Below I have compiled my 2012-2013 previews and predictions for the Eastern Conference. Next article, I will include my preview for the Western Conference. Every preview includes a prediction, grading at each position, key departures this off-season, my assessment of the teams’ off-season, and my x-factor that will play a large role in the individual teams’ success. Thank you for reading, and please feel free to discuss, comment, and share your thoughts below.
1. New York Rangers
Departures: Fedotanko, Prust, Scott, Mitchell, Eminger, Woywitka
Off-season assessment: The Rangers pulled off the Rick Nash deal that they have long coveted for a fairly reasonable price (Anisimov, Dubinsky, Erixon, 1st rounder). He gives Tortorella the option of rolling his top three lines in any type of situation. They also locked up one of the NHL’s most reliable back-ups in Martin Biron.
Grades: OffenseB+; DefenseB+; GoaltendingA
X-factor: Nash could end up being the spark plug to the enigmatic Rangers offence, making them a Stanley Cup favourite.
2. Tampa Bay Lightning
Departures: Clark, Commodore, Gervais, Ranger, Roloson, Caron
Off-season assessment: A makeover on Defense and in Goal. Let go secondary D-men, and brought in a pair of top four in Matt Carle and Sami Salo. They upgraded goaltending with the addition of Anders Lindback, and released Dwayne Roloson. They also solidified the third line in adding Benoit Pouliot.
Grades: OffenseB+; DefenseA-; GoaltendingC+
X-factor: Can Lindback be a starting goalie for the first time in his career?
3. Buffalo Sabres
Departures: Roy, Hecht, Boyes, Kotalik, Stuart, Morrisonn, MacIntyre
Off-season assessment: Buffalo had two tasks going into the off-season: getting tougher and adding a number one Centre. They’ve gotten tougher, and may have that top Centre in Grigorenko a few years down the line.
Grades: OffenseB; DefenseB+; GoaltendingB
X-factor: More consistent play from Miller, fewer injuries make the Sabres a serious contender.
4. Pittsburgh Penguins
Departures: Staal, Sullivan, Asham, Park, Michalek, Johnson
Off-season assessment: Not a great off-season for Ray Shero & Co. Sutter is a downgrade from Staal, while he failed on bids for star free agents, Ryan Suter and Zach Parise. Still has yet to find a replacement for the void left in the trade of Zybnek Michalek. Vokoun gives the Pens one of the best tandems in net.
Grades: OffenseA-; DefenseC; GoaltendingA
X-factor: If Crosby and Malkin stay healthy the whole season, the Penguins are almost unbeatable.
5. Carolina Hurricanes
Departures: Sutter, Allen, Spacek, Joslin, Dumoulin, Roy
Off-season assessment: One of the most improved teams in the off-season. Upgraded from Sutter to Staal, inked Alex Semin to flank them, but defensive depth has become an issue.
Grades: OffenseA-; DefenseC+; GoaltendingB
X-factor: Can the offensive firepower on the top two lines make up for the lack of defensive depth?
6. Montreal Canadiens
Departures: Darche, Staubitz, Campoli
Off-season assessment: Didn’t gain much in terms of scoring, but in terms of grit they hit a home run, big guys will open up space for the little guys.
Grades: OffenseC; DefenseA-; GoaltendingB+
X-factor: With only acquisitions being toughness, is this all that the Habs need to make the playoffs again? We shall see.
7. Boston Bruins
Departures: Pouliot, Rolston, Corvo, Zanon, Motteau, Turco
Off-season assessment: Secondary offence, defence were allowed to walk in favour of a youth movement. A trade for star winger, Bobby Ryan, could still be in the hopper though.
Grades: OffenseB+; DefenseB-; GoaltendingB-
X-factor: Can Tuuka Rask prove that he is a number One goalie like two years ago?
8. Winnipeg Jets
Departures: Wellwood, Stapleton, Glass, Fehr, Flood, Jones, Mason
Off-season assessment: Upgraded at Centre and Wing positions, but depth may now be an issue all over the board.
Grades: OffenseB-; DefenseB+; GoaltendingC+
X-factor: Youthful crop of forwards must continue to trend upward and stay consistent if the Jets want to have any hope in qualifying for the playoffs.
9. Ottawa Senators
Departures: Foligno, Konopka, Klinkhammer, Kuba, Gilroy, Carkner, Auld
Off-season assessment: Latendresse is a decent replacement for Nick Foligno, while the defence was upgraded with the additions of Methot and Lundin.
Grades: OffenseB-; DefenseB; GoaltendingC+
X-factor: Worried that the youth on this team will not be able to duplicate last year’s run to game seven of the first round of the playoffs.
10. Washington Capitals
Departures: Semin, Knuble, Eakin, Halpern, Bourque, Wideman, Vokoun
Off-season assessment: Upgraded depth at the C position, but there are glaring concerns on the flanks and on defence.
Grades: OffenseC+; DefenseC; GoaltendingB
X-factor: What Ovechkin are we going to see this year?
11. Toronto Maple Leafs
Departures: Crabb, Armstrong, Rosehill, Schenn, Finger, Gustavsson
Off-season assessment: The Leafs added about 50 points to there offence, but that is not the reason they missed the playoffs last year. Burke needs to revamp the depth chart in goal and on the back end.
Grades: OffenseB+; DefenseC+; GoaltendingC-
X-factor: Can the Leafs get a full season of decent goaltending?
12. Philadelphia Flyers
Departures: Jagr, van Riemsdyk, Betts, Carle, Kubina, Bobrovsky
Off-season assessment: A disgraceful off-season that has this blogger concerned about whether this team will even make the playoffs. The losses of Jagr, and JVR up front are troubling, but what is even more concerning is the defence. Carle, Kubina are as good as gone, the same can be said for Meszaros, who recently tore his achilles tendon and will be out for the season. There are no promises as to whether Chris Pronger will be back from concussion issues either.
Grades: OffenseB-; DefenseC+; GoaltendingC
X-factor: As usual, can the Flyers find a way to prevent yet another goaltending carousel?
13. New Jersey Devils
Departures: Parise, Sykora, Ponikarovsky, Boulton, Taormina
Off-season assessment: Could not have gone much worse for the Devils. Lost one of the best captains in the league, much of there secondary scoring, and for the icing on the cake, the team is in financial turmoil. Sad to see, just a season removed from a Stanley Cup final appearance.
Grades: OffenseC; DefenseB+; GoaltendingC
X-factor: Martin Brodeur must continue solid goaltending for the final two years of his goaltending career, or else New Jersey is in trouble.
14. New York Islanders
Departures: Parenteau, Pandolfo, Eaton, Jurcina, Reese, Staios, Montoya
Off-season assessment: Boyes replaces Parenteau, D was upgraded with Visnovsky, Reinhart, Carkner on there way in.
Overall: OffenseC; DefenseB-; GoaltendingB-
X-factor: A lot of young players must step up if they are to have any hope in making the playoffs.
15. Florida Panthers
Departures: Samuelsson, Sturm, Wolski, Barch, Madden, Garrison
Off-season assessment: Lost offence in what was already one of the worst in the East, and one of there top three D-men in Jason Garrison.
Grades: OffenseC-; DefenseB; GoaltendingC+
X-factor: Relying on youth to supplant losses of veterans.