This is the first of a six-part series previewing each division for the 2012-13 NHL Season. Here are my predictions for the Southeast Division.
Key Additions: Jordan Staal, Alex Semin, Joe Corvo, Marc-Andre Gragnani, Kevin Westgarth
Key Losses: Bryan Allen, Brandon Sutter, Anthony Stewart
When the Carolina Hurricanes traded for Jordan Staal at the NHL Draft in June, signed him to a long-term deal, and then signed Alex Semin on the first day of Free Agent Frenzy, Jim Rutherford made a huge statement that this team is indeed the team to beat in the Southeast Division.
Prediction: Southeast Division Champions
Key Additions: Filip Kuba, Peter Mueller, George Parros, Alex Kovalev
Key Losses: Mikael Samuelsson, Jason Garrison, Wojtek Wolski
The Florida Panthers were one of the biggest surprises, if not THE biggest surprise last season. However, when defenseman Jason Garrison decided to sign with his hometown team, the Vancouver Canucks, I honestly don’t think the Panthers can catch lightning in a bottle again this season.
Tampa Bay Lightning
Key Additions: Anders Lindback, Sami Salo, Matt Carle, Kyle Wilson, B.J. Crombeen
Key Losses: Bruno Gervais, Brandon Segal
This season marks the 20th year NHL hockey is being played in Tampa Bay. Yes, Steven Stamkos scored 60 goals las season, but when you add question marks in goaltending and the abandonment of the infamous 1-3-1 zone defense, last season was a lost cause. Stamkos may have a chance to get at least 40 goals in an abbreviated 48-game season, and the defense was improved with the additions of veteran defensemen Sami Salo and Matt carle, but the biggest question yet to be answered this upcoming season is can Anders Lindback deliver in his first full year as a NHL starting goaltender?
Key Additions: Mike Ribieiro, Joey Crabb, Wojtek Wolski
Key Losses: Alex Semin, Dennis Wideman, Jeff Halpern
After a roller-coaster season that was defined by a sub-par year by Alex Ovechkin, the firing of head coach Bruce Boudreau, the hiring of Capitals legend Dale Hunter, and an amazing-first round upset of the then-defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins, the Caps look just as good as any other NHL team. I expect Ovi to have a bounce-back year, but yet in a lockout-shortened season, first-year head coach Adam Oates has to get this team off and running in order to call this season a success.
Key Additions: Olli Jokinen, Alex Ponikarovsky, Al Montoya
Key Loss: Chris Mason
It look liked the Whiteout would return to Winnipeg, but all hopes were dashed when the Jets dropped 10 of their last 17 games of the season last year. In a shortened season like this upcoming one, a feat like that would be very disastrous. If order for the Whiteout to return to the ‘Peg, the Jets need to finish the season strong.