Change is the word in Southeast
With training camp here, it's time to look at the big questions that confront every NHL team. So far, I've taken a look at the
No knock on the abilities of a staff that includes
After a summer-long shopping spree that completely revamped the look of last season's cellar dwellers, there may be no team surrounded by more question marks as it enters the 2008-09 campaign. The dilemmas of who'll earn key minutes in net, and who'll be counted on to run interference for those goalies, should resolve themselves in camp. But with so much youth on the back end, whatever success comes this season will be based on a blistering offense...and that will depend upon finding some of that old black magic.
Fortunately, the league has given Tampa Bay a unique opportunity for team building. The Lightning open the season with back-to-back games in Prague, and then have six days before their home opener and another five until their next contest. That should give Melrose plenty of time to tinker, without losing any ground in what should be a competitive Southeast.
Burdened by family issues and the pressures of living up to his 2001-02 Hart Trophy season, Theodore lost his job in Montreal to
Washington was one of the best teams in the league after
Truth is, Huet would have been hard-pressed to match that level of play over an extended period, so expecting Theodore to even approach it is unrealistic. Theodore regained enough of his mojo to wrestle the starter's job from
Their explosive offense will give the Capitals a chance to win every night, but the responsibility of repeating as Southeast champs falls squarely on Theodore's shaky shoulders.
The math is simple, and wholly unflattering. Waddell, the only GM in the history of the Thrashers' franchise, has had eight years to get this ship running smoothly. During those eight years, the team made just one playoff appearance ... then backslid so dramatically last season that he had to gas coach
The close-up view of the monster that Waddell himself had created couldn't have been pretty. The Thrashers finished 28th overall, their precipitous drop fuelled by the league's most porous defense and special teams that weren't very special at all.
It's no longer a question of whether the Thrashers are heading in the right direction, but whether Waddell is the man to lead them there.
At this point, it's hard to back him up. Waddell made a series of mistakes leading up to that four-and-done playoff appearance against the New York Rangers in 2007 that will have long-term ramifications. He stayed behind the bench himself all last season, even though it was clear that he was failing to impact the team's performance in a positive fashion. And while
With so much emphasis on developing the team's youth, Anderson will get a long leash in his efforts to turn things around. But if the team struggles early, as expected, Waddell is unlikely to enjoy the same courtesy.
After capturing the Stanley Cup in 2006, the Canes have failed to make the playoffs in each of the last two years. Cup hangover probably played a large part the first time around, with long-term injuries to key players
There was some natural turnover during the summer as veterans
At least, that's the look of things on the surface. Corvo won't match his 21- points-in-23-games pace of last season, but he can be counted on to add some much-needed pop. Pitkanen's puck skills will help in that department, but it's his tendency to make too many mistakes with and without the rubber that led the Oilers to move him. If he's being counted on to play top-pairing minutes, his abilities will be stretched. The rest of the unit is solid, but uninspiring. It's good enough to improve the team's lot, but not by much.
The Canes have some solid prospects in the pipeline -- blueliner
Not just C as in captain -- although these cats do need to address that issue in the aftermath of dishing
But while postseason play may again elude them this season, the Panthers have definitely taken a couple steps in the right direction, primarily with the hiring of new coach
Of course, the biggest (and best) change they could make is simply staying healthy. Fewer players and a little less time on the IR could be enough to put Florida over the hump.