NHL 2011-12 season preview: why your team will suck

As a fan of any team in any sport, it’s easy to look at your team and see all the positive things that could happen. I do it all the time.That being said, I’m here to counter that. I present you with the Puck Schmuck’s inaugural “Why your team will suck, 2011-12 NHL edition”. Why so negative, you ask? Well, I am the Puck Schmuck after all. I’m not really trying to convince you that your team will finish last, because that’s unrealistic. I’m merely saying that your team won’t be anywhere close to where you think it will be. Some of them are a stretch, yes. But most of them ring true. Time to let the pessimism rage!!Anaheim Ducks-as I outlined in my Question for this team, besides the Finnish Flash, who has no business being as good as he is at his age, there is absolutely nothing behind the Ducks’ top line of Perry, Getzlaf and Ryan (which is the best line in the league, mind you). No depth. Zero. The best thing there that was born after the Stone Age (I’m looking at you, Koivu) is probably Andrew Cogliano, who was brought in from Edmonton this offseason. He is terrible. A third line center who can’t win faceoffs. I don’t get it either. The Ducks may make the Playoffs on the backs of their first line, Visnovsky and Hiller, but depth is everything in the Playoffs. Can’t do anything without it, which is clearly a major problem for Anaheim.
Factors for Suckitude: No depth=another early round exit

Boston Bruins– There is no question that without Tim Thomas, the Bruins probably would not have beaten my Habs in the first round (at least in my mind). Keeping that in mind, Thomas will be 38 before this season ends–that’s not exactly prime-aged. Behind him the Bruins have Tuukka Rask, who played himself out of the starting job last year. Awe-inspiring. If last year was Thomas’ “all-in” season, and he has very little left in the proverbial tank for this year, the Bruins goaltending situation is a mess.
It’s also no secret that the Bruins love them some pugilism. Virtually every player on that roster can be considered a goon or tough guy/power forward to some degree, as the Canadiens found out last year. That’s no way to play hockey. Teams are going to circumvent this size and goonery with speed and timing (much like the Canadiens did). With crazy yettis on the roster like this guy, if teams start skating around the Bruins, it’s going to be a long, long season. If not, the goalie situation, the Stanley Cup hangover, their general aura of suckitude, and karma will catch up with them and they will suck (and nothing would make me happier).
Factors for Suckitude: Tim Thomas has nothing left, Rask sucks, teams skate circles around the Bruins’ goons, and no one knows who Milan Lucic is

Buffalo Sabres— $10 million. That is more than every single player in the league except Brad Richards. Seriously, think of any player in the league. Are they better than Ehrhoff? Is it pretty close? Ok, because he’s making like 8 million more than them this year. Ridiculous. More than Crosby, Ovechkin, Stamkos, Backstrom, Malkin, Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Eric Staal…you get the idea. For a guy who scored most of his points on a power play with the Sedin twins. Underachiever, anyone? That sucks.
The big issue most years for the Sabres is injuries. They lost an injury-prone pivot in Tim Connolly, albeit a very talented one. They brought in Ville Leino to a pretty ludicrous contract, who will presumably take Connolly’s place. He has only played center in limited time before, and while his skills are unquestionable, he may not be “there” yet, especially with the move to center. Do you see some potential sucking coming? I do. Woohoo!!
Factors for suckitude: not living up to contracts (see Gomez, Scott), perennial injuries, Miller has another down year

Calgary Flames– what more can I say than this? Glencross and Bourque have established themselves as solid top-6 forwards. In that regard, GM Jay Feaster made the right choice to almost entirely keep the team the same for this coming season. But, as Puck Daddy’s Harrison Mooney put it, “there are plenty of reasons why it’s the wrong idea, chief amongst them the results of the past two seasons. The Flames have missed the Playoffs two years in a row.” The Flames’ centers, as has been the case for a long time (which Iggy can attest to), are not very good. Average. Not as good as the rest of the West. That, too is pretty par for the course for Calgary. This team is more or less the same- so don’t be surprised if the results don’t change either. No Playoffs for you again, Calgary! Which sucks.
Factors for Suckitude: barely any capable forwards, no change in non-Playoff team

Carolina Hurricanes–Again, most of what I want to say is covered here. There is almost no reliable solid defense to protect Cam Ward from another league-worst shots allowed per game, and the odds are against Jeff Skinnerhaving as good a year as he did last year (Insider required). If that happens, the ‘Canes will be extremely lucky to be playing for the Playoffs in their last game again. And that sucks.
Factors for Suckitude: no solid defense=too many shots on Ward=suck, Jeff Skinner sophomore slump

Chicago Blackhawks— We are starting to see what could be the Chicago version of Marian Hossa. Which is pretty bad. After having 35+ goals in five of his first 6 seasons, he only has 49 in 2 seasons in Chicago, which sucks. Patrick Kane also had a bad year last year and he is currently sidelined with a wrist injury. I’m a Kane fan and I think he won’t be as bad as last year, but the injury could always flare up again. Duncan Keith’s production fell off dramatically, too. Those are 3 players who are looking to have bounce-back years, but players don’t always bounce back (at least not in this post). The Blackhawks lost some important players in Brian Campbell and Troy Brouwer, and cheaper, tougher, depth-ier players were brought in. Cheaper is better…as long as the players are not worse. The Blackhawks got deeper, yes, but will the talent dropoff be too much? If it is, another first-round (albeit exciting) exit could be in the cards for the ‘Hawks. That would not be good, would it?
Factors for Suckitude: Production stays down, cheaper replacements are worse

Colorado Avalanche–not much can be said here. The Avs are forecasting to be one of the worst, if not the worst, teams in the league. Yes, they finally have a semi-reliable goalie in Semyon Varlamov (barring injury, of course, which has happened before to Varly), and a nice backup in JS Giguere. They have a nice young core of forwards with Matt Duchene, David Jones, and recent draftee Gabriel Landeskog. However, young means inexperienced and inexperienced means developing, which, as Edmonton can attest to, doesn’t always happen as fast as some would like. I also excluded Paul Statsny from that list because his sub-par production and $5.5 million cap hit could lead to his being shipped out of town, which to me looks very likely. The Avs’ are hoping their new young core can energize the team. However, it looks to me like a transition year, which means that the Avs will probably legitimately suck. And guess what? If they finish last, they get…no 1st round pick, as it was traded to the Caps for Varlamov. That really, really sucks. Perhaps even more than this team will.
Factors for Suckitude: too young=undeveloped=bad, no lottery pick this year to show for it

Columbus Blue Jackets— Yes, they made big splashes bringing in Jeff Carter and James Wisniewki. But I think this is akin to the Ducks’ situation-but even worse. Jeff Carter and Rick Nash and whoever else gets thrown in with them form a very formidable first line. But behind that there is nothing, except Kristian Huselius, who I cannot even bring myself to even come close to comparing with Teemu Selanne. Sure, last year’s first round pick Ryan Johansen might make the team, but how much can he contribute? It’s the same with the defense-they have James Wisniewski, who I suspect will struggle as “the man” on defense, and perhaps 2009 first-rounder John Moore. But again, how much can he give to the team? Throw in the fact that Steve Mason can’t touch Jonas Hiller gets me wondering how much this team will suck? If they’re that much worse than the Ducks, this could be another middle-of-the-non-Playoff-pack (11th, 12th, 13th) year for the Jackets. Which, after the acquisitions they made, will suck.
Factors for Suckitude: they are similar to but a tier below the Ducks

Dallas Stars— ownership remains an uncertainty in Dallas, however it seems a deal could be done near the end of the calendar year. But I think Ryan Lambert of Puck Daddy put it best in this week’s What We Learned: “The process is currently expected to be wrapped up around Christmas, just a few weeks before the team will be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.” The ownership, this year at least, will not matter because this team is going to be so bad. They lost a superstar and their only remaining viable offensive threat, Brad Richards, to free agency. Michael Ryder and Vernon Fiddler, although nice signings, will not make up for Brad Richards. GM Joe Nieuwendyk says that he wants his team to be tough to play against (defensively), which means that he’s essentially hoping that 23 average/sub-par veterans and Loui Eriksson can get it done. He’s wrong. Take a look at your team, Stars fans. There’s really nothing there besides Eriksson and Ryder, 2 very inconsistent players. On defense, you have Sheldon Souray, whose recent playing history speaks for itself, and Alex Goligoski, a slightly above-average offensive defenseman. Does that look like enough to avoid suckitude to you? Not to me.
Factors for Suckitude: Ryder can’t replace Richards, inconsistency from top players, rest of the team sucks

Detroit Red Wings–the only bad thing I can say about the Wings is that they’re old. But, since this is extremely likely Nicklas Lidstrom’s (and Tomas Holmstrom’s) last season, one gets the feeling that if the Wings don’t get it done this year, they may not get there for a while. The Wings have dealt with the problem of getting old for the last three or four years or so, and it resulted in 2 straight Cup final appearances with one Stanley Cup victory. The team is stacked up and down, and the only question mark is goalie Jimmy Howard. One gets the feeling that, like Corey Crawford, he is just starting his best years as a goalie. They brought in Ty Conklin, who is a solid goalie, to be the backup. They also brought in Ian White and Mike Commodore, who should more than make up for Brian Rafalski, for a little more than half the price combined. Lidstrom is a truly great player, and if there is a year to win the Stanley Cup for the Wings, this is it. There is no way this team sucks this year. Sorry to disappoint, reader.
Factors for Suckitude: Lidstrom, Datsyuk, Franzen, Holmstrom, Kronwall, Zetterberg, Stuart, Helm, Howard all blow out their MCLs and ACLs and all the other cruciate ligaments. Even then I’m not so sure.

Edmonton Oilers— All these young players have to come together at some point, right? Will it be this year? Maybe. Maybe not. I am erring towards the maybe not. 1st overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will probably get sent back to junior to put on some weight. The team also brought back Ryan Smyth and signed Eric Belanger and Ben Eager. This is a pretty young team with a lot of promise offensively. Defensively? Not so much. It’s solid but nothing very good. They also have recently-incarcerated Nikolai Khabibulin as their starter, with youngster Devan Dubnyk, of the career 3.00 GAA, as their backup. My sense is that the blueline and back will ultimately be the downfall of the Oilers this season. The offense may make great strides, but the defense and goaltending look stuck where they are. Which is not league-worst, but still pretty bad. Just like the Oilers will be this year. Which sucks. (Now that’s more like it!!).
Factors for Suckitude: Good young forward core, but horrible defense and goaltending will ultimately kill this team

Florida Panthers— Dale Tallon and the Panthers were, by far, the biggest spenders of the summer. They acquired Tomas Fleischmann, Kris Versteeg, Sean Bergenheim, Scottie Upshall, Ryan Carter, Marcel Goc, Matt Bradley, Ed Jovanovski, Brian Campbell and Jose Theodore. Campbell will bolster the blue line while helping to get to the cap floor. 35-year-old Jovanovski’s 4-year pact was questionable, but he will provide some veteran leadership for a nearly wholly remodeled team in addition to solid defense. The Panthers’ problem has long been the main objective of the game of hockey, putting the puck in the net. The forwards, although none are too flashy (excluding Flesichmann-”Flash”-get it), will indeed help score goals more than nearly any group of forwards in the recent past for Florida. 2010 no. 3 overall pick Erik Gubrandson, a defenseman, will undoubtebly make the big club this year (he should have made it last year too). This is part of where JovoCop’s leadership will come in. But the potential suckitude lies in the goaltending. Scott Clemmensen is, well, Scott Clemmensen, and although he has proved himself serviceable in the past, he is serviceable at best. Jose Theodore, “past Hart Trophy winner”, is a mind-f$%& waiting to happen. His collapse in the Playoffs against Montreal was proof, as is any time he returns to play in the Bell Centre, or in any other high-pressure situation. There is no question these 2 are just nest-warmers until hotshot goalie prospect Jacob Markstrom is ready for the big-time. After so many years of consistency with Tomas Vokoun, it was the offense dragging the team down. But will it be the goaltending this year that drags the Florida Panthers down this year, causing them to miss the Playoffs yet again? My money’s on yes.
Factors for Suckitude: Jose Theodore is the starting goaltender. Yes, it can be that bad.

Los Angeles Kings— the Kings acquired Mike Richards in (perhaps) the biggest trade of the offseason (and there were many). A versatile 2-way forward, he will help on defense and offense. But where the Kings really need help is on offense, where Richards will, undeniably, help. But he also performed well in Philly, but was shipped out (reportedly) because of his love of partying. Is it realistic to expect that to change in Hollywood, the most celebrity-filled place in the world? It will certainly, at least, lead to frustration among the media, fans and perhaps management. There is also the issue of the Kings’ best defenseman-Drew Doughty. He still remains unsigned as contract talks supposedly continue between both sides. Worst case scenario? He goes all Paul Kariya on the Kings, missing about 30 games, causing Jack Johnson to have to shoulder the load, which he has proven to not be very adept at. Look, the Kings are going to be better, I can’t dispute that. But their biggest obstacle still remains in their division-the Sharks. With the litany of blockbusters the Sharks made this offseason too, will the Kings’ be enough to get by San Jose? If not, especially if Doughty holds out, you can be sure there will be hot flaming balls of suckitude heaped upon this team.
Factors for Suckitude: possible Doughty holdout, still play in Sharks’ division

Minnesota Wild— Yes, they made 2 blockbuster trades this summer. The Setoguchi trade seems like a wash in the short-term, although it could tilt towards Minny if Charlie Coyle develops well. I’m not so sure about the Heatley trade, though. Dany Heatley’s time in San Jose was not good. And look what he did the season after he was traded last time from Ottawa to San Jose–his goals were exactly the same. If that means another 26-goal season from Heatley, which does not seem out of the question, that will suck. Hands down. I’m also curious to see happens to the Wild’s blueline after the departure of Brent Burns. Burns was an all-star, and I don’t think there’s really anything else there. This team will undoubtebly have more offensive prowess this year, which has been the problem in the recent past. But will it be enough to get ‘em in the Playoffs? After their mega-trades this summer, if they don’t even make it that far, that will suck.
Factors for Suckitude: nothing on defense, did they get better in the Playoffs with trades?, are they good enough in an extremely competitive West?

Montreal Canadiens— I will be writing a slightly more optimistic preview for my favorite team than this at a later date. For now, the pessimism is king. The Canadiens went out and got exactly what they need-a top-6 power forward who goes to the net, can score 25 or 30 goals and provides some NAG (North American Grit-one of my favorite abbreviations, credit to Habs Inside/Out). This perfection goes by the name of Erik Cole, formerly of the Hurricanes. The Habs will also be getting 2 key defenseman back from knee injuries, Andrei Markov and Josh Gorges. They will also be getting back Max Pacioretty, someone who I am very much looking forward to seeing kick the Bruins’ ass (both literally and by scoring). However, this team rides very much on the shoulders of Carey Price. Which brings me to the subject of injuries. As previously observed, the Canadiens will be getting a multitude of players back from injury this year. The injury bug really bit last year. However, should it bite again, be it to Price (especially) or someone who it has already bitten, or PK, the Habs are in deep doo-doo. However, they took the Stanley Cup champion to game 7 overtime last year after having their blueline ridiculously decimated by injuries. But they did it on the back of Carey Price. And if the injury bug bites Price…the Habs will almost certainly…yup, you got it-suck.
Factors for Suckitude: perennial injuries, if Price gets injured as result of ridiculous workload

Nashville Predators–the big issue for the Preds is not this season but next offseason, when Pekka Rinne and Ryan Suter become UFA. That could potentially be the last year for Shea Weber, Suter and Rinne if small-market, small-payroll Nashville won’t meet their payment demands (if you’re asking me, I keep Rinne and Suter, but that’s just me). Besides those 3, there’s not much depth/star power on the roster. Montreal castoff Sergei Kostitsyn had a breakout year last year (although the media made it seem much bigger than the 50 points that it was). The Preds are still waiting for Patric Hornqvist to repeat his rookie season, when he tallied 30 goals. On defense, Suter and Rinne are one of the best shutdown pairings in the league. But, as mentioned before, this is probably the last year we see Weber, Rinne and Suter in Nashville together. The Preds need to make it past the 2nd round (where they got to for the 1st time last year) because of that. Anything else will suck.
Factors for Suckitude: will low budget hurt this team?, UFA year for 3 superstars-do they have what it takes?

New Jersey Devils— The Devils have always been an extremely defensive-minded team under Lou Lamoriello. They have drawn hate from all corners of the continent for “taking the fun out of the game”. Look for this to continue under new coach Pete DeBoer. That alone sucks. Kovalchuk started slow last year. If he does it again (with the recent KHL plane crash weighing on his mind?) that will really suck. 4th overall pick Adam Larsson should make the team. He was widely considered the most NHL-ready prospect in this year’s draft. That will suck for Devils fans if he doesn’t make the team, having to wait another year to see what will one day be a very special player. Also, Marty Brodeur turns 40 this season in a “contract year”. He had the worst save % of his career last year, which could lead some to believe he is in decline. If that decline continues, watch out for some suckitude from the Devils.
Factors for suckitude: Kovalchuk has another bad year, Brodeur starts playing like a 40-year-old

New York Islanders— the Islanders are building what looks to be a pretty good team. But let’s not forget, Rick DiPietro (of the contract through 2021) is still their goaltender, and, well, if I had a better way to say this I would but they are the Islanders. I think that speaks for itself. What will an offseason of stadium and relocation debates do to the fan base and the team? Can they break out of the basement of the Atlantic Division? Considering they’re the Islanders, probably not.
Factors for Suckitude: Rick DiPietro, Charles Wang, Atlantic Division

New York Rangers–obviously, the highlight of the Rangers’ offseason was inking Brad Richards. But will he join the long list of players who have inked rich contracts in NYC and then flopped (see Gaborik, Marian and Gomez, Scott)? Also, you cannot replace a player like Chris Drury. Obviously the Rangers need a new captain. What effect will that have on the locker room? Rangers also were manifested on by the injury bug last year. Will it come back and bite them again? They also play in the Atlantic Division, which is obviously a hindrance given that they are not the teams with Sidney Crosby and Chris Pronger (yes, I put Pronger in that category). I won’t say anything about Lundqvist because he is as solid as they come. The Rangers should make the Playoffs, but with the obscene amount of money they payed Richards, if they don’t go deep (which is really not a possibility), that will suck.
Factors for Suckitude: Richards becomes another NYC flop, Division, locker room changes

Ottawa Senators: there is no question the Sens had a good draft, drafting a center, right wing, left wing all in the first round. 6th overall pick Mika Zibenajad has a shot to be the no. 2 center straight out of camp this year. Yes, that’s how bad the Senators are. They had a great draft, they have a really good-looking young core with a good young goalie in Robin Lehner. But they’re too young. They’re still developing, and that’s why they’ll suck this year.
Factors for suckitude: too young-not yet beneficial, absolutely no scoring depth, tough division

Philadelphia Flyers–the Flyers replaced their two superstar centers with what they hope will be their next two superstar centers-Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier. Those two cannot be expected to become superstars this season. Also, where were the Flyers consistently hurting in the Playoffs? In goal. And Ilya Bryzgalov, who they signed to another ludicrous contract (par for the course for this offseason) ,is notoriously bad/inconsistent in the Playoffs. The Flyers will undoubtedly have strong defense again. But losing Jeff Carter and Mike Richards (who, despite their alleged love of getting down, were excellent hockey players) is not something that is easily and quickly fixed. Also factor in that Chris Pronger (who apparently does not like women) is still not fully healthy. Jaromir Jagr will MAYBE help with the scoring, but that remains a really, really big maybe. We’ll see how they are coming along on HBO’s 24/7. But if goaltending is once again a major issue in the Playoffs, with a probable dip in scoring, that will suck.
Factors for Suckitude: Bryz not good in Playoffs, they lost Jeff Carter and Mike Richards.

Phoenix Coyotes–how much longer can the Coyotes last? This applies both as a franchise in the desert and as a hockey team. Forgetting their long-running ownership saga, which has turned into a joke at this point, the Coyotes are a below-average hockey team playing for an above-average coach. There is no question that Dave Tippett’s system is what allows this mediocre hockey team to compete. But will this be the year the Coyotes show their true selves? Phoenix lost another primary reason for success (in the regular season anyway) in goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who went to the Flyers. They will be going with a tandem of Mike Smith and Jason LaBarbera (and Curtis McElhenney for depth) who, at the very least, are not scaring anyone. The ‘Yotes lost solid-but-neolithic-aged d-man Ed Jovanovki in free agency. They brought in 3 gritty forwards in Boyd Gordon, Raffi Torres and Kyle Chipchura. But, clearly, once again the Coyotes will be challenged to score goals. That will not be easy with Shane Doan and Keith Yandle really only the viable offensive threats on the roster. Also, Kyle Turris (assuming he signs) needs to do something this year. the 3rd overall pick from 2007 has really not done much of anything in the pros, and yet still wants big money. Don’t be surprised if his illogical demands lead to at least a portion of camp missed. Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Mikkel Boedker need to show up this season too. They have the fate of not just the Coyotes season, but possibly the Phoenix Coyotes franchise, in their hands. If they are bad this year, that could be a catalyst for a move to finally happen. And that would suck more than anything I will write in this post.
Factors for Suckitude: ownership issues, young players unproductive, no solid starting goaltending

Pittsburgh Penguins–Sidney Crosby. That is what this team hinges on. If he comes back fully healthy, they are easily Cup contenders. If not, then they are probably not. Look, they will benefit from having Malkin and, at some point, Crosby back in the lineup. When healthy, this team is lethal. But the fact that Crosby may not be ready for the start of the season is huge. Also factor in Marc-Andre Fleury’s guaranteed inconsistency that makes him the League’s best at times but head-shakingly bad sometimes, too. That will figure to be more important if Crosby can’t go. The Penguins have also had their share of playoff “woes” the last couple years (if you can call not getting past the 2nd round after making the Finals 2 years in a row and winning one “woes”). Can they get over the hump? Obviously they did not have Crosby and Malkin when they blew a 3-1 series lead to the Lightning in the 2nd round last year. Whether they have both of them this year will be key. If they don’t, expect their “woes” to continue.
Factors for Suckitude: Sidney Crosby potentially missing part of season, Fleury inconsistency

San Jose Sharks— like the Wild, San Jose’s newfound superstar trading buddy, the Sharks’ success and fan/media reception this year will depend on how their newly acquired stars perform. Martin Havlat and Brent Burns will not match Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi’s production in the regular season- that is a near-guarantee. But, as it has been for so many years now for the Sharks, it is the Playoffs that matter. If Havlat and Burns don’t push the Sharks over the edge (in a good way) this year, that will suck, especially given what Doug Wilson gave up to acquire them. I also have questions about their goalie-Antti Niemi. I never really thought he was as good as everyone was hyping him up to be after the Hawks’ Cup victory, and he proved himself to be a solid starter. They also got a physical defenseman who will also help on the PK in Jim Vandermeer and a solid defensive forward in Handzus. I also wonder if Logan Couture, who got rewarded with a contract extension, will have a sophomore slump after an excellent rookie year. But the pressing question is: are the Sharks, with all of their big trades, a better team than last year? If they don’t make it to the Finals, then the answer is no. And that will suck.
Factors for Suckitude: new players do not meet expectations, Niemi dips, Couture sophomore slump

St. Louis Blues–things have sort of gone downhill for the Blues since they made the Playoffs a couple years back. Every year we have high expectations and we say, “Oh, no doubt, this is the season that this young core comes together and gets St. Louis back in the Playoffs.” Why is this year different? Well, Doug Armstrong signed Jamie Langenbrunner and Jason Arnott, 2 veterans with 3 rings between them to help mentor the young core. However, David Perron will also be missing at least the start of the season and possibly longer with a concussion. I think this team does ultimately get into the Playoffs, but there’s a lot that could go wrong. There is always the injury bug, which I feel like (and this may be unjustified) has bitten them frequently the last little while. I also am not a huge Halak fan, as a starter. Yes, he caused me more pure joy in 2010 when he carried my Habs to the Conference Finals, then crashed and burned. But while he was with Montreal, he was hot and cold, he never seemed like he would be a complete starting goalie in the NHL. I guess he is now, but I still have my doubts. Also, the loss of Ty Conklin is something that will definitely be overlooked a lot. Conklin was an extremely capable backup, and now he has gone to Detroit, further proof that he is serviceable (if you didn’t get my Wings love from their preview in this post…go take a break or something). Now they have Ben Bishop, a 6”7 behemoth who was ok in relief starts last year, and Brian Elliott, who has proved time and again that he is absolutely horrible. But hey, he probably (hopefully) won’t get much time anyway. I think the Blues get in this year, but if they narrowly miss out again….that will suck.
Factors for Suckitude: Same old disappointment from young players?, goalie questions, injuries

Tampa Bay Lightning–look, no one thought the Lightning would make it to the East Finals. No one though Steven Stamkos or Marty St. Louis would have the years they had. And no one thought Dwayne Roloson would have the surprising year and very surprising Playoffs that he had. So what will happen if none of those 3 happen again? yup…that will suck. Let’s start with Roloson: the guy is 41. I liken him to Tim Thomas: I get the feeling that last year was the “all-in” year, the one that pretty much drains whatever you have left in the tank. Especially since Roli is older than Thomas, I have pretty big doubts about what he will be able to give them this year. I also don’t have a good feeling about Stamkos. He started really hot, like 50 -goals-in-50-games speculation hot. Then he cooled down about as much as Corey Perry heated up down the stretch. So what happens if he plays like that for more of the season? I see him as hot and cold-what if the cold dominates this year like the hot dominated last year? Clearly St. Louis benefited from Stamkos’ excellent play, so if Stamkos goes down, so will St. Louis. They are the core of the team. So if their production goes down, along with Roloson, that will suck.
Factors for Suckitude: Stamkos declines, takes St. Louis with him, Roloson is too old, defensive questions

Toronto Maple Leafs— oh, where to begin. The laughable Leafs organization (from hereon “laffs”) has had the stench of failure engrained in its very being the last few years. From the Kessel trade to the Komisarek failure to a whole host of other things, the Leafs have not been a very proud organization in recent memory. Some people think that may change this year with a Playoff berth. I refuse to consider it. Odds are that James Reimer will suffer a sophomore slump. Luke Schenn still goes unsigned even after watching fellow youngsters Brad Marchand, Tyler Myers, Zach Bogosian, and John Tavares ink new contracts. New acquisitions Tim Connolly and Matthew Lombardi’s health is anything but a sure thing. Connolly will help and play well, yes, but for how many games? He’s only played in 70 games once since the lockout. Based on his new team, that bad luck will probably continue. As for Lombardi, he is progressing in his return from a really bad concussion. The Leafs traded for him and Cody Franson (in exchange for Brett “Stanley Cup champion” Lebda, which might have been the biggest coup of the summer), but, obviously, it all depends on Lombardi’s health. He says he’s making progress, but with the severity of his concussion and since he is now a Laff, who really knows? Not me. But I do know one thing: if all goes wrong for the Leafs, as it usually does, this will not be a Playoff team this year. And thank God for that.
Factors for suckitude: Reimer sophomore slump, health issues for new centers, THEY ARE THE LEAFS

Vancouver Canucks— Look, the Canucks were a game (and a couple Luongo chokes) away from being the Stanley Cup champions. They lost in Game 7, and you can bet that is about as big of a motivator as there is in the game. However, one problem exposed it/himself during the Finals: Roberto Luongo. The Canucks’ high-paid goalie looked shakier than Alex Semin (in the Playoffs) during the 3 games in Boston, allowing 8,4, and 5 goals and looking horrible. He proved himself to be a mental case. Will that continue this season? Cory Schneider has been hyped up as a starter-quality goalie, but to me he didn’t look great spelling Luongo in the Playoffs last year. Can he do better this year? That’s really the question the whole team needs to be asking themselves. They did not lose much: Christian Ehrhoff, a guy who aided the Sedins on the PP, Raffi Torres, a grinder who was good for a big goal once in a while, and Tanner Glass, a goon (who also has one of the weirdest names I’ve seen in quite some time). This will be a largely familiar Canucks team in 2011-12. Look for Cody Hodgson, the ‘Nucks’ no. 10 overall pick in 2008, to make the team at center if he has an excellent camp. Besides that, there’s almost no other new players of note this year. But then again, they lost in Game 7 of the Finals, so why would there be? The only guy whose fault it was was the goalie and former captain who’s under contract until 2022. If the Canucks fail to convert another Game 7, it will probably be Bobby Lou’s fault.
Factors for Suckitude: Luongo shakiness, besides that they’re really, really good

Washington Capitals— oh boy. My favorite team to hate (and love sometimes) has a well-known weakness: the Playoffs. They went out and got Jeff Halpern, Joel Ward, Troy Brouwer, Roman Hamrlik, et al-veteran guys who will bring stability and, especially in Ward’s case, produce during the Playoffs. But these guys are not the core. And the core has long been the Caps’ problem- Ovie, Semin, Green and Backstrom are noted Playoff chokers. In all fairness, Ovechkin is way better than the other 3 when it’s prime time, but I lump him in since he is not always a great performer in the Playoffs, and he’s the captain. If it were up to me, Jeff Halpern would be the captain of this team, but I understand management’s opposition of that (haha). Vokoun will be solid in the regular season, but as you can read in my column on the subject, I don’t understand why he’s here in the first place. Look, the Caps will be one of the best if not the best team in the League in the regular season, but they are every year. As it has been for 3-5 years now, it’s all about the Playoffs. And even through all the acquisitions they made, I’m doubtful their core will come through. And if that happens, maybe everyone will finally see Semin, Backstrom and Green for the talented Playoff chokers that they are.
Factors for Suckitude: repeated Playoff choking, team will be blown up in that case, Vokoun not good in Playoffs

Winnipeg Jets— man, it still feels weird writing that. It doesn’t really matter what Jets 2.0 do this year because that city will still be so freakin’ happy they have hockey back that the record won’t matter, for this year at least. That being said, I hope for Winnipeg’s sake that’s true because the Thrashers Jets will probably suck this year. It’s important to remember that the Jets were the Thrashers last year, and the Thrashers were atrocious in the 2nd half of the season. The Jets, first and foremost, will have to deal with the death of Rick Rypien, no easy task even though he never played a game for them. Ondrej Pavelec, after having one of the most bizarre incidents I’ve ever seen in the first game, had a pretty good season. Andrew Ladd surprised some when he posted nearly 30 goals and 30 assists while also serving as captain, which earned him a nice raise this summer. But will/can it get much better than that for Ladd? Evander Kane and Alex Burmistrov will continue developing this year, and Eric Fehr will be a nice 20 or 25-goal center. But there’s almost no offense beyond that. And on the blueline, Dustin Byfuglien was arrested for drunken-boating while also being reported to be about 40 lbs. over his playing weight last season. Zach Bogosian recently penned a new 2-year contract. the former no. 3 overall pick has not developed at a fast enough rate. Will it finally be his year? Not in this post. Tobias Enstrom had a good first half but tumbled along with the rest of the Thrashers the 2nd half of last season. Which team will be the Jets this year-the first half one or the 2nd? Even if they’re bad, it won’t matter- Winnipeggers (I don’t know if that’s a real word) are just happy to finally have NHL hockey back. And so am I.
Factors for Suckitude: not much scoring depth, Bogosian still slow developing, move to new city, mental/emotional toll of Rypien death.

Stu Krantz- the Puck Schmuck-hopes to God his Montreal Canadiens do not follow the apparent trend of the rest of the League and suck. Hit him up on the Twitter machine at @stukrantz.

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