Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Division Predictions

Kicking off a Pens blog with hopes to get a loyal following by the time the season starts. I want this to one day turn to a general discussion forum for Pens fans everywhere.

I suppose since this is the offseason we can start with at the least a prediction for the division.

With all the action in the Atlantic, it's going to wind up being a very interesting year.

I suppose these would be some of the bigger questions on one's mind at the moment:

Will the Rangers actually benefit with Gomez and Drury?
Can the Flyers make a move up the ladder?
Will the Penguins be able to rally behind Fleury?
Has Guerin warranted the C in Long Island?
Do the Devils have a team this year?

I believe people will dissect and berate the Rangers to no end, but from a non-biased position I'd say they will no doubt be playoff contenders. Drury, Gomez, Shanny and Jagr playing in front of Lunqvidst is a formidable combination for any team. If they find a way to lock up Avery all the better. It will be difficult though, considering a lack of cap room. Like the Rangers or hate the Rangers, they still have something going right for them if they can pick up two of the bigger names in hockey. Unstoppable? Not quite. Still a threat for first place? You bet.

VanRiemsdyk has some years ahead of him still. Although no Crosby or Jordan Staal, he will eventually pose as a huge building block to the Philly offense. So, in the mean time, let Brierre get comfortable in his new role, let Gagne still put up 40+ goals and watch Biron cast a shadow on Nittymaki and Esche. I'd love to see the Flyers contend this year, but I still think they have a good year or two ahead of them.

The young team is now one year older. Despite a 4-1 series with the Sens, I'm sure valuable playoff experience was gained in the long run. I read a comment from someone recently on this site about his predictions for Malkin, Crosby and Staal. In the end, his overall prediction was a combined 376 points between the three of them. I suppose anything is possible.

They didn't get that first round draft pick because they gave it away to Edmonton earlier in the year for Ryan Smyth. Now they don't have Ryan Smyth. Poor management? I guess so. But this is hockey we're talking about. Build for the championship each and every year. The Islanders clearly thought they had something going for them. They did shoot down some naysayers in the playoffs, but it didn't take long till they were ousted. DiPietro aint going nowhere, Guerin is coming back to the East Coast and Sillinger may just have someone to work with. Can Witt tally up more than a single goal this year? I suppose he'll have to.

Brent Sutter is really the only acquisition I can think of with regards to the Devs. Sure, they picked up Weekes, but how much play do you really think he is going to get? Parise signed on again and to some is considered the future of the team, and they also picked up Zubrus. They still have the team points leader Patrick Elias but how is he going to fair with average players around him? He's a guy who came up big for them last year, especially in their influx of overtime matchups. Once again we're going to see a lackluster Devils offense, a stellar Devils defense and a mediocre overall hockey club.

Overall predicted standings in the northeast:

1. Penguins
2. Rangers
3. Devils
4. Flyers
5. Islanders

Now I know what you're thinking: This is a Pens blog, of course you're going to put them in first. Well, yes and no. Part of me feels the biggest fight will be between the Rangers and the Penguins. Come the last few games of the season, I wouldn't be the least but surprised to see the Rangers pull ahead by 2 or 3 points.

Something to consider, especially for division purposes, the last four games of the season for the Pens this year are against the Rangers and the Flyers. No slowing down for us around that time.

Banter, bashing and comments welcome.