Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Puck Stops Here: That's All She Wrote

Welcome back to another exciting edition of The Puck Stops Here. Before getting into our official end of the season wrap up, I want to take a moment and handle some scheduling. This is the first of a series of off-season hockey articles covering off-season happenings until the regular weekly article begins a few weeks before the first puck drops for the 2008-09 season.

The NHL Draft is June 20th and 21st, check for a review of the draft a week after. NHL free agency begins July 1st, look for an article over the 4th of July weekend previewing the free agents who haven’t signed and a discussion of those who already have. NHL training camps open early to mid-September and will have all your fantasy hockey needs starting with the opening of training camps.

With that scheduling done, I would like to congratulate the Detroit Red Wings on winning the Stanley Cup. Although, for the first time since I can remember, I didn’t watch the winners celebrate with the cup. As a loyal Penguins fan for the last 15 years, I just couldn’t handle watching it. But I have to admit; the Red Wings were the better team and deserved to win the Cup. I have never seen a team that looked so machine-like. The Red Wings dominated just about every aspect of each game. Even when the Penguins won, it seemed more like they were barely holding on, rather than actually winning. The scariest part, Detroit looks like they will get most of their team back and will be the same juggernaut again next year.

Here are some other observations I made while watching every minute of playoff hockey that I could.

The Ottawa Senators are in trouble. Their goaltending is slightly above average. Their defense is slow and getting older. All the Senators have are a trio of all-stars and some serviceable pieces on offense. The entire organization reeks of dysfunction. The good news is it won’t take a ton to get the ship pointed in the right direction again. The goaltending will be a tough fix, but getting a solid, and younger, defensive core will help alleviate that problem. There is hope, just not a lot of it. The Senators still have enough talent to be good and make the playoffs, but with the current core of players, first round exits will be the norm.

The New York Rangers consistently keep showing the world why a bunch of high priced free agents doesn’t equal a championship. They need to take note of a fellow New York team, the New York Giants, and realize a couple all-stars help, but championships come from teamwork and buying into the “family” theme. The Rangers will probably throw more big money at defensemen this off-season, and it will help, but it won’t be the solution. They need more character guys, they need to get younger and those are two things you usually don’t get from high priced free agents. Like the Senators, they will continue to be good but won’t ever fulfill the promise of a salary-inflated roster.

The Washington Capitals have a bright future ahead of them. But, as most Washington teams seem to do, they can still screw it up. They have a very solid team of young stars, but they need to surround those developing stars with the proper cast of role players. Sergei Fedorov is not that guy. Many people compare the Capitals to the Penguins of a couple years ago, but the Capitals are much further away. More pieces of the puzzle are missing, especially in the key leadership roles. This summer is crucial. They must surround their young stars with good veteran leadership.

The West will always be wild. Coming into the playoffs most pointed to the Penguins or Canadiens in the East to make the Stanley Cup finals. However, in the West, most couldn’t agree between the Stars, Sharks, Wings or Ducks. All four teams are very good and will be very good again next year. If the playoffs started all over again, I am still not sure if I would say the Wings would make it out of the west. Sure, the Wings won and looked impressive doing it, but those other three teams all combine great goaltending with leadership, defense and skilled offense. The make up of each team will slightly change next year, but I fully anticipate another brawl in the West between these four teams. Everyone else is playing for 5th.

For more off-season hockey coverage, check back in a couple weeks for’s NHL draft recap. Until then, The Puck Stops Here.

Related Posts by Subject