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Who's on the up?

Montreal will need a big contribution from Brian Gionta once again this coming season. (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Montreal will need a big contribution from Brian Gionta once again this coming season. (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s the middle of July, yet you wacky puck-lovers insist on continuing to bombard me with questions. I’d advise you to seek help. But I put together the mailbag much easier without you seeking help, so keep the inquiries coming. Here are this week’s selections - including one that has never been asked before and likely won’t be asked again.

Adam, will you marry me? Also, what do you think of the Florida Panthers' overhaul this summer? With new players and a new coach, are the playoffs in their near future?
Chantal, Montreal

Chantal,

I’ll have to think about it, but as long as you’re not a moustachioed, 55-year-old male trucker from Shawinigan writing under a pseudonym, you’ve got a decent shot at me.

As for the Panthers, I’m not one of those people hugely impressed by their moves. I did include them in my list of the 10 most improved teams this off-season, but considering how awful they were last season, there was really nowhere for them to go but up.

That said, I doubt they make the playoffs in the near future. Yes, they’ve got some great young prospects. However, if you think they’ll be better than the Caps, Lightning, Hurricanes and Jets - OK, they could be better than the Jets - you’re setting yourself up for disappointment.

See you at the altar!

Adam, why are teams that are below the salary cap floor not penalized?
Andrew Savoie, Gatineau, Que.


Andrew,

I’m finding this is becoming a common question/complaint. And with all due respect, it’s a bit frustrating. The fact is that, in the off-season, teams don’t have to have enough salary on board to meet the minimum salary cap requirements. Same goes at the other end of the cap spectrum: teams are allowed to exceed the cap ceiling by 10 percent in the summer, but obviously must pare the salary by the conclusion of training camp.

Maybe it’s the immediacy of the Internet generation, but in general, I find people asking this question are a little too impatient. It’s not even August yet, folks! Relax, enjoy the weather and give your team time to get their financial ducks in order.

Adam, do you the think the recent trades/draft picks by the Minnesota Wild put them in the running for the team to beat of the 2011-2012 season?
Robert Kiefert, Benson, Minn.


Robert,

In short, no. I didn’t dislike what GM Chuck Fletcher did - that’s why they ranked fairly high on my list of the most improved teams - but even with Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi around to give a shot in the arm to their offense, I don’t think they can touch what Washington or Los Angeles did this summer.

Hey Adam. With the Leafs (Tim Connolly, Matthew Lombardi, Cody Franson, John-Michael Liles), Sabres (Robyn Regehr, Ville Leino, Christian Ehrhoff), Canes (Tomas Kaberle), Rangers (Brad Richards) and Islanders (development of young players) improving quite a bit, what do you think of the Canadiens’ chances of making the playoffs and competing in the playoffs? Also, are the Flyers a better team short-term or are the Brad Richards and Jeff Carter departures going to hurt their chances? Thanks and keep up the good work.
Serge Cote, Montreal


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Hey Serge,

I’ve got to be honest - I think Montreal will need everything to go right for them to make the playoffs this season.

Carey Price will have to provide elite-level goaltending once again; Brian Gionta will have to again score closer to 30 goals as he did last year (and not closer to 20 as he did in New Jersey); P.K. Subban will have to avoid the sophomore jinx; and Andrei Markov will have to shoo away the injury bug that has grown accustomed to biting him.

I’m not saying all those things can’t or won’t happen. But it’s clear that the Habs are depending on internal improvement and that’s never a guarantee.

I also think the moves the Flyers made put them a half-step back in the short-term, but made them better for more years down the road. And I think the Ilya Bryzgalov contract could be one Paul Holmgren comes to regret. But when ownership flips as Ed Snider did, Holmgren acted boldly and confidently. Regardless of whether or not Philly’s moves work out, they’ll be a fun team to watch in 2011-12.

Adam, if it were up to you, how would you re-align the divisions now that Winnipeg is back on the NHL map? I want to see the Wild, Blackhawks, and Blues altogether. Maybe we can summon the spirit of the old (Chuck) Norris Division for some real entertainment.
Patrick Morley, Saint Paul, Minn.


Patrick,

If you read my column in February, you’d know I prefer doing away with NHL divisions altogether and going to a straight-ahead conference format.

The league still could promote divisional/regional rivalries by having teams play more games against traditional opponents, but I don’t think any player, coach or GM takes more than a modicum of joy in winning a division anymore.

The good news is that the NHL has been rumored to be considering radical re-alignment (although probably not as radical as my idea is). But virtually any setup is better than what they have now.

 

Follow Adam's hockey tweets at twitter.com/TheHockeyNews, and his non-hockey observations at twitter.com/ProteauType.

Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Thursdays and his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays.

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