The 2011-12 season is quickly approaching. We here at The Rat Trick are taking a closer look at each division in hopes of providing some insight as to what the division may look like come April. Today’s spotlight is on the Southeast
Carolina Hurricanes: With the breakout of young gun Jeff Skinner and the steadfast leadership of the wily veterans Eric Staal and Cam Ward the Hurricanes have to be looking on the bright side of life. Last season they only missed the playoffs by two points and this season they have a lot to be excited about.
The loss of Eric Cole will hurt their scoring ability, but this is a team that has the tools they need to win, good goaltending, solid leadership and a desire to win.
Prediction: The Hurricanes will just squeak into the playoffs and surprise a lot of decent teams in the process. Also, Jeff Skinner will be a stud, and sing “Baby” by Justin Bieber at some point this season…
Florida Panthers: Where do I even start? The Panthers have improved in nearly every area sans goaltending. Vokoun went to Washington in the offseason and the Panthers are replacing him with the combination of Jose Theodore and Scott Clemmensen, not exactly an exciting development. But it can’t be denied that the Panthers now have a team with depth and skill and should bring some exciting hockey to South Florida fans.
The additions of character guys like Versteeg and Upshall, along with quality high end players like Brian Campbell should help this team remerge from the last decade of futility. Also, guys like Jonathan Huberdeau and Erik Gudbranson will help them be better, younger, stronger and faster.
Prediction: The Panthers make the playoffs. They have everything they need to do so, also when they do Versteeg will lay down some raps about it on Youtube….
Tampa Bay Lightning: The Lightning have just about everything going for them right now. A breakout star in Steven Stamkos, great leadership and experience from Vinnie and Marty. young defensive stud in Victor Hedman, good goaltending….oh wait.
Yes the Lightning brought back Dwayne Roloson to be their netminder again, but this is the model that Yzerman knows and loves (see Chris Osgood). Bring in talented guys up front, solid guys on the backend and then an experienced goalie who comes cheap. It worked for Detroit, and certainly seemed to work last season.
Prediction: The Lighting clinch the division and play well in the playoffs, they may be a Stanley Cup Contender if Rolo can play well for them. Also, Marty St Louis shrinks with age, but still beats Pronger on a breakaway.
Washington Capitals: Alexander the Great, Semin and Vokoun, oh my…. The Caps look to be better then they were last year by adding a veteran goalie of Vokoun’s caliber. The areas that the improved other than him are nill, Joel Ward is upgrade to the lower lines, but basically the team looks the same, sans Vokoun.
The only things Caps fans should be nervous about is if this team can score or not. The evidence from last season seems to indicate the will struggle to do so, however if some talents, who shall not be named by Matt Bradley, can give their effort the Caps will do well.
Prediction: The Caps make the playoffs, but have a short lived burnout of vodka and fireworks.
Winnipeg Jets: I’m not even sure how to spell Winnipeg, it kind of looks like Winning but there is just not enough Tiger Blood in that team to merit the mimic.
Dustin Byfuglien spent the summer doing this and really as far as I can tell that is the only significant offseason news… Hey why is the Atlanta Thrashers page not working does anyone know?
Prediction: The ThrashJets finish in the bottom five of the NHL and get a good draft pick to rally behind. Also, it won’t matter they will still have a full building every night.
Thanks for reading. Your comments are always welcomed and appreciated.
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