We'll try and do this Tuesday's during the season, just taking a quick look at the other teams in the division. This Tuesday, we'll focus on how each team did in the UFA market. Based on what I'm seeing so far, this is probably the worst division in hockey and I think it is highly possible that four of the five teams miss the playoffs this season. Read it and weep.
Quiet times in Beantown and I'll give Chiarelli credit for not hitting a panic button after such a strong regular season and disappointing playoff. All they've really done is re-sign Recchi so far, though there are rumblings that Phil Kessel's contract demands are making him a tough fit. There is no shortage of scoring in Boston if its young players can continue to develop properly, so all they really need is some support for Chara. The Kaberle for Kessel rumour made some sense as Kabs could be the setup guy and pass the puck around pretty well. I wouldn't expect as much success this coming season just because opposing forwards will start to figure out Tim Thomas and opposing defenders will learn more about guys like Krejci and Lucic. Still a playoff team, without question.
On the bright side, they've only lost Jaro Spacek this summer. The Sabres have also had a quiet off-season, which is a bit more alarming because they've been kinda bad for a couple of years. I still think some of that blame can be placed right on Kevin Lowe's shoulders for putting the offer sheet out there for Vanek and some of the blame can be placed on the Sabres for taking it at over $7M a year. This is a crippling salary and when you combine that with Miller's 6.25M, you're running thin already. Add in guys like Pominville, Roy, Connolly, and Hecht and you really aren't changing up your core too much. The Sabres believe they have great prospects in the system and they'd better think about speeding up that development because as it stands today, the Sabres look to be on the outside looking in again. But I thought Lindy Ruff was an amazing coach, no? If they miss the playoffs again, how can you keep telling me how great he is?
First off, I'll start by saying I don't think Bob Gainey is good at what he does. For some reason, the Habs faithful have such blind admiration for him that they didn't notice more than half of their lineup was up for contract this summer. The first time they took notice was when their trusted GM took on one of the worst contracts in sports by trading for Scott Gomez. Going after a 1st line centre is admirable; trading for a $7.3M second-line centre is not. Follow that up by signing a one-dimensional Cammalleri at $6M and a tiny winger in a statistical free-fall for $5M and it is fair to say that this team isn't in good shape. Their blue line is a cluster of size, skill, and stupidity: Markov, Hamrlik, Gill, Spacek, Mara, and resident moron Josh Gorges. Sure, you recognize those names but this team has let Souray, Streit, and Komisarek all walk away for nothing in the past three off-seasons. I'll give Gainey an honourable mention for at least changing the identity of his franchise after an awful collapse that only Sens fans could relate to, but I challenge him to tell his fans what the hell that identity has become. Oh yeah, and their goalie is still a basketcase. These guys compete with Buffalo for that miserable place where you miss the playoffs and miss a top ten draft spot.
I love these guys. I love them because millions of Leaf fans have taken out their spoons and slurped the bullshit soup that Brian Burke has placed in front of them and Oliver Twisted their way back up for seconds. "Grr, I want to make us tougher," said the mighty blowhard. No question, this team is tougher than last year when their fighter was Ryan Hollweg and he couldn't skate. Here's the problem, though: when you're top scorer is Jason Blake with 63 points, you won't make the playoffs. I know, I know, Toronto was fine in scoring goals and terrible in keeping them out of their own net. On paper, they should be harder to scoare against with Komisarek, Exelby, and Beauchemin stepping in. All three guys are big and strong, but Komi is coming off a terrible year, Exelby's development has stalled to a pitiful crawl, and Beauchemin is insanely overrated. Even I could look like a star paired with Scott Niedermeyer. Bias aside, I am just not impressed with the changes made here. Scoring will absolutely drop here and their blue line is going to be slow. Burke was brought in to draft and build from the bottom but he just isn't capable of sitting still, changing plans and spending back up to the cap with little focus on the youth movement aside from a Swedish goalie that won't start. In Anaheim, his defence was made up Hall of Famers and his forwards included Selanne, McDonald, Getzlaf, Perry, Kunitz, and Penner. The names in Toronto don't match up and it is for this reason (they won't have a forward with 70pts) that I GUARANTEE Toronto is back in the bottom of the standings again next year. They'll have nobody else to blame but themselves and their appetite for whatever Burkie puts in front of them. And they can blame Burke, too. I love his quotes and I love how he'll continue to bury that team in mediocrity for at least the duration of Colton Orr's contract.