This is day two of Stoop Sports’ NHL preview, a four day event that has been waiting in the wings for way too long. Next the hockey staff will preview the awards but for now, sit back and get acquainted with Eastern Conference before the first games on Saturday.
Breaking down the Eastern Conference are, again, NHL Staff writers Ryan Pavlicek, Anthony Pucik, Corey Cahill, Scott Abuso and Clayton Dyer.
Day Two: Eastern Conference Preview
Question 1: Who are your three division winners and why? Who will have the best record in the conference and why?
Ryan- I’ll start with the Atlantic Division since it is by far the most competitive division in the Eastern conference. The Pittsburgh Penguins will take the division title over the favored New York Rangers. If you remember, the Penguins finished last year extremely hot, putting a lot of pressure on the Rangers toward the end of the season. Now while the Rangers did acquire Rick Nash to be the finisher they’ve been missing, I still find the trade a bit overrated. I don’t think Nash will have as big of an impact as many think. They will still have games where they have trouble scoring and the defense will have its rough patches. The Penguins on the other hand will have no shortage of offense as they get a healthy Sidney Crosby to go along with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal, who is ready to be another Penguin superstar. I like the Penguins roster as a whole to produce and stay healthy more than the Rangers roster in a shortened season. In the Northeast Division I’m going to pick the Boston Bruins to once again win the division. Tuukka Rask will prove to be a solid goaltender taking over for Tim Thomas while the rest of the team stayed in tact from last season. This is a very experienced, talented, physical team that will undoubtedly be dominant once again. Finally, my Southeast Division champion will be the Washington Capitals. This is a team that played extremely well in the playoffs stretching both the number one and number two seeds to seven games, all while starting their third string goalie, Braden Holtby. Expect Holtby to solidify himself as a number one goaltender in this league with the help of the physical Capitals defense. Losing Alexander Semin does hurt, but I trust that there’s a reason they didn’t bring him back. The offense is still full of talent led by the great Alex Ovechkin. All in all, the Penguins are the best overall team from this bunch and that’s why I peg them to be the number one seed come playoff time.
Anthony- The Atlantic Division will go to the New York Rangers, the Northeast Division to the Boston Bruins, and the Southeast Division to the Washington Capitals. The Rangers will win the division just like they did last year. The issue last season with the Rangers was their inability to score the puck, not having enough premier scorers to make them dangerous on offense. With the acquisition of Rick Nash the Rangers will have the offense necessary, behind stellar defense and goaltending to win the division. The Bruins dominated their division last year and they will do the same this year. Bringing back pretty much the same team, minus Tim Thomas but Tuukka Rask will fill in nicely, in a weak division it will not be difficult for the Bruins to take the division. The Capitals missed the Southeast title last year by a few points, but this year they will take it. The loss of Alexander Semin will hurt them, but the addition of Mike Ribiero will counteract that and the goalie pair of Braden Holtby and Michael Neuvirth will give them what they need to win many games and take the division. The Boston Bruins will win the conference, playing in, again, a very weak division and having one of the best all-around teams in the NHL. They will benefit from a shortened season and be the number one seed in the playoffs.
Corey- The strongest division in the Eastern Conference last season, the Atlantic Division, is poised for another season sending four to the playoffs. This will probably be the most competitive division throughout the league and the New York Rangers will end up on top. The offseason acquisition of Rick Nash really pushes them to the next level. They have always lacked that dominant finisher, and in Nash, I think they have found that. He will make their offense significantly better and Henrik Lundqvist will man the pipes again as he looks for another dominant year. Defense may be a concern for the Rangers and the Penguins, Flyers, and Devils will be right behind them ready to pounce on the opportunity if the Blue Shirts defense can’t live up to the task. In the Northeast Division, the Bruins will win again for the third year in a row. With Tim Thomas gone, we are going to see what Tuukka Rask can do when he has the clear-cut job. Boston was one of the more quiet teams in the offseason, not making any big changes, which could benefit them with the little time they have to get ready for the season. They will face serious competition from the Ottawa Senators and the Buffalo Sabres, which makes the Northeast the division most up for grabs at this point with no absolute frontrunner. The third and final division in the East is the Southeast Division, which will be one of the more intriguing races in the league this year. With the surprising Florida Panthers winning it last year, the Capitals young goaltender Braden Holtby, and the Hurricanes vastly improved, these three teams will duke it out for the division title. There are things to like and things not to like about each team, but it will be be Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals who squeeze it out. Like the Minnesota Wild, the Hurricanes will not gel well to start the season with all of the new faces and I don’t think the Panthers have enough firepower to overcome the Caps. With Nick Backstrom healthy for the whole season and promising young goaltender Braden Holtby, Alex Ovechkin will be able to lead his team back to the top of the division. My regular season champion out of the East is the New York Rangers. There is no other team in the East that has as good an overall team as they do. They have all the pieces in place to make a Stanley Cup run this year they will show that in the regular season.
Scott- Today we’re tackling Eastern Conference picks. It’s a loaded conference to say the least, so this one was a toughie. Starting off in the Atlantic, the New York Rangers are the heavy Stanley Cup Champion favorites at the beginning of this season, and they leave little to the imagination as to why. Boasting an outstanding group of top six forwards, a phenomenal top four defense and the world-class goaltending duo of Henrik Lundqvist and Martin Biron, the Rangers have their eyes on the prize this season. Oh, and if you thought this group of Rangers couldn’t be any more dangerous, they’re fresh off a devastating exit from the Eastern Conference Finals at the hands of the New Jersey Devils. Look for the Rangers to come thundering out of the gate. If the additions of Rick Nash, Taylor Pyatt, and Jeff Halpern go along smoothly, expect the Rangers to narrowly edge out the extremely talented Penguins and Flyers for the Division, similar to the end of last season, and capture the Eastern conference once again. While I don’t fully trust Tuukka Rask in the number one spot, the talented core of this Boston team, led by their captain Zdeno Chara, has another year of experience under their belt, and will take the Northwest. They’ve recently tasted victory on their Stanley Cup championship run in 2010-2011, and they’ll use the hunger for more to edge out their division rivals. It also can’t hurt that their division is comprised of three struggling Canadian teams in Ottawa, Toronto, and Montreal, and the ever so unpredictable Buffalo Sabres. Being that a large portion of the schedule pits teams against their division, look for Boston to take a big division lead, but not necessarily dominate the conference. The Carolina Hurricanes will take the Southeast. Yeah, not many will have the guts to make this pick, so I’ll go ahead and do it. I’m a strong believer in team chemistry, and the Hurricanes received a huge jolt by bringing together two Staal brothers. Eric is already an established star of the Carolina organization, but Jordan has made more than a dent during his time in Pittsburgh. I expect the chemistry of the team to greatly improve around the two brothers. Add Alexander Semin into the mix, a guy whose stats are known to fluctuate and will most likely be on the up turn this year, and throw in the workhorse Cam Ward, and the Hurricanes will be well on the way to winning their division.
Clayton- You’d be hard-pressed to find a first line more deadly than the New York Rangers’ top combo of Marian Gaborik, Brad Richards, and newly acquired Rick Nash. The three combined for 96 goals in 2011-’12 (with Nash in Columbus), and should easily top that in 2013. But not only do the Rangers have a lethal first line, they have balanced scoring throughout their lineup: captain Ryan Callahan is poised to build on his 54-point campaign in 2011-’12, playoff phenom Chris Kreider will shine in his first NHL regular season, and young winger Carl Hagelin could definitely build on his rookie season if he can avoid the dreaded sophomore slump. Throw in a first defense pairing of Marc Staal and Dan Girardi (one of the best in the league if you ask me) and Vezina Trophy finalist Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers have what it takes to win the Eastern Conference. The Boston Bruins are another balanced team, albeit without as much firepower as the Rangers, that should win a division title. Former second overall draft pick Tyler Seguin shined in 2011-’12, putting up 67 points to go along with a plus/minus rating of +34. Centers David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron finished with 62 and 64 points, respectively, and the Bruins will greatly benefit from the return of Nathan Horton, who missed almost all of last season with post-concussion syndrome. On defense, Zdeno Chara will be, well… Zdeno Chara, and Dennis Seidenberg will be able to lace up the skates for at least one more good season. The only question mark Boston enters the 2013 season with is in net. With Tim Thomas taking the year off for family reasons, backup Tuukka Rask will finally get the opportunity to be a bona fide #1 goaltender. How he stacks up against a tough Eastern Conference, however, is yet to be seen. Down in the Southeast the Washington Capitals will win the division after finishing second last season to the Florida Panthers for the first time in five years. Although they lost the inconsistent yet talented Alexander Semin to free agency, the Caps brought in veteran Mike Ribeiro, and are counting on a bounce back season from Alexander Ovechkin (if you’re nickname is “Alex the Great”, 65 points necessitates a bounce back). A full season out of Mike Green and the continued development of Braden Holtby should bring the Southeast Division title back to D.C.
Question 2: Who are your other five playoff teams and why?
Ryan- In no particular order, my 4-8 seeds will be the New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, Buffalo Sabres, Ottawa Senators, and the Carolina Hurricanes. The Rangers will be fighting all year long with the Penguins as I explained above so I fully expect them to take the number four seed when they miss out on the division title by just a point or two. The offense is improved but will need to find consistency quickly in a shortened season which will cost them the number one seed. The Philadelphia Flyers added Luke Schenn to their defense in hopes of getting more consistency on the blue line. Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov can be great at times, but terrible at others so he needs to figure out which of the two he’ll be during the shortened season. The offense led by Claude Giroux will carry them into the playoffs once again. The Buffalo Sabres ended the season extremely well almost making it into the playoffs as the number eight seed. Ryan Miller returned to his top form as the season came to a close, and I expect him to win a lot of games for the Sabres this year. Trading Derek Roy for Steve Ott is interesting but the team is still balanced enough to help Miller out just enough. Head coach Lindy Ruff also knows this could be his last chance to get his Sabres back to the playoffs. Daniel Alfredsson returns to the Ottawa Senators in what will probably be his final NHL season. Many didn’t think he would come back for the shortened season so he must have a lot of confidence in the team as a whole, and rightfully so with a defense led by the point producing machine that is Erik Karlsson. While the offense puts the puck in the net, their goaltending situation is the cause for many high scoring losses. I do think Ben Bishop will eventually take the starting job and do enough to help win more games for the team than they did last season. Finally, I also put the Carolina Hurricanes in the playoffs who had themselves a productive offseason. Trading for Jordan Staal to join his brother Erik Staal, will give the East their version of the Sedin brothers. They were also able to keep Jeff Skinner when they made the deal, which was the icing on the cake for Carolina. I was skeptical that the trade would turn them into a playoff team, but signing Alexander Semin will put them in, as the secondary scoring will be there.
Anthony- As for the other five spots in the playoffs, they will go to the Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers and Carolina Hurricanes. The Flyers did very well last season and with the addition of the other Schenn brother (Luke) and no other major changes to the team they should have no problem making the playoffs. The Pittsburgh Penguins may have lost Jordan Staal, but the offense of Malkin and Crosby will be more than enough to give the Penguins a playoff spot. The Tampa Bay Lightning offense is sure to give them a good chance of making the playoffs; as long as their defense and goaltending holds up, which I think it will given the shortened season. The Florida Panthers won the Southeast Division last season and although they will not do as well this year, no other teams in the conference have improved enough to take the Panthers out of the playoffs. Finally, the Carolina Hurricanes will make the playoffs. With two of the Staal brothers (Jordan and Eric) united and giving the offense a boost and taking some pressure off their young sensation Jeff Skinner, the Carolina Hurricanes can take a low seed in the East.
Corey- My #4 seed in the East is the Pittsburgh Penguins. With a healthy Sidney Crosby and reigning MVP Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins will once again have the #4 playoff spot (in my opinion it should be the #2 spot). I HATE the rule that the three division winners must be the top three seeds. Ok, back on track. Everyone knows the talent and firepower the Penguins have, but as Philadelphia showed in the first round last year, their defense and goaltending is still a huge question mark. My #5 seed goes to the Philadelphia Flyers, again. We’re going to see another playoff rematch of these two teams. With the Flyers young talent upfront and leader Claude Giroux, it is enough to pick up their average defense and sporadic goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. If the Flyers want to have a chance to win the Atlantic Division, Bryzgalov has to be the goalie he was in Phoenix. My #6 seed in the East is the Buffalo Sabres. After a down year by goaltender Ryan Miller, the Sabres will return to the playoffs behind Miller. If Miller has another off year, it could be another frustrating season in Buffalo, because Miller is by far and away the Sabres best player. My #7 seed in the East is the Carolina Hurricanes. With the acquisitions of Jordan Staal, Alex Semin, Joe Corvo, and Marc-Andre Gragnani, the Canes will be relevant again in the NHL. Cam Ward has to play well for them to be a legitimate playoff contender. My #8 and final seed in the East is too hard to call. It is a tossup between the Eastern Conference champs of last season New Jersey Devils, Tampa Bay Lightning, and the Ottawa Senators. If a gun was put to my head, I would have to say the Devils because of the experience and the system they play. It seems that no matter what kind of talent they have, they are always competitive because of the hard-nosed system they play.
Scott- Philadelphia has a team absolutely loaded with talent. While I will defend to the end the idea that defense wins championships, the Flyers just have too much offensive ability to not make the playoffs. If Ilya Bryzgalov can play like he did back in Phoenix, and the defense in front of him can get going, the Flyers may wind up battling Pittsburgh for the 4th seed, similar to the end of last season. Pittsburgh is just an outstanding team. Malkin, Crosby, Fleury, now even Vokoun to back him up. This is a deadly lineup and they are not to be taken lightly. They have the power to put up quite a few goals a night, and also hold the opposition to very few. The key here is a healthy Crosby and continued production from Malkin. I see this season ending similar to the last, with Pittsburgh just getting beaten out by the New York Rangers, and having to play against Philadelphia as either the 4th or 5th seed. That being said, all they need to do is make the playoffs to do some damage. Tampa Bay is an extremely talented team that simply cannot keep up with a marathon 82 game season. Steven Stamkos lights the lamp as regularly as he wants to, and everyone who watches hockey knows that, but the offensively gifted veterans Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier usually don’t have enough in the tank. With a shortened season, expect Tampa to make a push for the playoffs, coming out of the gate hot and giving themselves a lead early on that will put them in the playoff picture. Love them or hate them, Washington is a talented team, led by an extremely talented Alexander Ovechkin. Despite their lower seeding at the end of last season, this team can skate with the best of them. If Ovi ups his production, Holtby and Neuvirth find a groove, and the rest of the team follows suit, there’s no reason the capitals don’t jog into the playoffs with a respectable seeding. Buffalo fans, rejoice. Although they made a trade with the Stars sending talented center Derek Roy over for Steven Ott and Adam Pardy, if Buffalo can maintain their chemistry from the previous season while working in the toughness provided by Ott, all while Miller actually plays like Ryan Miller, the Sabres should be able to pull together a playoff qualifying season.
Clayton- Barring catastrophe the two Pennsylvania juggernauts will both qualify for the playoffs again. The Pittsburgh Penguins finished last season with 108 points; good enough for 4th in the East… and Sidney Crosby only played 22 games. Crosby will be back for the entire 2013 season, and along with superstars Evgeni Malkin (league leading 109 points) and James Neal (career high 40 goals), will guide the Penguins to postseason success. On the other side of the Keystone State the Philadelphia Flyers are also poised for another playoff berth. The orange and black are teeming with young talent in Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, and Matt Read, and brought in former fifth-overall draft pick Luke Schenn to bolster a depleted defense corp. The ultra-talented Claude Giroux will be back with Scott Hartnell, who put up a career high in goals and assists last season. There’s no question the Flyers have enough firepower, but Philadelphia still has a bear-sized big question mark between the pipes. If mercurial cosmonaut Ilya Bryzgalov can bounce back from his forgettable 2011-’12 campaign, the Flyers could compete for the Eastern Conference title. The Ottawa Senators will build on their 92-point season last year and will be back in the playoffs in 2013. Milan Michalek, who erupted for 60 points in 2011-’12, All-Star Jason Spezza, and captain Daniel Alfredsson combine for a formidable first line. Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson probably won’t match his point production from last year (78 points, most of any defenseman), but he shouldn’t have to if the secondary scoring can contribute and goaltender Craig Anderson can build on his 33-win season. Look for the Carolina Hurricanes to be back in the playoffs for the first time since 2009 after GM Jim Rutherford swung some valuable deals over the summer. Rutherford traded for talented two-way forward Jordan Staal and signed enigmatic sniper Alexander Semin, who form a superb first line along with Staal’s brother Eric. A rebound season from Jeff Skinner and another All-Star effort from goalie Cam Ward should propel the ‘Canes back to the postseason. I struggled to decide on the final playoff team in this super-competitive conference, but I finally settled on the New Jersey Devils. Although captain Zach Parise’s departure creates a huge hole, rookie sensation Adam Henrique, center Travis Zajac (who only played 15 games last year due to injury), and superstar Ilya Kovalchuk should be able to fill the void admirably. If the ageless Martin Brodeur has enough fuel left in the tank for one more season, and Kovalchuk can take the reigns of the offense, the Devils should squeak into the playoffs in 2013.
Question 3: Who is your dark horse team that can possibly steal a playoff seed away from one of those five teams?
Ryan- My pick here will be the New Jersey Devils. Martin Brodeur is another year older, but the assurance of a solid backup in Johan Hedberg will be a big help in giving Brodeur rest in this short season. Still, I don’t think they’ll get the goaltending to prove how good that defense truly is but I won’t be surprised if I’m wrong. Even with the loss of Zach Parise, the Devils have a formidable offense led by Ilya Kovalchuk. Patrik Elias and Travis Zajac have always been underrated players and Adam Henrique proved he will be a force in the league for a long time. If Brodeur proves everyone wrong and Hedberg is as good of a backup as he was last season, than this team will find a way into the playoffs to defend their Eastern Conference champion crown.
Anthony- My dark horse in the Eastern Conference is the Ottowa Senators. The Senators scratched out the eight seed in the playoffs last year. They are a bit older than some of the other teams in the league which might be a disservice to them, which is why I don’t have the making the playoffs at the moment. However, I would not be surprised if the Senators put together a string of wins and take a lower seed in the Eastern Conference. Craig Anderson is a formidable goalie and Erik Karlsson is one of the best offensive defenseman in the game. If they do extremely well then then they will have a chance to steal away a spot from someone in the East.
Corey- My dark horse is the Tampa Bay Lightning. I think the Lightning had a very good offseason with 60 goal scorer Steven Stamkos, which is the main raison why they could possibly steal a playoff spot in the East. They acquired goalie Anders Lindback from the Predators who had a 2.42 GAA in 13 games last year, and there is a very high ceiling with this kid as he is only 24 with a ton of potential. The only reason he wasn’t starting in Nashville is obviously because Pekka Rinne is a fantastic goaltender. The Lightning also brought in two very good defensemen is Matt Carle and Sami Salo. With their top 6 forwards being Stamkos, Lecavalier, St. Louis, Purcell, Malone, and newly acquired Benoit Pouliot, I think the Lightning can do some damage in the East. Top 5 seed? I don’t think so. But they could possibly get as high as 6. It is going to depend on their goaltending with Lindback in net.
Scott- Florida Panthers. For the first time in a long time, the Florida Panthers made it into the playoffs last year. Well, they didn’t just make it, they rolled in as the 3rd seed in the East. A surprise to many, the team put up an honorable fight but ultimately fell to the Devils in 7 games. This team can put together respectable numbers if all goes well, but their playoff hopes at this point rely more on how well or not well the teams ahead of them play.
Clayton- Although they finished just 8 points out of a playoff berth last season, the Tampa Bay Lightning are my dark horse entering the 2013 season because of how cut-throat the Eastern Conference is going to be. 2011-’12 scoring leader Steven Stamkos and speedy playmaker Martin St. Louis form a lethal combo up front along with winger Ryan Malone. Captain Vinny Lecavalier’s numbers have been steadily declining the past few seasons, but another 65-points season from linemate Teddy Purcell could reignite the 32-year old center. The Lightning improved their defense over the summer, bringing in veteran Sami Salo and the underrated Matt Carle, who faltered in Philadelphia when Chris Pronger (his defense partner) went down. However, Carle should rebound in 2013 if he’s paired with Victor Hedman, who showed glimpses of his true potential last year. However, there is uncertainty in Tampa Bay, especially in net. I commend GM Steve Yzerman for trading for young goaltending prospect Anders Lindback last season. I think that Lindback has the potential to be a #1 goalie in the NHL; his combination of size (6’6”) and agility is a dream of goaltending scouts everywhere. But Lindback has started only 28 games in his career, and despite putting up respectable numbers (.914 SV%, 2.53 GAA), he is just 24 years old, which is young for a goalie in the NHL. Along with a lack of secondary scoring and depth on the blue line, Lindback is another question mark for the Lightning. However, if they can put the pieces together quickly, Tampa Bay could squeeze into the playoffs.
Question 4: Who finishes dead last in the conference and why?
Ryan- Roberto Luongo is not apart of the Toronto Maple Leafs, and because of that I select them to finish last in the Eastern Conference. The offense is improved after acquiring James Van Riemsdyk, but that isn’t enough right now, as their defense didn’t perform well whatsoever last season. Another year of bad goaltending made the defensive woes even worse, but the team is still going into this season with James Reimer and Ben Scrivens on the depth chart. There’s no guarantee that either goalie improved their game this offseason, and that’s why this is a team that needs Luongo to get out of the basement of the Conference. That trade hasn’t happened, and doesn’t look like it will.
Anthony- The Toronto Maple Leafs are going to be at the bottom of the Eastern Conference this season. They may have added James Van Riemsdyk to give them a step up in their offense, but that is not enough for a team, who was one of the three worst in the Eastern Conference last season, to make any headway. Their goalies (James Reimer and Ben Scrivens) are nothing to write home about which will make it very hard for them to win games this year, and with the shortened season every point is going to matter. I think that the Maple Leafs take a step backwards this year and finish worse than they did last season.
Corey- I believe the Toronto Maple Leafs will finish last in the Eastern Conference this year. Brian Burke was fired last week and this is a team that is in rebuild mode. They have a well below average goalie in James Reimer and next to no defense besides Dion Phaneuf and Mike Komisarek. They do have some talent up front with Kessel, Lupul, VanRiemsdyk, Grabovsky, Bozak, and Kadri, but we all know in this league that that isn’t going to do anything to get into the playoffs or even compete. This will be a year to see what they have in front of them and after the season make moves to strengthen the team for the future, as next year may be another year of rebuilding in Toronto. It will take some significant moves in this coming offseason to make this team a legitimate playoff contender next year. The Toronto fans need hockey to be relevant again, but they may have to wait a couple years for that to happen.
Scott- The Winnipeg Jets. Sadly enough, hockey’s return in Winnipeg didn’t prove all too fruitful for the Jets. Well, from the perspective of winning games it didn’t. Merchandise and ticket sales were phenomenal and the MTS Centre was considered one of the loudest venues in the NHL. Unfortunately for the hardcore fans in Winnipeg, the team who finished a bit far out of playoff contention last year hasn’t done a great deal to improve this offseason. They were helped immensely by the stellar play of Evander Kane last year, but he cannot carry the team on his own. They’re not necessarily short of talent, it just appears that most other teams in the East have more than them. While they certainly have a promising future, I sadly have to say that the Winnipeg Jets finish dead last in the East this season.
Clayton-I guess it’s a little funny that the number 15 seed in the Eastern Conference is a toss up between the Montreal Canadiens, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Winnipeg Jets: three Canadian teams (however, as an American, I feel no sympathy. U-S-A, U-S-A…). When it comes down to it I’m going to have have to pick the Jets to finish last this season, simply because they don’t have the talent or depth. We’ll start in net. Ondrej Pavelec finished 2011-’12 with a .906 SV% and 2.91 GAA, which are good numbers, but not great. With Winnipeg’s lack of defensive depth, Pavelec will have to perform much better if the Jets want to stand a shot at climbing out of the cellar. Speaking of defense, the Jets are weak on the blue line outside of Zach Bogosian and Dustin Byfuglien. Granted, Tobias Enstrom put up 33 points last season, but what Winnipeg really needs is shutdown defensemen, something the 5’10” Enstrom certainly is not (Byfuglien could certainly fill that role if he put down the Tim Hortons’ donuts and got on the treadmill). Like their situation in net, the Jets’ offense is good, but not great. Blake Wheeler finally began to show flashes of his potential last season, and Evander Kane will one day become a star in this league. Nik Antropov never really panned out for Winnipeg, and I believe that Alexei Ponikarovsky will never break the 25-goal mark. Don’t get me wrong, the Jets are talented on offense, but not talentedenough to keep up with the other teams in the Eastern Conference. Winnipeg’s average attack, shaky defense, and less-than-stellar goaltending make for a team that won’t be able to stay above water in 2013.