Last season the Washington Capitals began a campaign to reinvent their team as a stingy defensive unit rather than a high-flying offensive one. With key blueliner Mike Green returning from injury, as well as the addition of goaltender Tomas Vokoun, the transformation should be much more evident this year. Look for Washington to battle Boston and Pittsburgh for conference supremacy.
Tampa Bay will always have a chance to win when they can put Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis on the ice at the same time. While this may be the league’s top scoring duo, goalkeeper Dwayne Roloson showed Boston in the playoffs that his best days may be in the past. At 42 years old, it is possible that he faces a more prolonged regression this season, which could severely hurt the Lightning’s chances.
With a glistening new championship ring, veteran defenseman Tomas Kaberle should bring leadership and experience to a young Carolina squad. Kaberle’s play fizzled out a bit over the course of the playoffs last season, but his addition should help the Hurricanes earn a playoff berth.
Fans in Winnipeg are ecstatic about the return of the Jets, and will likely turn up in droves at the start of the season. The new sweaters look great, and the city has been itching for a team ever since the Jets last left in 1996. Amidst all this excitement, however, it is easy to forget that last year this was an Atlanta Thrashers team that barely played .500 hockey.
In Florida, there is still little hope for either reaching the postseason or generating even minute interest in a hockey-apathetic region. The Panthers have missed the playoffs for 10 straight years, and it would take a minor miracle for them to avoid making it 11.