Mats Sundin’s Retirement Plans

September 8, 2008

by Pete Toth… If Mats Sundin of the Toronto Maple Leafs does in fact choose to hang up his skates, fans will surely be wondering what he might be doing in all his spare time.

This 79-part series will delve into the mysterious possibilities available to the Big Swede in this post-NHL stage of his life.

Part 1 begins with “Nose Picking“, surely a favorite with many sports aficionados:

Mats can either pick his right nostril with his right index finger, or he can pick his left nostril with his left index finger. For a change of pace he can alternate middle and ring fingers. For a real challenge, fingers on the hand opposing the nostril can be used.

Upon capture of treasure trove, balling and flicking are natural finales to this pastime.

Part Two

If Mats Sundin of the Toronto Maple Leafs does in fact choose to hang up his sticks, fans will surely be wondering what he might be doing in all his spare time.

This 79-part series delves into the limitless possibilities available to the Big Swede in this post-NHL stage of his life.

Part 2 continues with “Ass and groin scratching while yawning“, written especially for all the women who say that men can’t do two things at the same time:

Mats can either scratch his ass or scratch his groin with either hand. However scratching both at the same is not recommended, as this looks really strange. (Not to mention that it feels even stranger. Don’t believe me? Try it.)

Implements such as remote controls or fly swatters are acceptable for use as scratching aids but only for the upper-intermediate to expert user. And, for you kids out there, make sure you have proper adult supervision before attempting this one at home.

While sitting or lying, ass scratching can be considered dangerous, especially when using fore-mentioned implements as scratching aids. Try explaining that misplaced Universal Remote to your colonoscopist.

Finally a word about yawning.

In keeping with dignified retirement activity protocol, always remember to cover your mouth when yawning. Of course, remembering which hand you didn’t use to scratch your “nether” regions becomes critical. Also in bad taste is accidentally sniffing your “wrong” hand while yawning and asking the wife whether she had just farted.

Quinton “Rampage” Jackson: A Real Champion

September 8, 2008

by Ron “The Yacman” Yacovetti…

cham·pi·on -Pronunciation Key - [cham-pee-uh n]

–noun

1 a person who fights for or defends any person or cause: a champion of the oppressed.
2. a fighter or warrior.

Anyone who watches MMA knows who Quinton “Rampage” Jackson is. How could you not? Very often his name comes up, noting his status as a former title holder. And while it is true that he no longer has the UFC Light-Heavyweight belt, Rampage is nothing but a champion in the eyes of so many fight fans the world over.

Recently, I was in Santa Monica, CA, covering a Shriner’s Charity MMA Event that was built around a bunch of great fighters stepping into the cage to raise money and awareness for ill children. The evening was very nicely done. I also had the pleasure to spend a little time talking with Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson and a protégé of his, from Team Rampage, the very talented Jay Silva.

Inside of a fun, free-flowing interview lasting five minutes, I was reminded of why I enjoy doing what I do so much. Both Rampage and Jay Silva went back and forth, joking around, while I asked a few questions from the safest spot in the house…in-between them!

The other thing I was reminded of is that while some fighters may need the title belt to solidify themselves as an elite athlete and intriguing personality in MMA, Rampage Jackson is not one of them.

I am not suggesting he is better off without the title belt. He should certainly have it again. It suits him to hold it. But let’s just say, what he brings to the position of UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion is a lot more than what the belt itself provides should it be held by an athlete who is less charismatic, gifted, intimidating and approachable.

Rampage has taken on some of the divisions best, including his last bout against Forrest Griffin. Some champions in boxing and MMA fail in this category, constantly. The fact that Rampage doesn’t dodge tough fights alone, commands respect.

Plus…

He is never boring, never caught laying and praying, or appearing to be out of shape. He is an exceptional athlete and as unique a character as you will find in sports. Likability with that kind of talent goes a long way.

And, in a sport that is blowing up, as MMA has been, branding and marketing oneself is crucial, if you want to have a “put asses in seats” fanbase…and Quinton Jackson does. You can bet that in his next fight, he will be cheered like a champion as he approaches the octagon, despite the absence of a title belt, because the belt never made him the man; he did that all himself.

Last weekend, as I saw it, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson came out to support a charity fundraising event intended to help sick children because, as a parent himself, he really seemed to care about the cause.

As he entered the arena, he was bombarded with camera’s, camera phone’s, and autograph opportunities. He took photos with fans and especially kids that showed up, clearly not expecting to see “the” Rampage Jackson that night.

So, it is my opinion that in defining a champion, inside or outside of MMA, this guy sure does fit the bill. The recipe for creating a world champion athlete is all right there, with just one ingredient left to make it official: the belt.

US Open Men’s Final Preview: ONLY Federer’s ‘A’ Game Will Do

September 8, 2008

by Long John Silver… Evening Everyone …

So, there we have it, we all attended Andy Murray graduation ceremony earlier today and the pleasure was all ours.

As Andy sat down on his chair after the victory, he shook his head holding his eyebrows with his right hand, it was almost as if he was thinking, ‘It all finally paid off, am relieved and I bloody can’t believe am playing Rodge for the title in NY tomorrow’ .

He had me thinking, the one thing that I always get reminded of when I watch Andy play until now this open are two words, out of which one I told yesterday, ‘Clean’ (for his crystal clean ball striking), the next one is ‘Luscious’, just for the amount of pace and pop on his ground strokes. Delicious to say the least

His strategy to stand 10 m behind the baseline to counter Nadal’s serve was tactful. More so, was the way he never even remotely appeared to be overwhelmed by Rafa Nadal’s penetrating ground strokes. Andy in fact enjoyed their pace for they became his meat and fodder, by coming right into his striking zone.

It also did not help Rafa, that they changed the match from Armstrong (yesterday) to Ashe today. Ashe is faster than Armstrong playing into Andy’s hands.

Rafa Nadal picked up his game in the third set today, but I have to agree he looked flat, less flat than yesterday because he egged himself on as much as he could, but still flat. A standing ovation from each one of us, for what has been a stellar year for the pop-eye muscled Majorcan. Felicitations Rafa! Vamos …

On to tomorrow –

As am writing this one, Serena has won the first set 6-4 at Ashe, a sense of inevitability prevails and I think JJ is the ‘Eternal Bridesmaid’ of slams.

After a long time a men’s final is on a Monday (17:00 EST, States Time). The last time I remember seeing a slam final on Monday was Ivanisevic’s salvation victory against Rafter 8-6 in the fifth, at Wimbledon (on what we call now famously as – The People’s Monday).

So let’s set this one up.

Little would anyone envy Murray, for a certain Swiss in the name of Federer looms in the background for tomorrow. Fitness will not be a problem, take my word, for it is Murray’s first slam final. The minute he enters Ashe tomorrow, adrenaline will kick in. Ashe’s pace suits him well, so he is on equal footing to start with that way.

The first slam final is in a way like defending your PhD thesis after seven long sloggin’ years; you won’t feel a thing in the event in itself, the fatigue sets in once the event is over. That is when you reach for a cold Guinness (or more).

Andy loves the jangling ambience of New York, better than the serenity of Wimbledon – self confessed on court today. Hence both Federer and Murray love the constant chatter and manageably chaotic ambience of Arthur Ashe, especially after darkness falls. With air planes flying back and forth between points, the crowd, city and court is a living thing - both of them love the event for the same.

From a technical standpoint, Federer has a better forehand than Murray (I am looking forward to more of those obscene ‘Bunt’ forehands)* and he will use it impose his game on Murray tomorrow. We’ll swap positions for the backhand; I believe Murray’s backhand is the better one, out of the two, but not by a huge margin.

Contrary to popular opinion that Murray needs to win tomorrow to prove that he is the real deal, I feel like he has already done that at this open. Consistency has never been his forte, but he has competed against the best in the world to reach the final. I think he has nothing to lose tomorrow, he has already exceeded expectations, for most people (me included) never saw him putting it past Rafa Nadal.

I expect Rodge to come out quickly off the blocks, just like the way he did against De-Joker. Murray will take a bit to find his feet, for this is his first slam final … hence look for Rodge to clinch the first set. The fireworks will begin in the second set. As Murray finds his range he will start to push Federer more.

Much will depend on what kind of a serving day Federer has tomorrow. If he serves anywhere close to how he served against De-Joker in the semis, Murray is going have a long day at the office. If he has a mediocre serving day, things will even out a bit for Andy will get some looks on Federer’s serve.

I think Andy is moving incredibly well too; hence Federer needs to paint some lines during the course of the match (and trust me he will). Most importantly, if you look at the semi-final, Federer became unstoppable in the fourth set, once he got the cushion of the 2-1 set lead underneath him. A relaxed Rodge is ominous for the bloke on the other side of the net.

It would serve Murray incredibly well to not let Rodge get on any sort of momentum. If the match is indeed is on a knife-edge at a set apiece, it is more important for Murray to win the third set than for Federer. I feel if Murray does indeed lose the third, he has to face a rampant Federer in the fourth, and we all know where that slippery slope ends.

I have chronological proof, if at one set apiece you let Rodge win the third; you are done in four, for most probabilities. Agassi in 2005, Roddick in 2007 and De-Joker a couple of days before – all at the open.

De-Joker actually executed his net game very well against Federer. Murray can and should look to come in to finish points with crisp volleys, like he did against Nadal today and yesterday. His approach has to be off the highest quality like De-Joer though … or else he’ll get creamed. That will indeed take the net away from Federer, he also did come in his fair share against De-Joker in the semi-final.

A true indication of a champion is his ability to notch up a gear when needed, and Federer even though has not brought his A+ game to the open until now, has ratcheted up a gear when most needed. I feel that will eventually tilt the game in his favor tomorrow.

My final call – I think Federer’s A (or if we are lucky A+) game should get the job done in four, clocking his 13th slam. He would then salvage a slam for this year, quite relieved he will be too, that the year is over.

Even a shade less of a game from Federer, Murray will hold his first slam trophy under the luminescent lights of Manhattan, in his most favorite city in the world. That will be perfectly N’Sync with his theme for this summer of - ‘Winning is not everything – it’s the ONLY thing’. I consummately embrace that essence.

Andy has a genuine shot, I like his chances a lot … just that I like Federer’s chances better. Rodge in four, says that little voice inside me.

Federer’s ‘A’ game is the only one that will suffice, or else it’s the evening of ‘The Flexing Scotsman’

Break A Leg!

What do you think?

Too Little Too Late

September 8, 2008

by Aaron O’connell… As I sit in my living room at the start of September, watching the Jays go on a bit of a run, I say the same thing I have been for the past few years, too little too late.

I love Toronto to death, but every year is the exact same as the one before. They go on winning streaks giving me a slight hope that I may see them play in October, but in the end it’s never enough.

Maybe next season I’ll go in with the attitude that the Jays will be the shittiest team in the American League and see if they can grab one of the top four spots, but I don’t think reverse psychology will quite work in this situation.

They are, without a doubt in my mind, part of the toughest division in baseball especially now that Tampa Bay has found the chemistry a team needs to make the playoffs. I could honestly watch a mini-playoff between the Yankees, Red Sox, Rays and Jays and be totally satisfied as if I was watching the World Series.

But that is why the MLB is so competitive because just over a quarter of the teams in the league get a shot at winning one of the greatest prizes in professional sports. In this era a team has to be well over the .500 hundred mark to even get a shot at making the playoffs unless you’re part of the NL West.

It’s not like the Jays have been playing awful baseball, they just simply haven’t been playing well enough, but are showing teams that they are a solid baseball team that can compete with the best in their recent success.

The Jays have won five in a row in sweeping the season series against the Minnesota Twins and sit seven games over .500 and nine games out of the wild card spot with just over 20 games left.

If I was a mathematician I would be saying they still have a chance, but I’m not, I’m a sports fan who is facing the reality that the Jays will have to wait yet another year for a chance to play October baseball.

With one of the best team ERA over the last three years in the entire league you would think that the Jays should have been in the playoffs in all of those seasons let alone one, but their bats have been dead especially when runners are in scoring position.

They haven’t had the clutch hitting that wins ball games and in the long run championships, but since the return of Cito, they are ten games over .500 and they have been swinging the bats exceptionally well giving Jays fans a sense of enlightenment for next season.

Lets just cross our fingers and wish for a full puzzle next season where the bats are booming and the pitching remains the same because if so, Jays fans can quit admiring their ticket stubs from the 1992 and 1993 playoffs and purchase a brand new one.

Best NBA Point Guards for the 2008-09 Season

September 8, 2008

byTJ Zwarych…

This article is also posted at hoops4life.com, an NBA fan site.

Every team needs a good point guard. Arguably the most important position in basketball, the point guard is relied on to distribute the ball and shoot from the outside.

What makes a really good point guard is doing those two things, playing defense, and—if you’re really lucky—driving the lane. Now, without further ado, the list:

5. Steve Nash

Nash is a fantastic offensive point guard—but unfortunately, he’s getting old.

He is one of the league’s top three free-throw shooters, and there is no one better at distributing the ball into tight places. Unfortunately, this two-time MVP just cannot play defense.

Projected Stats: 17.3 ppg, 10.7 apg, 3.3 rpg

4. Devin Harris

Harris is a fantastic young point guard who will enjoy a great season with New Jersey this year. He will have a full season to play with the Nets, who should do better with their new acquisitions.

With new players like Yi and Lopez to pass the ball to, Harris will have a career year. Harris is a very good defender and will have a breakout year offensively.

Projected Stats: 18.6 ppg, 8.3 apg, 3.4 rpg, 1.7 spg

3. Andre Miller

Many people will think this is too high for Andre Miller, but Miller has been underrated his entire career. He will have a great season this year with Elton Brand in Philly—if Brand is healthy, he is still one of the top forwards in the game.

Many people think Miller won’t improve considering he is 33, but I think he has a few good years in him yet. Miller is a great defender and isn’t afraid to get inside to get boards. He should have one of his best years this season.

Projected Stats: 19.1 ppg, 7.9 apg, 4.5 rpg, 1.5 spg

2. Deron Williams

The top two spots here were obviously locks for Deron Williams and Chris Paul—it was just a matter of deciding what order to put them in. It seems like Paul always has better stats, but for some reason Williams dominates Paul whenever they play.

I’m not sure whether it’s because the Jazz match up well against the Hornets, or just the dynamic between these two. Either way, both point guards will be elite guards in the league for their entire careers.

Projected Stats: 20.7 ppg, 11.1 apg, 3.7 rpg, 1.3 spg

1. Chris Paul

Paul is a fantastic young point guard, who some say will eventually be one of the best ever.

His stats also show it. He is right up where Magic, Stockton, and Isiah were at this point in their careers.

Paul is one of the league’s top guards on both side of the court. He is a 20-point scorer and also led the league in assists last season. On defense, although not necessarily a lock-down defender, he lead the league in steals.

Projected Stats: 22.6 ppg, 11.7 apg, 3.6 rpg, 2.7 spg

Since there are so many great point guards in the league right now, this was a hard list to make. Therefore, there are many honorable mentions:

Honorable Mentions: Chauncey Billups, Rajon Rondo, Jose Calderon, Jeryd Bayless, Raymond Felton, Mo Williams, Derrick Rose, OJ Mayo

Toronto Maple Leafs: Remembering Bryan McCabe

September 8, 2008

by Shane House… As happy as I was to hear that Bryan McCabe was traded last week, I’ve had time to think. Bryan McCabe, towards the end of his career with Toronto was to say the least, bad.

But does anyone not remember what he did contribute to Toronto?

For years he brought stability to the Toronto power play and a sense of optimism when he shot the puck. I still remember way back in the day when people used to love McCabe and even remember people owning the infamous mohawk he used to sport during the playoffs pre-lockout, with people dying it blue just to look like Bryan.

But then it happened.

On his contract year with the Toronto Maple Leafs, John Ferguson Jr. offered him a lucrative 5-year, 29 million dollar contract that McCabe couldn’t refuse. Both sides were in a tough spot.

John Ferguson Jr. would have had his head on a pike if he didn’t re-sign him, but had to match his demands to get him. McCabe wanted to come back, but felt he deserved more for his services because of his statistics.

So, they signed the deal, ultimately making both there braves for the Toronto fans to throw dirt on.

After the deal, McCabe could feel the pressure of the fans to perform and it wore on him.

Even after turning in a 57 point campaign the next year, people still felt they got a raw deal for the talented defenseman.

So like Leafs fans do, they ragged on him and wouldn’t let up saying he was overpaid and not worth the money even though he netted 15 goals as a defenseman.

At this point, with the Leafs nation breathing down his neck, he still turned in a solid season, but you could tell it was wearing on him and after the Leafs didn’t make the playoff for a second year, all eyes turned onto McCabe.

I was right there with everybody else saying he was overpaid and is only hurting the Leafs.

But for what?

Being offered a huge contract that will give him financial security for five years.

That bastard!

But lets be serious for a second, if you can ignore the big contract, Bryan McCabe contributed a lot to the Leafs and until last season, was one of the biggest assets to the team.

But that was until last season.

Last season was tragic and saw the bewildered Leaf fall from the grace of Leafs fans young and old, making anyone who owned a McCabe jersey hide it in shame.

I even wore it as a joke in shinny and scored on my own net.

But that’s besides the point.

The more I think about it, Bryan McCabe loved the Leafs and was proud everyday tat he got to grace the Blue and White on that ice and when I look back at when he played for the Leafs, I wont think of him scoring on Andrew Raycroft with three seconds left, I will be thinking of a man who was proud everyday to step into the Air Canada Centre and play for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Thanks Bryan McCabe, and I wish you all the best in Florida this year.

Behind Enemy Lines - NHL Eastern Conference Predictions

September 8, 2008

by Greg Caggiano…(Greg is a die-hard New York Rangers fan and lives in New Jersey)

The time has come for my official NHL Eastern Conference preview and predictions, which will be located in this article. I was originally going to wait until Mats Sundin signed somewhere but since it looks as if hell will freeze over before then, I figure I’ll get busy with this.

Final Standings

1. Montreal Canadiens*

2. New York Rangers*

3. Washington Capitals*

4. Pittsburgh Penguins

5. Philadelphia Flyers

6. Boston Bruins

7. New Jersey Devils

8. Carolina Hurricanes

———————–

9. Tampa Bay Lightning

10. Ottawa Senators

11. Buffalo Sabres

12. Toronto Maple Leafs

13. Florida Panthers

14. Atlanta Thrashers

15. New York Islanders

Team Analysis

1. Montreal Canadiens

For the second straight season, the Montreal Canadiens will win the Eastern Conference. This team established themselves as one of the fastest and most exciting teams in the league last season and they are virtually unchanged coming into this season.

The only difference in the lineup will be winger and former thirty goal scorer Alex Tanguay, who will only strengthen the offense. The team also got tougher and they now have a bonafide enforcer in the lineup with Georges Laraque.

The only question with this team will be the goaltending and I wonder how well Carey Price will hold up in what will be his first full season in the NHL. The offense should be enough to carry the team through the regular season but it will be up to goaltending and defense when the playoffs roll around.

2. New York Rangers

Two months ago I boldly predicted that the New York Rangers would win the Atlantic division and I’m sticking by that. The team went in the right direction by letting Jaromir Jagr and Martin Straka go, and acknowledging that it will be Scott Gomez and Chris Drury who will be the future of this offense.

The additions of Nikolai Zherdev and Markus Naslund will only improve the team as Zherdev is incredibly skilled and exciting, while a change of scenery will do Naslund good.

Also, look for big free agent acquisition defenseman Wade Redden to turn into a Brian Leetch-type figure for this team, as they have lacked a power play quarterback since his departure.

Their defensive core is young and solid; combine that with goaltender “King” Henrik Lundqvist, and this team can go deep into the playoffs.

3. Washington Capitals

In what is a very weak Southeast division, the Washington Capitals will once again come away the victors.

Their offense will rank among the best in the league with young players like Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, and Niklas Backstrom leading the way. Add to that the veteran presence of Sergei Federov and Viktor Kozlov, and there are no worries on offense.

However, their defense and goaltending are questionable as the only D-man worth noting is sniper Mike Green. To say that Jose Theodore is an upgrade over Olaf Kolzig is a bit of an over-statement, but Theodore played well with the Avalanche last season and the offense of this team should keep the pressure off on most nights.

This is yet another team that will be carried by offense and not go deep into the playoffs.

4. Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins stormed all the way to Stanley Cup Finals and even won the Atlantic Division last season. However, Marian Hossa was a big part of that and he is no longer with the team. He won’t be missed too badly, but losing a perennial 40 goal scorer can’t help in any way.

Still, the team is strong on offense with guys like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin leading the way. Miroslav Satan, Ruslan Fedetenko, and Matt Cooke were all nice additions and will definitely add skill to the offense.

The defense is also virtually unchanged but the loss of Ryan Whitney for what could be the first month of the season will hurt the team. However, Brooks Oprik, Sergei Gonchar, and Darryl Sydor should keep them strong.

5. Philadelphia Flyers

If there is one team that may be a surprise to finish this high in the standings, it’s the Philadelphia Flyers. They have the same team as last season and didn’t make one major addition in the offseason.

Daniel Briere, Mike Richards, and Jeff Carter will keep the offense strong along with a supposedly healthy Simon Gagne. Their defense is once again strong with players such as Kimmo Timmonen, Braydon Coburn, and Derian Hatcher.

Their goaltending may be shaky, as Martin Biron has yet to impress anyone, even though he played well in the playoffs. Look for backup goalie Antero Niittimaki to challenge for the job as No. 1 goaltender.

6. Boston Bruins

Last season, the Boston Bruins barely snuck into the playoffs and almost upset the No. 1 seeded Canadiens in the first round of the playoffs. This season though, they will be featured a little more prominently in the standings.

The offense stayed the same except for the addition of Michael Ryder who will experience a renaissance with his new team. But with coach Claude Julien’s defense style, the team will not have to rely on offense to win games. Add to that their solid defense of Zdeno Chara, Dennis Wideman, and Aaron Ward, and they will have a nice combination of offense and defense.

As for goaltending, Manny Fernandez should be healthy and will challenge the very reliable starting goalie Tim Thomas for the starting role.

7. New Jersey Devils

The one team that surprised me this offseason was the New Jersey Devils, as they went out and signed the players they absolutely needed: a speedy winger with offensive talent and a grinding center.

Those players, respectively, are Brian Rolston and Bobby Holik (who will be playing in his second stint with the Devils). Add those players to a decent offensive top six that includes Patrik Elias, Zach Parise, and Jamie Langenbrunner, and they have a chance to improve on offense from last season.

Also, look for Brian Gionta to be on the move before the deadline as his offensive ability has declined. This team also has what you would call a “no-name” defense. The only person who is known around the league is Colin White.

However, the system Head Coach Brett Sutter implements will allow them to win games. Additionally, Martin Broduer is still the last line of defense, as he continues his assault on the record books. However, the only way the Devils go far in the playoffs is if Broduer doesn’t play in more than 75 games.

8. Carolina Hurricanes

The final team to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference will be the Carolina Hurricanes. They have a solid offense led by Eric Stall, Rod Brind’Amour, and Sergei Samsonov, while their defense is equally capable of putting up some numbers.

Joe Corvo is a solid offensive defenseman, and so is Joni Pitkanen. Goaltender Cam Ward is also strong and this team has a good chance of upsetting the Montreal Canadiens when the playoffs come around.

—————————–

9. Tampa Bay Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lighting finished dead last a season ago and they will see a vast improvement, finishing over .500 and coming close to making the playoffs.

They added offense in Ryan Malone and Radin Vrbata, and grit with Gary Roberts. Combine them with Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, and this team will have a great offense.

Even with all of that, the main reason they will not make the playoffs is defense and goaltending. On defense, the most experienced player is Andrew Hutchinson, and at 28 he is virtually a career minor leaguer. In goal, Mike Smith has skill but is untested and Olaf Kolzig is on the downhill turn of his career.

10. Ottawa Senators

When you hear the phrase “one-line team,” the Ottawa Senators have to come to mind. Other then Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, and Dany Heatley, this team’s offense on the bottom nine forwards is incredibly thin.

On defense, they lost Wade Redden, and even though he had been struggling, I would still rather have him over Filip Kuba, who they just added in a trade with Tampa Bay.

If they made one good signing is was the rugged and tough defenseman Jason Smith who will shore up the defense. The goaltending is a question mark with Martin Gerber and Alex Auld between the pipes.

11. Buffalo Sabres

The Buffalo Sabres are now a far cry from the team that won the Eastern Conference just two seasons ago. The only player on offense worth noting is Thomas Vanek, who never lived up to the gigantic contract he signed last year.

Their defense is steady, even with the loss of Brian Campbell. Craig Rivet and Jaroslav Spacek add experience to the blue line. Combine that with Ryan Miller, and they are the only reasons why this team will be competitive throughout the season.

12. Florida Panthers

If there is another team in the East that didn’t make major changes, it was the Florida Panthers. They will sorely miss Olli Jokinen, but can look forward to the likes of Nathan Horton, Stephen Weiss, and new addition Cory Stillman.

On defense, they added Bryan McCabe, who desperately needed a change of scenery and he will help their power play.

Nick Boynton and Karlis Skrastins will also add experience to a young team. There is a bright spot on goaltending though, as Tomas Vokoun has proven himself to be more than adequate in the job he’s done. Craig Anderson is also a solid and reliable backup.

13. Toronto Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs are in a period that fans dread to hear, a period of rebuilding. It appears as they will not bring back Mats Sundin and have turned things over to Alexei Ponikarovsky, Matt Stajan, and Nik Antropov.

Their offense will enjoy moderate success but the defense and goaltending will struggle. Pavel Kubina and Tomas Kaberle will be strong, but other than them, the defense is extremely weak.

Say what you want about Bryan McCabe, but I would much rather have him then Jeff Finger. In goal, the Leafs will ride out Vesa Toskala and Curtis Joseph, and when the team is out of contention, look for them to call up Justin Pogge. The only reason they will not finish last in the league is because of the two teams worse off than them.

14. Atlanta Thrashers

The team that will finish second to last in the East will be the Atlanta Thrashers. They used to be a team with a ton of offense and no defense. Well, now they don’t have much of either.

Losing Marian Hossa last year hurt superstar Ilya Kovalchuk, who will still manage to score more than forty goals. Other than him, this team will struggle to score.

They are also weak on defense, with the exception of Ron Hainsey and Tobias Enstrom, who will provide much needed help to their power play. Goaltending is also very shaky as Kari Lehtonen has yet to prove himself as a reliable number one goalie.

15. New York Islanders

Finally, the worst team in the Eastern conference will be the New York Islanders. Their leading scorer will come from one of these three guys: Doug Weight, Bill Guerin, or Mike Comrie. If that’s the case, it is a huge problem.

They lost Miroslav Satan and Ruslan Fedetenko during the offseason and even though they struggled, I would rather have the two of them instead of Frans Nielsen and Blake Comeau.

One would think their goalie position is strong because of Rick DiPietro, but he has been injured in each of the last two seasons. If that continues, one must ponder how bad the contract Garth Snow gave him really is.

Player Point Predictions

1. Alex Ovechkin: 72 goals, 53 assists, 125 points

2. Vincent Lecavalier: 45 goals, 54 assists, 99 points

3. Sidney Crosby: 30 goals, 64 assists, 94 points

4. Evgeni Malkin: 50 goals, 38 assists, 88 points

5. Jason Spezza: 40 goals, 47 assists, 87 points