With the doldrums of summer upon us, hockey fans are left wandering around looking for something to occupy their nights since hockey season a couple months away. Well I hope everyone is cheering on TEAM USA in the Olympics currently, so that should take your mind off hockey for a little while. Well, allow me to bring your attention back to hockey with this post talking specfically about the Southeast Division in the Eastern Conference. Most of us know that the Florida Panthers were 2012 Division Champions for the first time in it’s franchises history, but will their reign as champs go further? For the next few moments, I’d like to share my personal opinion on the teams within this division and the moves they made this offseason, thus far.
First I’d like to start with the last place team from last season, the Carolina Hurricanes. Boy, has there been any team more exciting this offseason then the Hurricanes? Possibly Minnesota, but Carolina has to be a team that is expecting the win now mentality. After finishing the season with 82 points, Carolina certainly was not that far off from being a playoff team. The additions Carolina has made, have been both bold and sometimes head scratching. I for one never expected Carolina to sign division foe Alexander Semin to a one year 7 million dollar contract, but the Russian does have some talent, the question is whether or not he’ll decide to give it 100% with a new team. Certainly the addition of Jordan Staal will provide probably one of the most intriguing dare I say Big 3 in the NHL. I fully expect Carolina to be a way better team this season, but will it be enough to overtake the Panthers as division champs? Possibly.
Next, the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa didn’t exactly have the season they wanted but certainly a bright spot was Steven Stamkos finishing with 60 goals. The offense is their, it’s just the defense and goaltending that bit them in the rear end last year. Well Steve Yzerman certainly looks to have made all the right moves to fix that problem. Signing Anders Lindback, Pekka Rinne’s backup from last season to a deal that will hopefully add some quality in the net for many years to come. The additions of Matt Carle and Sami Salo will certainly help a depleted blue line, so expect the Lightning to be right in the thick of things next year.
Next, we have the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets are coming off a season where some thought would be a playoff team, and for most of the season seemed to be right in the thick of things. But the gruesome 82 game schedule took a toll on the Jets and they only managed 84 points after going 3-5-2 in their final 10 games last year. The Jets added a veteran forward in Olli Jokinen and an average player in Alex Ponikarovsky. If they can lock up Evander Kane, the Jets will pretty much be the same team as last year. Average.
Next up we have the Washington Capitals. A team that has owned this division for years saw it’s reign come to an end. Thinking that goaltending was the only issue on this team, they added Tomas Vokoun to their roster, but that failed. So what was wrong with Washington and why couldn’t they get over the hump? Well it seems pretty clear to me now that the locker room had been spiraling for years. With the loss of Semin, hopefully things can clear up. Personally I think the Capitals made one of the boldest moves this offseason getting Mike Ribeiro. The man is a stud out on the ice, and he will immediately help this team get better. The loss of Semin won’t be much but that was pretty much all the moves Washington made. Besides adding Wojtek Wolski and losing Dennis Wideman, the Capitals seem to be a team that has much potential but will they be able to finally live up to them?
Finally, I’ll finish with the hometown team, the Florida Panthers. The Panthers were not expected to be as active as they were the last offseason, but they still made some quality moves. For one, the move for Peter Mueller was a pretty smart move in the way that he has a high ability to succeed and if he doesn’t, it won’t cost the Panthers too much. Filip Kuba was brought in to add a big shot after losing Jason Garrison to FA, and George Parros adds another big man who isn’t afraid to throw the body around. Yes, the Panthers didn’t get a top name, 30 goal scorer, but that man might possibly be coming up from juniors. Insert Jonathan Huberdeau into the lineup, and the sky’s the limit. The Panthers did not lost or gain many players which brings up an interesting topic, did they make enough moves to get any better? Time will tell.
Will the Panthers repeat as champions?
Will the Capitals finally live up to the hype?
Will the Hurricanes prove that their is no better chemistry then brotherly chemistry?
Will the Jets, be pests and surprise teams?
Or will the Lightning storm ahead of the pack?
Time will tell.
Thanks for reading.
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