Scott Gomez and the New York Rangers and Kyle Okposo and New York Islanders appear destined to finish at different ends of the Eastern Conference spectrum this season. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)
As the NHL season draws tantalizingly near, the hockey mind can’t help but be consumed with thoughts of days to come, both near and far.
In my case, for no other reason than intrigue, postulations regarding the NHL’s three New York-based clubs are bouncing around my lobes.
Here, in order of perceived best to worst, are views on the trio:
Why is everyone so down on the Blueshirts? From THN’s official picks to Adam Proteau’s personal projections (His East predictions come out Thursday, but here’s a sneak peak: he thinks the Rangers will finish 11th), there’s not a lot of love heading the Big Apple’s way.
Between all-world goaltending; a solid-if-not-spectacular top six on the blueline; two top-notch scoring lines; and tremendous coaching and player leadership, the Rangers have all the tools to not only win the Atlantic, not only win the East, but seriously contend for the Stanley Cup.
A team with question marks at every position other than goaltending, the Sabres could find themselves contending for the second spot in the Northeast or crapping out in fifth, with nary a sniff of the playoffs.
The former seems more logical than the latter, but if Thomas Vanek doesn’t rebound after a horrific campaign, Tim Connolly can’t stay healthy or an eclectic mix of defensemen doesn’t gel, not even Lindy Ruff will be able to keep this house of cards from tumbling down.
As an aside: anyone who thinks the return of Teppo Numminen will in any way make up for the loss of Brian Campbell on the blueline should give their head a shake.
While the Sabres’ fortunes are at least in doubt, the same can’t be said about the Isles, who would need a miracle to sneak into the East’s Final 8. And, unfortunately for fans, the team’s Miracle Maker, Ted Nolan, wasn’t on board with management’s plan to build from the ground up and won’t be back behind the bench.
When your two big off-season acquisitions were Mark Streit, a player who makes hay almost exclusively on the PP, and Doug Weight, he of a 0.37 points-per-game average last season, there’s not a ton to be optimistic about.
Check that, you can be optimistic about getting either Victor Hedman or John Tavares in the draft.
Edward Fraser is the editor of thehockeynews.com. His blog normally appears Thursdays.
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