We’ve asked numerous team bloggers from around the league about some intriguing storylines or questions heading into the 2010/11 season. Here is the roundup from the Eastern Conference. (The West will be posted later today.)
Atlanta Thrashers: Moving Dustin Byfuglien to defense was the right move: True or False? “The Thrashers have great depth at defense and could use more size up front. I would prefer to see Byfuglien remain a forward because that seems to solve an organizational need. On the other hand, GM Dudley has followed his career very closely. If anyone has a grasp on Byfuglien's potential at defense it is GM Rick Dudley.” - Matthew Gunning, Bird Watchers Anonymous
Boston Bruins: Can the offense survive without Savard if he's out for a lengthy period of time? “We all saw what happened to the Bruins last year when Savard went down on three separate occasions: last in the NHL in goals and 23rd overall with the man-advantage—and they were only that good on the PP because of the 41 games Savvy did dress.
For the questionable amount of time that Savard may miss, David Krejci, who underwent wrist surgery this offseason, should assume the No. 1 center duties and perform up to his capabilities—circa 2008-09. Patrice Bergeron will also carry a big load in continuing his Selke-like play while remaining effective on offense, and rookie Tyler Seguin could shift from wing to center, his natural position.
Plus, with the acquisition of Nathan Horton, the Bruins certainly have the overall talent to make plays and put the puck in the net in the meantime.” - Mark Marino, The Hub of Hockey
Buffalo Sabres: Do you expect Tyler Myers to have a 'sophomore slump'? “Honestly, no. When Myers broke into the league last season, expectations were already high for his potential and Myers has met those expectations. This season, those expectations haven't really grown from where they are. Sabres fans aren't expecting Myers to do more with his game; they are just expecting more of the same. Seeing early things out of the preseason, Myers should play just fine and may find himself with a better season with new partner Shaone Morrisonn.” - Zachary Zielonka, Die By the Blade
Carolina Hurricanes: What do you expect out of rookie Jeffrey Skinner this season? “What do I expect of Jeff Skinner? I think the odds are pretty good that Skinner will stick with the big club and do a bit of scoring this season. Will he get over 20 goals? Probably not, but the kid has mad skills and tons of upside. At this point, I think he would develop better in the NHL than he would going back to junior.” - Bob Wage, Canes Country
Florida Panthers: Is this Tomas Vokoun's last season in Sunrise? “With an expiring contract and organizational goaltending depth on the upswing, it's very easy to see the Panthers parting ways with the man who has - perhaps more than any other player - given the club a chance to win (almost) every night since the 2007-08 season opener. Ideally, having him sign a one-season extension would be the best strategy for the team, allowing the rebuilding roster continued development while netminder Jacob Markstrom can take all the time he needs in Rochester, prepping for what's predicted to be a superior NHL career.
Realistically none of this is an option, of course. Vokoun's in a contract year, and at 34, he's playing for his final major deal. He will presumably be one of the most sought-after players at the 2011 trading deadline, allowing Florida management the opportunity to rid themselves of an annual $5.7M cap hit while bringing fresh assets to GM Dale Tallon's ever-evolving long-term roster. Markstrom, as the club's "goalie of the future" in no unspoken terms, will be sharing starts with Scott Clemmensen by early spring. This arrangement also accomodates for the opportunity of prospect Marc Cheverie to split time in Rochester with Tyler Plante.
If the Panthers somehow find themselves in the midst of a strong run at deadline time, odds remain solid he'll still be dealt; just too much of a bounty to be had.” - Donny Rivette, Litter Box Cats
Montreal Canadiens: Do the Habs have enough secondary scoring to return to the playoffs? “The question is not whether the Canadiens will have enough secondary scoring, because frankly, that’s all they have; an abundance of secondary scorers.
The Canadiens anchor each of their top two lines with small, yet extremely dangerous wingers in Michael Cammalleri and Brian Gionta, but neither of them would be considered upper crust offensive forces in the NHL. They are both extremely good, even verging on great, but not elite.
At centre, the top two lines have crafty, two-way, playmaking centremen in Tomas Plekanec and Scott Gomez. Again, neither of them will finish among the top-5 offensive centres in the league, but they're both well above average.
And both of the top two lines have a wildcard on the opposite wing, whether that’s Andrei Kostitsyn, Benoit Pouliot or possibly rookie Lars Eller. Nobody knows exactly what to expect from any of those three players this season, but between the three of them the Canadiens should be able to plug someone in to each of the top two lines to provide an additional threat.
In a sense, having a set-up like this guards the Canadiens against a prolonged slump to any one superstar player because the scoring should be spread pretty evenly. In another sense, when Jacques Martin is down a goal late in an important game, whose shoulder does he tap to get out there and tie it up?
So to get back to the main question, is this enough scoring to make it to the playoffs? I would say yes, because if the primary duos on the top two lines remain healthy all year, they will produce a ton of goals. The question that remains to be answered is whether or not Carey Price will keep enough out at the other end, but that's a discussion for another day.” - Arpon Basu, Daily Hab-it
New Jersey Devils: After all the trouble to re-sign Ilya Kovalchuk, was it worth it? “Ilya Kovalchuk was undoubtedly worth what the Devils paid. This is why. The draft picks do not hurt as much as many think because the team develops from within. Yes the $6.66 cap hit will hike Zach Parise's value but the team now has two young and marketable stars to build around. Once the talent surrounds them, many will ask why the Devils did not do something like this sooner. The development of Mattias Tedenby and Jacob Josefson might actually be the key to see if the Kovalchuk trade was really worth it.” - Chris Wassel, The Program
New York Islanders: Matt Moulson will repeat his 30-goal season from last year: True or False? “False. Guess this won’t make the Isles Media Guide regurgitations... Matt Moulson is a good player, has made the best of his opportunity on the Isles, and will likely have a solid year. But, when's the last time someone has consistently put in 30 goals for the Islanders? Moulson is key for any success this year, but I wouldn't quite bet the farm on 30 goals. I see more assists for him than goals this season. With Okposo out for a while, Moulson is needed to be prolific. Not sure he can meet that expectation. Be happy with 20-25 goals. I will.” - BD Gallof, Hockey Independent
New York Rangers: Who's the best fit to center a line with Gaborik and Frolov? “Unfortunately that's not going to be an easy answer. Most teams going into the regular season know who their number one line center is going to be. Among the positions up for grabs on the Rangers roster heading into the new season is the number one center position. To be honest, I don't see one player getting the job all season long. Rangers fans are hoping rookie Derek Stepan gets the job, but he might not even make the team. Unfortunately it’ll likely go to NHL journeyman Erik Christensen to start the season. I’d like to see Brandon Dubinsky get another shot playing along with Gaborik.” - Declan, PuckCentral
Ottawa Senators: Who will emerge as the starting goaltender: Leclaire or Elliott? “Ottawa's goaltending struggles are so persistent and so depressing that Sens fans have by now resigned themselves to the omnipresence of a goaltending controversy on this team. And this year, in all likelihood, will be no different. Our problem isn't that either Brian Elliott or Pascal Leclaire are terrible; it's that they're so ridiculously inconsistent that they can't be relied upon at any time. To me, it's a lot simpler if you have bad goaltending; you just have to find someone better. Here, though, we're teased with terrific goaltending, and then hugely let down when that falters.
Back to the question, though: For the purposes of the 2010-11 season, I think we'll probably see another pretty well split season, although Pascal Leclaire – should he be able to stay healthy – will likely see more ice time.” - Peter Raaymakers, Silver Seven
Philadelphia Flyers: Michael Leighton will be the Flyers' starting goalie come playoff time: True or False? “I’m going to have to say false. Leighton is already out for a month with a back injury, and it’s no guarantee he’ll return in four weeks (we all know how wonky back injuries can be). His absence will give Brian Boucher and Sergei Bobrovsky an opportunity to take the number one. If those two can’t get the job done, GM Paul Holmgren could look at bringing in someone from the outside. It’s a toss-up right now… but if I gaze into the crystal ball, it tells me Leighton won’t be the Flyers’ starter in the spring.” - Ryan Porth
Pittsburgh Penguins: Will Evgeni Malkin benefit from moving over to wing this season? “Geno Machino would be and has been the first one to point out that he didn’t necessarily live up to expectations last year and he hopes to change that this season. Though a lot has been made about the fact that he is in store for a change to the wing, his head coach Dan Bylsma will tell you that Malkin has actually played a lot of wing over the past two years. Though he often lined up at center, line-mates such as Max Talbot took many of the draws and played deep in the defensive zone, which allowed him to play an “all over” game. Putting him in position to do that on a full time basis should create more shooting opportunities, which will enhance his goal totals.
The former Conn Smythe winner has gotten the chance to embrace his new role during camp, as he has been placed on the right wing of a line with Mike Comrie and Eric Tangradi and the trio has been productive thus far. When Malkin is feeling comfortable, as he is now, he typically puts up numbers, which I fully expect him to do this year. So ultimately, the “official” move to wing should benefit him.” - Brian Metzer, From the Point
Tampa Bay Lightning: Is Tampa's goaltending good enough to return to the playoffs? “If the Bolts return to the playoffs is dependent on goaltending alone, then they are in trouble. Fortunately that's not the case. Though Mike Smith and Dan Ellis will have to stop shots, the team's offensive attack under Head Coach Guy Boucher's new system should propel the franchise back to the playoffs for the first time since 2006-07.” - John Fontana, Raw Charge
Toronto Maple Leafs: Is this the year that Brian Burke's rebuilding plan finally see results on the ice? “Current year on-ice results are a false indication of progress to Leafs Nation and analysts of the rebuilding plan. While results are easiest evidence to build an evaluation model, the effort represents the berth pangs of the future looking Buds. In the end, the season’s results represent the evolution of steps to respectability. Last season represented an organization in transition, asset-wise with whole-scale background cultural changes. This season represents the emergence of the vision and further identifying who indeed belongs there when it all matters most, and who else will be loaded onto a plane by season’s end and beyond.” - Gus Katsaros, Maple Leafs Hot Stove
Washington Capitals: Is this the year that the Caps finally shake the label of being just a 'regular season team'? “Despite rising to contention as quickly as they have, the Capitals’ Achilles heel remains spring hockey. As there’s no greater thorn in their side, post-season success is their ultimate goal. With more home-grown talent set to fill out the roster and cap space on their side, the Caps have positioned themselves to allow for their greatest opportunity to achieve playoff success in over a decade. Failure is no longer an option while proving they’re not playoff busts is their only salvation.” - Steven Hindle, Hockey Buzz
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