Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Scouting the Enemy: Southeast Division

Again, reverse predicted order of finish for the not-quite-weakest-but-close Southeast.

Florida Panthers
Notable additions: Kris Versteeg via trade, Tomas Fleischmann, Jose Theodore, Ed Jovanovski, Brian Campbell via trade
Notable losses: Tomas Vokoun, Rostislav Olesz via trade
Outlook: losing streak away from lottery

I think of Dale Tallon's handiwork in Florida this way: downgrading from Vokoun to Theodore is about twenty goals lost, going by GVT. I think their additions will make that up, as Versteeg and Campbell are worth more than half that combined, but their net improvement isn't much.

Season series gameplan: just make sure one offensive star, minimum, is both producing at that point in the season and gets away from the vastly underrated shutdown pair of Garrison and Weaver.

Playoff series gameplan: I'm not really sure one is needed. Just the standard stuff will result in a sweep for Washington.

Winnipeg Jets
Notable additions: Eric Fehr via trade
Notable losses: Brent Sopel
Outlook: miss playoffs

The Atlanta Thrashers last season were a poor possession team who overachieved for the first half of the season, in my mind. Andrew Ladd is a solid all-around player, but aside from him up front Winnipeg is pretty thin. On the blueline, Dustin Byfuglien should have more trouble finding success joining the rush as teams wisen up to that tactic, as they did with Mike Green after 08-09. Zach Bogosian is starting to look like he'll end up as unfulfilled potential, and Ondrej Pavelec needs more than one good season to convince me that he's the real deal.

Season series gameplan: slow the game down. Winnipeg has more than enough depth with regards to puck-moving defensemen and too much of Byfuglien, Enstrom, and company joining the attack will lead to Jets victories.

Playoff series gameplan: um...don't let Evander Kane burn the team again. Keeping Ovechkin away from Ladd should help a'plenty as well.

Carolina Hurricanes
Notable additions: Tomas Kaberle, Brian Boucher, Alexei Ponikarovsky
Notable losses: Joe Corvo, Erik Cole
Outlook: borderline playoff team

That list of additions and subtractions should explain my prognostication for this team. They downgraded from Corvo to Kaberle, upgraded to backup goalie Boucher, and Ponikarovsky is a great tough minutes player who won't replace Cole's offense. Net, give some room for growth to guys like Sutter, McBain, and Skinner and I think they'll be a little better but still a reliable tough minutes forward and defenseman short. By my count I got three and one, respectively, which is just too little.

Season series gameplan: just control the puck. The way Carolina is going to win is with their forwards controlling the game down low. Lose some of the riskier plays in lieu of safer ones. This is a little tough to execute considering the speed of Hurricanes forwards, but with five defensemen I trust withandling the puck I think the Capitals will be alright.

Playoff series gameplan: again, methodical puck possession. It's important not to let Cam Ward get hot, too, so quality over quantity.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Notable additions: none
Notable looses: Sean Bergenheim
Outlook: playoff team

Tampa Bay was the fourth best team in the East last year by score-tied Fenwick%, behind Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and New Jersey. I can't see them having such poor performance in net again, and improvement in performance there--which doesn't have to come from better personnel, just better luck--should offset, roughly, decline from Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St Louis, Eric Brewer, and Mattias Ohlund. I'm not sold on Stamkos being a top player in the game yet, as I see one and a half years of good play followed by a year of outstanding play, then a regression back to merely good, but it's safe to predict he'll become better, as should Victor Hedman. Net, I see a slight improvement.

Season series gameplan: like with Carolina, patience. If you haven't read the Japers' Rink post entitled "The 411 on the 3-1-1" I suggest you read that now.

Playoff series gameplan: accept the power versus power challenge--mutually canceling top lines is better than mutually canceling Washington's top line with Tampa's third.

Washington Capitals
Notable additions: Tomas Vokoun, Joel Ward, Roman Hamrlik, Jeff Halpern
Notable losses: Eric Fehr via trade
Outlook: Cup Contender

I'm cautiously optimistic. I'll pencil in the Caps as favorites in the East if they're able to post strong possession numbers.

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