It’s going to be an interesting year in the NHL, that’s certain. With the 2010 Olympics coming in less than six months, the first 20-30 games of the 2009-2010 could decide who makes Olympic teams and who doesn’t. Will Jason Spezza stop drinking the Redbull Turnover Cocktail and prove to Steve Yzerman and co he deserves to be on the Canadian squad? Will Rick DiPetro stay healthy for more than two weeks to compete for a Team USA goaltending position? Will Mats Sundin figure out if he wants to unretire again to play for Sweden?
But those aren’t the only questions. Of course, other and more typical questions surround the Pittsburgh Penguins – can they repeat as Stanley Cup champions? Will they play Detroit in the Cup finals, again? (Probably not, but worth the question, given the fact its been a long time since there was three Cup finals with the same two teams.) Will John Tavares save the New York Islanders?
Alright, enough with the questions. What everyone really wants to know is, who’ll be the worst team in the NHL this year? That was my last question, I promise.
I’ve got it down to a few teams who I believe will “contend” for this prestigious honour. Let me know if I’m missing any teams.
- Colorado Avalanche – Terrible season last year and it might get worse this year. Joe Sakic retiring is a big blow. He simply cannot be replaced. The Avalanche defence is half decent, although recent rumours suggest Scott Hannon could be leaving soon. Two primary concerns are forwards and goaltending. Even if Matt Duchene makes the big club, he can’t do it all in his rookie year and something tells me Darcy Tucker will have yet another sub-par season.
- Atlanta Thrashers – GM Don Waddell has done a good job building up young talent, but its really a question of when it will come together. Priority one has got to be getting star Ilya Kovalchuk signed to a long term extension. Upcoming talent like Zach Bogosian, Evander Kane (the Kane who doesn’t beat up cabbies), Angelo Esposito, Tobias Enstrom and Bryan Little may mean the Thrashers may not suck for much longer. They still need a top center to play with Kovalchuk – Todd White cannot be your top center (surprisingly, he did get 73 points last year…). Finally, goaltending… Kari Lehtonen is still the unknown. Ultimately, if the Thrashers aren’t the worst team in the NHL this season, it could very much point to Lehtonen playing much better or the Thrashers finding a new goalie.
- Florida Panthers – Jacques Martin left. Jay Bouwmeester left (finally). I don’t even know who’s still there. Nathan Horton needs to step up and be the dominent forward he was projected to be. David Booth will need to have a lights-out year and well… I don’t know… this Panthers club could be a major challenger for 30th place.
- Phoenix Coyotes – Unlike the Panthers, the Coyotes have some great young talent. Guys like Peter Mueller, Kyle Turris, Mikkel Boedker and captain Canada Shane Doan (not that he’s young, but whatever) need to lead the way. The ‘Yotes were in the playoff race for the first half of last season but will need to stay healthy and more consistent in order to keep out of the NHL basement and in the thick of things come April 2010. Hopefully the off-season distractions won’t hurt the club too much. And if they do, maybe Jim Balsillie can… urrgh. I’m so tired of talking about him.
Stay classy, bad NHL teams. I’m Ron Burgundy?
(damnit, I promised no more questions!)