawks will attempt to go for a third straight appearance in the WHL Finals this year, and their season begins at home against the hated Seattle Thunderbirds.  The Winterhawks will have leading scorer Ty Rattie and Penguins' first round pick from 2012 Derrick Pouliot.  The blue line provides some promise, as rookie Keoni Texiera and Seth Jones are the players to watch.  How the Winterhawks replace Sven Baertschi's offensive numbers will go a long way in determining if the Winterhawks will challenge for the Cup again.  On the other end of the spectrum, the Thunderbirds were dreadful in just about every way possible.  Their defense has no where to go but up after giving up the second most goals in the Conference and their offense sure could use a boost, as well.  Calvin Pickard is gone, so the goaltending competition will be one to watch.

If the Pacific Northwest rivalry isn't your game, there's always Kelowna vs. Kamloops, Medicine Hat vs. Lethbridge, Swift Current vs. Moose Jaw, Saskatoon vs. Prince Albert, Regina vs. Brandon, Calgary vs. Red Deer, and Victoria vs. Vancouver on that day.

Stranded Again

NEW YORK ISLANDERS

2011-12 record: 34-37-11 (79 points)
missed the playoffs
Captain: Mark Streit

If not for the tragic comedy in Montreal, the Islanders would have finished dead last in the conference.  Offense is not the problem, as John Tavares and Matt Moulson lead the way.  It would be nice if Michael Grabner, Josh Bailey, and Kyle Okposo found their offensive games more consistently, though.  Once we get past the forwards, things get incredibly dicey, as Mark Streit is the only real spark plug on the offensive side of the blue line.  The problem is he's not much in his own end.  Adding Lubomir Visnovsky will help the offense, but not in their own end much.  The best option in their own end is Andrew MacDonald.  Beyond that, they'll have to make do with a bunch that is not ready for primetime.  After all, there was a reason the Islanders drafted all defensemen in this past year's draft.  Evgeni Nabokov is solid in net, even if he is no longer the player he was in San Jose.  Kevin Poulin will likely get the first starts when (yes, I said when) Rick DiPietro suffers his annual injury.

Prediction: 15th in the East

Band: The Kovenant

Once a band on the rise, they changed their name and saw their sound go in a different direction.  They have not been heard from since 2003.  The Islanders were once a dynasty, but fell off dramatically in the mid-90s.  They have not sniffed the playoffs since 2007.


Monday, September 17, 2012

WHL Season

And because the lockout is ongoing in the NHL, I will remain committed to hockey (after all, this is a predominantly hockey blog, as the name suggests), so in an effort to expand horizons, I will attempt to cover the Western Hockey League happenings (hopefully without bias).  This week, the Edmonton Oil Kings will begin the defense of their Ed Chynoweth Trophy on Thursday against the 2011 Ed Chynoweth Trophy winners in the Kootenay Ice.  Laurent Brossoit, Martin Gernat, and Griffin Reinhart are the backbone of a defense that was very good on the way to dominating the Eastern Conference.  Michael St. Croix was the leading scorer last season, and he will return to lead an offense that led the Conference in goals scored.  A full season of Henrik Samuelsson will improve the team's toughness up front.

Kootenay will be looking to improve an offense that fell off the map last season.  If the team is looking to improve its offense, Sam Reinhart (Griffin's younger brother) will be the guy to lead them.  He looks like a lock to do so, and will likely be a first round pick in the 2013 NHL draft.

Rebuilding Hell

NEW JERSEY DEVILS

2011-12 record: 48-28-6 (102 points)
Lost to Los Angeles in Stanley Cup Finals
Captain: TBD

How fast can one team go from the penthouse to the outhouse?  Well, that is the story of the New Jersey Devils's summer.  As of June 1, they were competing for the Stanley Cup.  However, as July reared its ugly head, the Devils were smarting from a Stanley Cup defeat at the hands of the Kings and on July 4, they lost Zach Parise to the Wild.  At least they still have Martin Brodeur and Ilya Kovalchuk.  While Brodeur is firmly entrenched as the starting goaltender, there is still no clear cut future starter, as evidenced by Johan Hedberg's two year deal (the same as Brodeur's deal).  Kovalchuk will have to shoulder more of the load without Parise, but last year was his best overall year yet, as he played a more complete game than in years past.  Adam Henrique looks like a future star with the Devils, and the team has Travis Zajac healthy and Jacob Josefson (2009) and Mattias Tedenby (2008) are eager to validate their first round status.  On defense, Adam Larsson has potential, but suffered the typical rookie troubles.  Those were largely masked by a defense that features the likes of Bryce Salvador and Anton Volchenkov.

Prediction: 11th in the East

Band: Theatre of Tragedy

In the beginning, the band had some major success.  A sudden change in style led to a downturn and a change in vocals.  The new vocalist provided a brief spark, but nothing really came of it as the band would disband in 2010.  The Devils are experiencing a similar fate, minus the splitting up part.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Singing a Different Tune

As you know, the NHL owners have locked out the players in what is the third such labor stoppage in the last 20 years.  However, this blog will continue the 2012-13 NHL season preview as planned.  I devote a month of this blog to actually doing something, and it is not about to end now.  Now that we're clear on the state of this blog this month, let's get to the next team.

NASHVILLE PREDATORS

2011-12 record: 48-26-8 (104 points)
Lost to Phoenix in the Conference semi-finals
Captain: Shea Weber

The Predators will certainly look different this year, as they lost the sandpaper in Jordin Tootoo, a large backup goalie in Anders Lindback, a talented, but enigmatic Alexander Radulov, and one half of their shutdown pair in Ryan Suter.  At least there's still Pekka Rinne and Shea Weber.  The Predators are a team with an identity and as long as both are still around (which will be at least another seven years), the Predators are still a playoff contender.  There are a bunch of other defensemen that are looking to establish themselves, and with Suter gone, this is their best opportunity yet. Offense is by-committee, and Patric Hornqvist is the best option of that group.  Mike Fisher and Martin Erat also lead the charge in this department, but look for Gabriel Bourque to emerge as a new option.

Prediction: 6th in the West

Band: Widow

The Raleigh, NC band has a habit of surprising with fairly straightforward traditional power metal that just works.  Nashville has had the same system since their inaugural season, and it is not about to change...and that's a good thing.



Saturday, September 15, 2012

Climbing Out of the Basement

Before getting to today's team, yes, I am aware that the lockout will happen if something doesn't surface by the end of tonight.  However, this blog will continue with the preview, as I'm halfway through and have no intention of stopping over a labor disupte (read: I don't do it for the money).
MONTREAL CANADIENS

2011-12 record: 31-35-16 (78 points)
missed the playoffs
Captain: Brian Gionta

It's hard to imagine having a team with such a storied history like the Canadiens could have the circus that it did last year in a year that saw them dead last in the conference.  From the coaching debacles to the general manager follies to "being bi, but not lingual," the Canadiens had enough material for a soap opera.  The offense was practically non-existent, with the top line of David Desharnais, Max Pacioretty, and Erik Cole being the primary options there.  Mid-season acquisition Rene Bourque (acquired in one of those GM follies) did virtually nothing in Montreal.  Part of the problem has been the lack of toughness, something the team tried to address with the pick-ups of Brandon Prust and Colby Armstrong.  The blue line does indeed have talent, but it's time for PK Subban to finally become the player the Canadiens thought they were getting and for Andrei Markov to be healthy again.  Tomas Kaberle showed instances of being the guy that was the number one option in Toronto, and given that he is a second pairing player on the Canadiens, expect some improvement in his numbers that fell off horribly in Boston and Carolina.  Carey Price was far and away, the best player on the team, and he did well despite not having a lot of help in front of him.

Prediction: 13th in the East

Band: Alcest

Alcest fills the French speaking quota here, and given the province of Quebec and the zeal in which their people upholding the French-speaking quota, I should expect no complaint letters here.



Friday, September 14, 2012

Northern Lights

MINNESOTA WILD

2011-12 record: 35-36-11 (81 points)
missed the playoffs
Captain: Mikko Koivu

The Wild were strong out of the gate last season, but had a falling off the cliff moment that only the Boston Red Sox would know about.  It looked like more of the same in the offseason, but all of that changed on America's birthday.  Yes, they added toughness when they signed Zenon Konopka, Jake Dowell, and Torrey Mitchell.  However, all of that toughness will be protecting the newest stars in Minnesota in Zach Parise and Ryan Suter.  Parise adds offense to a team that should not be having Kyle Brodziak as their second leading scorer (no offense to Mr. Brodziak).  Yes, Mikko Koivu missed time to injury, but Dany Heatley does need to register more than 24 goals if he hopes to revive his career.  Suter gives the Wild an instant number one defenseman, and given the relative inexperience of the blue line, Suter will be leaned on heavily to be the rock on that line.  Goaltending has suffered, but the bet here is that Nicklas Backstrom and Josh Harding will return to some semblance of their career years.

Prediction: 4th in the West

Band: Primal Fear

One thought of as a mere Judas Priest ripoff, Primal Fear would eventually find their own identity.  The Wild have been searching for their identity since the Jacques Lemaire days, and they're hoping the Parise/Suter signings will help in that regard.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Defending the Crown

LOS ANGELES KINGS

2011-12 record: 40-27-15 (95 points)
Won the Stanley Cup
Captain: Dustin Brown


The Kings got into the playoffs in the dying days of the regular season, yet were the last team standing at the end of the playoffs.  What happened, you ask?  They found some offense, Jonathan Quick turned into the next Great American Goalie, and the defense proved just as stout.  For much of the season, the Kings could not find offense from anyone not named Anze Kopitar.  A mid-season pickup of Jeff Carter helped set things in motion, as he, Dustin Brown, and Kopitar led the team in playoff goals with eight.  The Drew Doughty that looked like a future star in 2009-10 returned in the playoffs, and the rest of the blue line looks solid today and tomorrow, even after trading away Jack Johnson for Carter.  The Kings lost no one of significance, nor did they gain anyone of significance, meaning the team believes that they have the right chemistry to repeat.


Prediction: 2nd in the West

Band: Witch Mountain

A band that seemingly has come from nowhere to grab the listeners' attention, Witch Mountain has expectations now that more people know about them, and to this point, they have met every single one.  The Kings are facing higher expectations, and safe money says they will meet them.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sun Shines Once Again

FLORIDA PANTHERS

2011-12 record: 38-26-18 (94 points)
Lost to New Jersey in Conference quarterfinals
Captain: TBD

After years of futility, one that saw them miss the playoffs for the entire decade of the 2000's, the Florida Panthers went on a spending spree like no other last offseason.  The result?  A division title and a playoff berth.  This year, there is no spending spree, but the team is relevant again and they figure to once again be in a dog fight in the Southeast Division.  Tomas Fleischmann and Kris Versteeg were part of the free-agency haul and they paid the most dividends, teaming with Stephen Weiss to be the top line on the team.  Brian Campbell, a salary dump of the Blackhawks, ended up being the blue line spark plug the Panthers have long sought, and though Jason Garrison moved to Vancouver, he won't have too much of a drop-off in production, as Filip Kuba figures to slide into that spot.  Kuba will benefit from Campbell in the same manner he did while having Erik Karlsson as a partner in Ottawa.  Goaltending looks decent now with Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen, but will look even better in the future with Jacob Markstrom waiting for his opportunity.  The Panthers have young players, but now can afford to let them develop while the veterans play.  If you're looking for a wild card in all of this, it is the Roberto Luongo cloud that hovers over them, as he has expressed desire to be traded there.

Prediction: 9th in the East

Band: Obituary

I could have picked any death metal band from Florida for this spot.  No, I do not have a real connection between the band and the Panthers other than they're from Florida.



Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Striking for Oil

EDMONTON OILERS

2011-12 Record: 32-40-10 (74 points)
missed the playoffs
Captain: Shawn Horcoff

For three straight years, the Oilers have stunk up the joint, and for three straight years, they have had the number one overall pick in the NHL Draft.  Front line help is not the issue, as Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Jordan Eberle are already making an impact.  Throw in hot prospect Nail Yakupov and the Oilers look like they want to recreate the run 'n' gun of the 1980's Oilers squad.  So, why have the Oilers not been as good in recent years?  One needs to only look at the blue line and see that the team needs a lot of help, and the top prospects there are still a year away from contributing regularly.  The wild card of this group is Justin Schultz, the top free agent this offseason who has not played an NHL game, yet because he did not sign with Anaheim after leaving Wisconsin, was allowed to sign anywhere.  If Schultz lives up to the hype, the Oilers will go a long way to solving some of their blue line problems.  Goaltending is another issue, as it is still largely unknown if Devan Dubnyk is the answer.  Yes, he put up good numbers, but that was only 47 games, and now that he will likely play 60 games, will he be the same player or better?

Prediction: 13th in the West


Band: Månegarm

A band that has a lot of potential, yet remains largely unknown.  A new label in Napalm Records will hopefully change that.  The Oilers have potential, but still need that one element to get over the top.  Where they will get the element remains to be seen.



Monday, September 10, 2012

Failure to Launch

DETROIT RED WINGS

2011-12 record: 48-28-6
Lost to Nashville in Conference quarterfinals
Captain: TBD


In the time since Detroit was last seen on the ice, Nicklas Lidstrom retired, Brad Stuart went to San Jose, Columbus refused to trade Rick Nash to them, and Zach Parise and Ryan Suter spurned them for Minnesota.  So, how did Detroit get better in the offseason, you ask?  Their best signings were Mikael Samuelsson, who can pot 30 goals when healthy (something he has not been the last two seasons), and Jordin Tootoo, who provides much needed sandpaper to a team that needs it.  Make no mistake, there is still offense, as Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk are still around, but they are also on the wrong side of 30.  Even without Jiri Hudler, who took the money in Calgary, the offense is the least of the team's problems, though the fact that they were kicking the tires on Nash and Parise suggests that there is never enough.  Goaltending is also not an issue, as Jimmy Howard made his first All-Star appearance last year.  However, he does need to find consistency, as his playoff numbers aren't exactly that great, and given that he will be working behind a considerably weaker blue line, he will need to step his game up even more.  Speaking of the blue line, Niklas Kronwall is the team's best defenseman, but like Howard, consistency will have to come sooner than later.  It's time that the likes of Jakub Kindl and Brendan Smith make their marks because the team lacks depth, and having either or both be the guy that was drafted in the first round (Kindl in 2005 and Smith in 2007) would go a long way in shoring up the blue line problems.

Prediction: 9th in the West

Band: Dark Tranquillity

A model of consistency for a large period of time, Dark Tranquillity hit a pothole with the 2010 release We are the Void.  Detroit did not miss a playoff appearance in the 20 years that Lidstrom played for them.  This coming season just might be that pothole.



Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Touch of Gray

DALLAS STARS

2011-12 Record: 42-35-5 (89 points)
missed the playoffs
Captain: Brenden Morrow

The Dallas Stars are a team on the rise, yet there is something missing that will take them over the top.  Last year, it was offense, as evidenced by the team's last place finish on the Power Play.  This year, it may very well be the toughness category.  To shore up their offense, the Stars got Derek Roy at the cost of Steve Ott and Adam Pardy, Jaromir Jagr and Ray Whitney in free agency, and Cody Eakin at the cost of Mike Ribiero.  Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson are the team's returning leaders on offense and Michael Ryder is a good player that may be most affected by the Ribiero trade.  The blue line is respectable, but lacks a true number one, yet the group looks better with Kari Lehtonen being the man in goal.  He does need to stay healthy, but Richard Bachman is a capable backup.  Losing Ott means that Brenden Morrow will have to shoulder the load in the grit department.

Prediction: 11th in the West

Band: White Wizzard

White Wizzard has a lot of potential, but suffered some setbacks along the way.  Dallas is in the same boat as the Los Angeles-based metal band.



Saturday, September 8, 2012

Starting Over

CLOUMBUS BLUE JACKETS

2011-12 Record: 29-46-7 (65 points)
missed the playoffs
Captain: TBD

The story of the 2011-12 Blue Jackets was one of horror, as the acquisitions of James Wisniewski and Jeff Carter did not pan out, and Carter was shipped out midseason for Jack Johnson.  While Johnson has firmly put himself in position to lead the team this coming season, Carter would rediscover happiness on the way to a Stanley Cup with Los Angeles.  The Rick Nash trade rumors also dogged the team late in the season, and he eventually got sent to the Rangers in the off-season.  Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov will be looking to establish themselves in Columbus after being the return in the Nash trade.  Offense was a major issue last season, and it doesn't look like it will change.  Their defense, namely goal, was also terrible, and the Blue Jackets will likely ask Sergei Bobrovsky to be their long-term answer in goal.  The blue line is now the team's strength, with Johnson leading the way and Ryan Murray likely figuring into the teams plans soon.

Prediction: 15th in the West

Band: ReVamp

ReVamp is the project of ex-After Forever vocalist Floor Jansen, who made her mark with the band.  ReVamp is a different band looking to establish an identity all their own.  The Blue Jackets are looking to do the same after their long time face of the franchise was traded.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Snowed In

Before I get to today's team in the 2012-13 NHL season preview, I would like for everyone to take a moment of silence to remember those lost in last year's plane crash that claimed the lives of the Yaroslavl Lokomotiv players, coaches, and most of the plane's crew.

COLORADO AVALANCHE

2011-12 Record: 41-35-6 (88 points)
missed the playoffs
Captain: Gabriel Landeskog

The Avalanche are a team that is still growing into their roles.  Now, with Landeskog being named captain, the team will definitely have some more growing pains.  Landeskog acquitted himself quite well, showing a maturity beyond his nineteen years on the way to a Calder Trophy.  Matt Duchene saw his numbers fall off a little, and it will be expected that he will increase his scoring totals.  The blue line is led by Erik Johnson, but it is now or never for the former first overall pick.  He hasn't been a bust, but compared to fellow 2006 first rounders in Jonathan Toews, Jordan Staal, and Niklas Backstrom, he hasn't justified the pick as much.  PA Parenteau was the team's big signing, and while it will remain to be seen if his numbers last season was the product of being on the same line as John Tavares, he will certainly be a help to Duchene's success this season.  Goaltending is still a sore spot, but the team is confident that Semyon Varlamov will build off his second half, where he played well down the stretch.  Jean-Sebatsien Giguere figures to play 20-25 games as a backup.

Prediction: 14th in the West

Band: Turisas

A band with so much promise, Turisas laid an egg with Stand Up and Fight.  The Avs looked like they were going to be moving up after a 2009-10 season that saw them make the playoffs.  They too, laid an egg the following season and would lay another egg last season.



Thursday, September 6, 2012

Concussed

CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

2011-12 Record: 45-26-11 (101 points)
Lost to Phoenix in Conference quarterfinals
Captain: Jonathan Toews

Last season's Blackhawks were a shell of the team that won the Stanley Cup in 2010.  They were also not the gritty team that nearly made the 3-0 playoff deficit turn in their favor in 2011.  Offense was never the problem, though Jonathan Toews missed time with a concussion issue, Patrick Kane had career lows in scoring since his rookie year, and Marian Hossa was concussed by a Raffi Torres hit in the playoffs.  Defense, namely goaltending, was a major issue, and it reared its ugly head when Corey Crawford let in some soft goals in the playoffs.  Special teams also took a nose dive, as the Blackhawks ranked in the bottom third in both the power play and penalty kill.  The Blackhawks didn't add much, with only Sheldon Brookbank joining the Blackhawks this season, so much of the team's success this year will have to be dependent on bounce-back seasons from players such as Crawford and Kane and recovery from injuries by the likes of Toews and Hossa.  On the positive side, expect no less than two prospects to make an impact this year, as Brandon Saad and Brandon Pirri will likely make the team out of training camp and Phillip Danault and Mark McNeill could join sometime during the season.

Prediction: 5th in the West

Band: The Atlas Moth

Much like the Chicago-based doom metal band, the Blackhawks' season was not pretty.  However, there is still talent and it will work somehow.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Remembering Lokomotiv...One Year Later

As the anniversary of the plane crash that claimed the lives of the entire Yaroslavl Lokomotiv team nears, this piece will not only remember those lost in the crash, but also take a look at the players and coaches that will make up this squad for the 2012-13 KHL season.

On the morning of September 7, as I was having my morning coffee, something came up on the screen announcing the news that the plane carrying members of the Lokomotiv team had crashed.  They were en route to Belarus to play Dynamo Minsk, and some members of the junior squad had also made the trip.  Among those lost on that fateful day include Stefan Liv (backup goalie on the 2006 Swedish Olympic team that won gold), Karlis Skrastins (one-time holder of the NHL Iron Man record for most games played), Ruslan Salei (NHL veteran who played in Anaheim, Colorado, Florida, and Detroit), Josef Vasicek (Stanley Cup champion with Carolina in 2006), Pavol Demitra (Slovakian hero in the 2010 Olympics and good NHL career), Brad McCrimmon (long time NHL defenseman who was to have started his head coaching career with Lokomotiv), Igor Korolev (associate coach that played in the NHL), and Alexander Karpovtsev (Stanley Cup champion with the Rangers in 1994).  The tragedy affected many of the teams in the NHL, as at one point, those lost had either played for or were associated with the teams.  Many tributes were done for the team as Lokomotiv would eventually sit out the 2011-12 season.

The 2012-13 season will see the return of Lokomotiv, and certainly, emotions will run high.  Tom Rowe will be coaching the team, and one-time NHL players such as Curtis Sanford, Viktor Kozlov, Sami Lepisto, and Niklas Hagman will be headlining the roster.  The road back to the championship won't be easy, ask CSKA recently acquired their ace-in-the-hole in Alexander Radulov, but just getting back on the ice will be a championship in itself for Lokomotiv, and the KHL will be whole again as it sees all of its teams back on the ice.  The emotional healing will be a long one, but getting on the ice and playing the first game is a big step in that healing.

A tribute from Dynamo Minsk days after the crash:




Blowing the Door Down

CAROLINA HURRICANES

2011-12 record: 33-33-16 (82 points)
missed the playoffs
Captain: Eric Staal

Things could not have started worse for the Hurricanes last season, as they not only stumbled out of the gate, but they also canned Paul Maurice.  Under Kirk Muller's direction, the Hurricanes made strides, but it wasn't enough to squeak into the playoffs.  This offseason, the Hurricanes decided to take some major steps in improving the team.  Beginning with the NHL Draft, the 'Canes traded away dependable center Brandon Sutter, prospect Brian Dumolin, and the eighth overall pick that would turn out to be Derrick Pouliot to Pittsburgh.  Carolina didn't do so bad in this trade because in return, they got Jordan Staal, who will be given every opportunity to be the superstar center that he was not about to be in Pittsburgh.  As a bonus, he will likely be on a line with Eric Staal, so expectations for both will be high, and both look like they're up to the challenge.  The wild card of the offense is Alexander Semin, and Carolina is waging $7 million that he will produce this year.  Carolina did well to lock up Tim Gleason, Tuomo Ruutu, and Jeff Skinner to extensions, which means the core of the team will be around for some time barring trades.  The blue line needs improvement, and certainly, Justin Faulk did well.  However, Joni Pitkanen needs to step up his game and Joe Corvo needs to prove that his game really does work in Carolina like the last two times he's been in Hurricane colors.  Cam Ward's numbers are slightly deceiving, as he did have to play behind a porous blue line.  He is the team's rock in goal, and he has proven durable the last two years.

Prediction: 3rd in East

Band: Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost had some success early on, but fell off a bit in the middle of their career.  In recent years, they have experienced a resurgence of sorts in their success.  Carolina hopes replicate it this coming season.



Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Searching for a Spark

CALGARY FLAMES

2011-12 record: 37-29-16 (90 points)
missed the playoffs
Captain: Jarome Iginla

Against better judgement, the Flames have always tried to get pieces to compliment Jarome Iginla and Miikkaa Kiprusoff in order to make a push for the playoffs.  Often done at the expense of a youth movement, the same will hold true this coming season, as once again, it will be Iginla, Kiprusoff, and a bunch of others.  Midseason acquisition Mike Cammalleri played well for the Flames and will look to build on those numbers this season.  The blue line hasn't been great when it comes to generating offense, nor do they have a true shutdown guy.  Newcomer Dennis Wideman will at least provide the former.  Losing Olli Jokinen to the Jets will hurt the team down the middle, but the Flames are banking on KHL import Roman Cervenka to fill some of that void.  It's time for Mikael Backlund, Leland Irving, and Greg Nemisz to make their mark in the NHL, but none of them look ready for that everyday role.  One player that is ready for a full-time NHL role is ex-Portland Winterhawk Sven Baertschi, who impressed in a five game call up last year.

Prediction: 12th in the West

Band: Alestorm

Like the Scottish band, the Flames are often seeking the quickest way to get where they want to go, often to mixed results.



Monday, September 3, 2012

Gritting it Out

BUFFALO SABRES

2011-12 record: 39-32-11 (89 points)
Missed the playoffs
Captain: Jason Pominville

Pominville led the team in scoring in his first year as captain of the Sabres.  An under-appreciated member of the team, he has also been one of the most consistent players on the team since the lockout.  Ryan Miller got off to a slow start last year, and his getting run over by Milan Lucic exposed the team as a rather soft team.  Miller got better as the season progressed, but he will have to find his 2009-10 form if the Sabres wish to make the playoffs this year.  Speaking of soft, the Sabres lost Derek Roy to the Dallas Stars, but got back super pest Steve Ott in return.  Ott essentially replaces Paul Gaustad in terms of defensive ability, but he also adds an element of toughness and will make it harder for opposing teams to push the Sabres around.  The blue line has many questions, and certainly, having a more consistent effort from Tyler Myers would help.  Christian Ehrhoff also needs a bounce back season,  as his numbers dropped in his first year in Buffalo.  A lot of Sabres had their numbers drop off last year, and the Sabres would love for most of them to trend upward this season.

Prediction: 10th in the East

Band: Children of Bodom

Often accused of having a lot of flash, but not a lot of substance, the Finnish quintet somehow still makes a fair share of fans.  The Sabres recently addressed the substance issue and look forward to moving up in the Eastern Conference



Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Same, but Different

BOSTON BRUINS

2011-12 record: 49-29-4 (102 points)
Lost to Washington in Conference quarterfinals
Captain: Zdeno Chara

Boston uses a scoring by committee approach when it comes to offense, as evidenced by six players scoring at least 20 goals last year.  Tyler Seguin led the team in scoring with 67 points, and he hasn't even touched the surface of his full potential.  He's entering his third year, and you figure the training wheels will come off for him.  80 points is not unreasonable for him this coming season.  One notable change in the Bruins lineup will be in goal, where Tim Thomas decided to skip the 2012-13 season.  That leaves Tuukka Rask as the starter, and while he has done well when he has played, he has also been injury prone.  If he is unable to play 65 games this season, the experience behind him is woefully thin.  The X-factor in the Bruins lineup is one Nathan Horton, who is good for 30 goals a season...if he is healthy, and that is where the problem lies.  Horton hasn't been able to stay on the ice for prolonged periods of time since the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals, and it is uncertain whether he will get back to that level since he has received another concussion last season.  Don't be surprised if Dougie Hamilton is given the Tyler Seguin treatment this year.  He will likely crack the Bruins' opening night roster, and given the depth on the blue line, the Bruins will not have to rush Hamilton in the same manner that they didn't have to rush Seguin in his rookie year.  Tim Thomas' hiatus makes the Bruins' goaltending situation a little less certain, as he provided moments of dominance the last few years.  Rask can play, but there will always be that question of health.

Prediction: 2nd in the East

Band: Iron Maiden (Blaze Bayley era)

A familiar classic, but something seems a little bit off.


Saturday, September 1, 2012

All Quacked Up

The 2012-13 NHL season preview will be happening this month, and today is the first step in what will undoubtedly be a long journey for this blog.

ANAHEIM DUCKS

Record: 34-36-12
Missed the playoffs
Captain: Ryan Getzlaf

The Ducks' season last year got off to a horrible start, and Randy Carlyle was they fall guy.  In stepped Bruce Boudreau, who himself took the fall for the Capitals' November swoon.  A late run was not enough for them to make the playoffs.  This is still Teemu Selanne's team, as he led the team in scoring with 66 points.  Those are good numbers, but when you see that both Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf fell off, it looks not so good.  Both Perry and Getzlaf are in the final year of their respective contracts, but the pressure will be more on Getzlaf, as his numbers have dropped since being given the Captain's C.  Cam Fowler is an offensive dynamo on the blue line, but his -28 suggests that he needs defensive improvement.  Bryan Allen was brought in for size and prowess in his own end, and he could be paired with Fowler.  Both could benefit by playing with one another.  Part of the movement on the blue line cost the Ducks Lubomir Visnovsky (pending his situation with the Islanders), and he will be missed for his offense.  He will not be missed for his penchant of missing a few games due to injury (he only had one healthy season in the last five years).  Goaltending looks like a gaping hole if Jonas Hiller doesn't stay healthy for 60 games.  Viktor Fasth is a wild card here, as few in North America have seen him play.

Prediction: 10th in the West

Band: Opeth

Much like the Swedish prog-metal band, Anaheim hit their success fairly early in their career.  Also like the band, Anaheim hasn't found that formula for sustained success since the high point...at least, according to the critics.