Let's cover the East today!
New Jersey Devils. I know a lot has been made of the Devils leaving their trap-y past behind, but...they still play some seriously boring hockey. But they do have to play in New Jersey in the shadow of an actual Original Six team and another New York team, so...that's punishment enough, really. Anyway, looks like Martin Brodeur is coming back for another whack at it, which is good, I like Martin Brodeur and I think he deserves his hype as one of the best goalies of all time. During the playoffs last year he seemed to be letting in some uncharacteristic soft ones, though, and I wonder if he'll back off this year and let backup Kevin Weekes have some more time. More importantly, the Devils snagged my favorite mediocre defenseman of all time, Karel Rachunek. He is not a very good defenseman at all, but he's been improving, and did fairly well for himself with the Rangers last year. So far they've been pairing him with both Vitaly Vishenvski and Johnny Oduya, and he's been actually putting up points, which is shocking, considering that most seasons he gets maybe twelve points. Maybe.
New York Islanders. I won't lie to you, the only reason I know anything about the Isles is because of Miroslav Satan. I like him. This year they've also got Mike Comrie which should be good for some laughs on the island, since wherever Mike Comrie goes he seems to be about a waste of good top- or second-line space since he just. Cannot. Produce. And does not deserve the outrageous sums of money he's making--I mean, look! He spends it on buying cars for his latest jailbait girlfriend! Cut his funds off and give them to someone who deserves them, like...well, someone else.
New York Rangers. Are a good, solid Original Six team, and...all Czech. Okay, not really, but it can sure seem like that sometimes. Jaromir Jagr heads up a pretty solid core, and man, he is a horse. Between him and Brendan Shanahan, another player I really like, they could annihilate some rookies. They've also got Petr Prucha, a flashy Czech kid (okay, "kid"--he's 25) with some nice moves who fits nicely with Jagr, and one of my very favorite players of all time: Marcel Hossa, the Lesser of the Two Hossas. All joking aside, Marcel has matured into a decent player who'll never have the goal-scoring touch of his brother, but nonetheless has good hands and accurate passing skills. And he is a LOT of fun to make fun of. On the defense they have Michal Rozsival, a Czech defenseman I like a lot, and Jason Strudwick who is memorable only because he played for the Blackhawks for like, twenty minutes a few years ago and kept a hilarious blog on the website. And in goal they have the outstanding Henrik Lundqvist, who is not only smoking hot, but a really excellent clutch goaltender for being such a young guy. The short and short of it is that New York has got most of the pieces--veterans for leadership, sharp forwards for production, a solid goaltender--what I'll be interested to see is if their defense can hold up well for a season.
Philadelphia Flyers. I really, really do not like Philadelphia. I don't like their policy on Europeans--that they don't like them--which has seemed really, um, short-sighted, to say the least. They have made a few steps towards European players, with a bizarre amount of Finns, but still. And they have a few huge strikes against them in Derian Hatcher and Daniel Briere, both of whom I hate with an unhealthy passion. There is nothing I like about this team. Not one single thing.
Pittsburgh Penguins. Oh God. Two teams I despise in a row? So many awful people on this team that I hate! Colby Armstrong, who is a little jerk, Jarkko Ruutu, who I think is a dirty player, Jordan Staal, who is just vile, and Marc-Andre Fleury, who has just got too many teeth to be trustworthy. Have you seen him smile? It's like watching a shark with three or four rows of teeth. And the grand prize winner of annoying, Sidney Crosby, of course. Why won't Sidney Crosby just go away? I am so tired of hearing this bullcrap about how he is "The Next One" and how he's "going to save hockey." Look, hockey does not need saving, people? Especially by a snot-nosed diving kid. You know who else has been labeled "The Next One?" Eric Lindros and Alexandre Daigle, for heaven's sake. You know where Alexandre Daigle is now? Pumping gas at a Swiss gas station. Okay, not really, but I wish he was. He's actually playing with HC Davos in Switzerland right now. I wouldn't mind if Sidney Crosby went to Switzerland. And never came back.
Boston Bruins. Man, what has happened to Boston lately? They can't seem to get it together. Their captain Zdeno Chara is one of my favorite players, but I think their actual problem is that they don't have enough raw talent and up-front firepower to really be a threat. And, they have Andrew Ference, the most self-righteous and annoying hockey player on the entire planet and that is including the entire Russian nation, and that has got to be a downer for the team. Ference actually makes me dislike Boston. This is sad, considering Boston has a great history and deserve to not suck.
Buffalo Sabres. I have a love-hate relationship with Buffalo--normally I'm pleased to watch them play, but after their debacles with the Sens I hate them. They're certainly a good team, though. Ryan Miller, their starter goalie, I hate, he is the weediest, whiniest creature I've seen in my life, but I love Jocelyn Thibault, their backup. Thibault played for the Blackhawks a few years back, and was entirely respectable, but hip problems and hip surgery sidelined him for a good chunk of last year. A shame, because I like to watch him play, and he is a good guy. And, he likes to fly planes, which is a pretty cool hobby.
Montreal Canadiens. Montreal rules. They have awesome fans--although when they come to Ottawa they are usually crazy and drunk--and a near-mythical history with an astounding forty-two Hall of Famers having played for them and, of course, more Stanley Cups than any other team, ever. They're practically a religion. I can't hate them like I hate Toronto. Most of their players tend to fly under my radar, but I do like Saku Koivu, their captain, who has loads and loads of guts and a real sense of leadership. And Jaroslav Halak is their up-and-coming Slovak goalie who I am unnaturally fond of. Halak has quite a lot of work to do if he wants to really be a starter in the NHL, but he has a lot of talent and I'd like to see Montreal give him some more time in the league, even if he is only 22.
Ottawa Senators. I love them. They are my team. They can do no wrong. But they came pretty close with the whole Mike Comrie thing last year.
Toronto Maple Leafs. The Senators' archnemesis. I hate them, and I enjoyed watching Buffalo wipe the floor with them 7-2 on Wednesday. It was fun.
Atlanta Thrashers. My main interest in Atlanta is Marian Hossa. He is a legitimate superstar and I would love to see him have a 50-goal year. This is the last year in his contract, though, so it'll be interesting to see how he does, and expect every team who can afford it to bid for him next summer. I don't think if Atlanta has anything to say about it they'll ever let go of him, but I'd like to see him go to a real contender. (Yes, I know, I watched them in the first round last year, did you? The Rangers beat them silly.) He can be pretty scary paired with Ilya Kovalchuk on the other wing, who has similar talent, but has already had a 50-goal season. Anyway, I don't want to like Kovalchuk, but I do anyway. He's so flashy! I can't look away!
Carolina Hurricanes. Their logo resembles a toilet, and it is accurate. Not only do they have a harbinger of evil in Eric Staal, they have John Grahame as one of their goaltenders, who used to have half-naked women and lighthouses (?) on his goalie mask. I don't know if he still does, but...it's a family game, Johnny! At last it posits itself as one! Cool it with the airbrushed women in bikinis, it makes you look trashy. On the other hand, you have to play for Carolina, and it's probably better to have naked women on your mask than to drink heavily, which is your other option.
Florida Panthers. Where to start? They're so pathetic, I can't hate them--there's nothing to hate. There are so many things wrong with this organization. First of all, they have a player in their system named Keaton Ellerby, which sounds like a pseudonym a British spy would use while checking into a swanky hotel to avoid detection. They have the most forgettable Slovak player ever, Jozef Stumpel, although I can't imagine why. They have the second most forgettable Slovak, too--Richard Zednik--although his problem is that people keep forgetting he is Slovak and imagine he is Russian. The bright light in the organization is, for me, Craig Anderson, a goalie from Park Ridge who I think is just the best thing since sliced bread. He played for the Blackhawks, but has spent most of his time recently in the AHL, so I'm hoping he and Tomas Vokoun can split goaltending duties because I love Anderson and I really, really want him to succeed.
Tampa Bay Lightning. First of all, they have a goalie with the awesomely hilarious name of Karri Ramo. Heh. Anyway, Tampa Bay is a little weird--they have flashes of brilliance like their entire Cup-winning season, but for the most part they just plod along in mediocrity. They have Vincent Lecavalier, who looks like a corpse and wears enough bling to repair the National Debt, and Martin St. Louis, who is officially listed at 5'9 but I'm pretty sure they let him stand on a box while measuring. If he is 5'9, I am 6'6 and Zdeno Chara's female equivalent of a freakish giant. (Note: I am not actually 6'6.) So all in all they have some, ah, interesting players, I'll put it that way.
Washington Capitals. I always forget Washington has a team. I shouldn't, because Alexander Ovechkin is playing for them, and he is really a whiz kid. I like watching him. They've also got Brian Pothier on defense, who used to play for Ottawa, and I miss. He was a decent defenseman! The Sens have got more defensemen than they know what to do with these days, so he's not sorely missed. In goal they have Olaf Kolzig, a really good guy who has done a lot of humanitarian work and deserves to be recognized for it. This year he'll also hit the 600-game milestone, which is huge for a goalie, especially one without a great deal of name recognition like Kolzig.
Hockey starts Wednesday! We're almost there!