Unlike our elected officials, I give the people what they want.
Bad poetry? No!
Bad political snark? No!
Always glad to have your support, governor. Hey, what are you doing with that gun? I'm not a moose. We don't have moose in Ohio. Wait, listen to me, dammit! Stop! Noooooooooooooooo!
"Where's my bailout, you bastards?"
Oh, is this finally the year when the playoff drought ends? No, not the Browns. I already know those fuckers won't be ending my sporting misery. I'm talking about my Columbus Blue Jackets. C'mon, just gimme a few more net-shredding forwards and I gar-on-tee we'll be playing when it's approaching 80°. Unless Rick Nash becomes possessed by the spirit of Mike Bossy right now, then it would be this season after all.
okjimm, if you read this entire post, I'll buy you a beer.
Atlantic: Pittsburgh, barely. Maybe. Why barely maybe after such a strong showing last spring? Well, their starting blueline tandem is out until December (Ryan Whitney) and 4-6 months (Sergei Gonchar). The saving grace is that they have the best and second-best centers on the planet. Philadelphia won't surprise anyone this year. I'm still not sold on Martin Biron, his playoff heroics notwithstanding, but they're deep and Braydon Coburn is a beast. Now the Rangers have an actual Vezina-quality goalie, perhaps the best in the NHL after godstopper Martin Brodeur. But, like the Devils, they keep on taking baby steps backwards on offense. Are you sold on Nikolai Zherdev? What's that line, million dollar, um, slapshot, ten cent head. Jersey did bring back old hand Brian Rolston and Patrik Elias can't continue the downward slide, can he? The genius of Marty holds off the golfing for at least one more campaign. The Islanders are very young, save for 700-year old free agent signee Doug Weight. They'll be horrible.
Northeast: The Canadiens are the class of the division and mirror Philadelphia in many ways in terms of their depth without any bonafide, front rank superstars. If Carey Price can overcome the mental nuclear winter of his playoff bomb -- and if Methuselah Kovalev can repeat last year's 84 point performance -- then they could easily represent the East. Ottawa self-destructed last year, but getting rid of head case Ray Emery and bringing in some gritty role players can only help, plus they still have Jason Spezza, Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson. Buffalo actually managed to resign one of their players for once, arguably their most important, goalie Ryan Miller. He'll be enough, along with a bunch of young guns, to keep the Sabres playing after 82 games. Most will see Boston as a bubble team, but don't forget just how much time Patrice Bergeron, their best player, missed last season. Despite shaky goaltending, they could sneak back in. Toronto, well, they're spinning wheels.
Southeast: Mustering up all of my hockey wisdom, I correctly predicted that the Capitals would make the playoffs. I also predicted that the Senators would win the Cup, but let's let bygones be bygones. I was tempted to choose Carolina yet again because, when healthy, I still believe they're the most complete team in the division. Thus it came as no surprise when right wing Justin Williams tore his right achilles. Tampa Bay maintains oodles of offense and added top overall pick Steve Stamkos. They have quite possibly the worst defense this side of L.A. and no goalie, so at least they'll conjure up fond memories of the high-flying 1980s. Hell, they even have The Mullet! Florida and Atlanta are both young and generally crappy across the board, but the Panthers have Tomas Vokoun and the Thrashers don't. Wonder how long it'll be before Ilya Kovalchuk signs with the KHL for 86 gajillion rubles.
Central: Detroit. The best team in the league added sniper Marian Hossa. Duh. Well lookie here. The Blackhawks, after drafting well for a few years, are relevant again. Adding puck-moving defenseman Brian Campbell should be the last playoff piece. I actually do like some of the moves the Blue Jackets did, R. J. Umberger for starters, and Pascal Leclaire will prove this season that he's a top-ten goalie, but scoring goals will likely remain difficult and probably keep them out of the postseason for one more year. Poor Nashville. You guys have tried so hard in a market that doesn't give a flying fuck about hockey. St. Louis is still rebuilding. Man, I remember when you guys still had Chris Pronger and were an actual force. Drafting his replacement, Erik Johnson, and losing him for the season for an injury sustained at a charity golf event when he's ready to be The Man has gotta hurt. I've been telling everyone for decades that golf is evil. You don't listen, and this is what happens.
Northwest: It's not out of the realm of fanciful, Chimpy in chains at The Hague-style dreaming for any of these teams to win the division, but we can only pick one -- oh, what the hell. Edmonton. All that young, fast talent reminds of when they outhustled nearly everyone to a Stanley Cup a few years back. Of course, they could all fall flat on their pimply faces -- the defense is still on the wrong side of mediocre -- but it says here they won't. If they do, Minnesota will be there to grab the divisional crown, though who knows when they'll resolve Marian Gaborik's contract or whether he'll head overseas. Now that I think about it, perhaps Calgary is the better candidate because they still have Mikka Kiprusoff and all-world winger Jarome Iginla and who knows, maybe ex-thug Todd Bertuzzi can help replace Alex Tanguay and Kristian Huselius, though I doubt it. Colorado? Have fun with Peter Budaj and Andrew Raycroft as the last line of defense. Lots of 5-4 games in your immediate future. Draft Paul Stastny for your fantasy league! Vancouver has Roberto Luongo, the Sedin twins and youth.
Pacific: Since Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne are still around in addition to the rest of the crew, the Ducks have to be the divisional favorite, but Dallas and San Jose will be right on their heels. Pick any one of these three, solid goaltending, relatively deep rosters, you can't lose. As for the rest, Phoenix is slowly -- as in molasses in the dead of winter -- getting better with all their young guys, but until the teams ahead of them age a bit more, all you'll receive is The Great One regaling you during zamboni time with stories of yore: "once there was a giant named Marty McSorley and he used to eat little babies between periods. Just like Cheney!" Los Angeles has some pieces on offense, most notably center Anze Kopitar, but an abysmal defense.
Eastern playoff teams: Montreal, Pittsburgh, Washington, Philadelphia, Ottawa, N.Y. Rangers, Buffalo, New Jersey, though if Tampa Bay only had even a mediocre goalie...
Western playoff teams: Detroit, Anaheim, Edmonton, Dallas, San Jose, Minnesota, Calgary, Chicago.
Stanley Cup Finals: Until someone proves they're better -- or luckier or hungrier -- Detroit should repeat, becoming the first team to do so since 1998 when, yes, Detroit did. As for their opponent, I could easily see Pittsburgh returning, but with the loss of Marian Hossa and the injuries on defense, they'll lose out on home ice to a team celebrating its 100th season, the Montreal Canadiens. Who wouldn't want to see that, besides all of Canada outside of Quebec? Allez les Habs !
Saturday, October 4, 2008
Unlike our elected officials, I give the people what they want.